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Archive for January 8th, 2008

Could naturally increased levels of blood serotonin improve mood?

One Canadian researcher thinks so. He argues that elevated levels of serotonin may be an alternative to drug-induced mood improvement.

What are some strategies that could elevate serotonin? The scientist looked at the research surrounding four main areas.

First, he says self-induced changes in mood itself can influence serotonin synthesis. Thinking positive and happy thoughts seem to have some effect on serotonin levels, which in turn improve mood — a kind of self-improvement “loop.”

Second, he says exposure to bright light has a positive effect on serotonin levels.

Third, he says that exercise, especially to the point of fatigue, can improve serotonin synthesis.

And finally, he says diet (specifically tryptophan) can improve one’s naturally produced levels of serotonin. The researcher cautions that just eating foods high in serotonin (such as bananas) may not improve mood. That’s because the serotonin in the bananas doesn’t cross what he calls the “blood–brain barrier.”

What does this all mean?

It means there may be viable alternatives to drugs in improving mood and ultimately adding to one’s well-being. A note of caution — that does not mean antidepressants are bad or harmful. On the contrary. Many have found them to literally be life-savers. But this thread of thinking should give some confidence to those who are averse or reluctant to take antidepressants. Some mood improvement and happiness can be achieved, it seems, without them.

Source: How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Simon N. Young. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience 32 (6) 394-399. 2007

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