**Before reading this article, please read first….
“10 Ways to Boost Your Mood Naturally”.
Serotonin is a brain biochemical that promotes restful sleep, well-being, and satiety. When serotonin levels are low, people often experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, and the urge to overeat.
Low serotonin symptoms also relate to sexual desire and function, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior.
How Do You Raise Serotonin?
This can be done with certain amino acids and the correct vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and gut bacteria balance. By giving your body the right raw material, it can create serotonin.
The key players are two amino acids called L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP.
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning you need to get it from your diet or as a supplement because your body cannot produce it. As a supplement it is officially called L-Tryptophan but it can still be referred to as tryptophan.
You cannot get 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) from your diet. L-tryptophan, with the help of specific nutrients is converted to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) which then uses specific nutrients to convert into serotonin.
Therefore, your body must make 5-HTP out of l-tryptophan or you can take 5-HTP as a supplement.
Which Amino Acid Supplement Should You Take?
You would think that 5-HTP would be the preferred supplement as it ‘skips’ the conversion step of l-tryptophan to 5-HTP. In reality, many people do better with l-tryptophan over 5-HTP. There is no golden rule, but there are some guidelines that I follow when helping a client choose between l-tryptophan and 5-HTP.
Try l-tryptophan if:
- Sleep problems are part of your low serotonin symptoms.
- You are suffering with moderate to severe adrenal exhaustion. (To understand if adrenal exhaustion is part of your depression, complete the free questionnaire here…. adrenal-fatigue-questionnaire.pdf (hormonerollercoaster.com)
Try 5-HTP if:
- You have no adrenal fatigue.
- You have mild/moderate adrenal fatigue.
- If sleep is not one of your low serotonin symptoms.
For Best Results
No matter which amino acid you choose, if you want to get the best results possible, both l-tryptophan and 5-HTP need to be taken with key nutrients so that they convert into serotonin.
The Key Co-Factors
Dr. Michael J. Norden in his book, “Beyond Prozac” states that Vitamin C is necessary to make serotonin as well adequate amounts of vitamin E and all the B vitamins, particularly B-6, niacin (B3), folic acid and biotin.
Other researchers have also identified magnesium and zinc as essential nutrients for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP to serotonin.
Vitamin D and Omega 3 for Some Low Serotonin Symptoms
Although vitamin D isn’t needed for the conversion of l-tryptophan or 5 HTP to serotonin, Vitamin D activates genes in your body responsible for the release of neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Therefore, a vitamin D deficiency can cause serotonin levels in the brain to drop while increasing the intake of vitamin D can help boost serotonin production.
Even if you are taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement that includes vitamin D, a person with low mood will need extra.
Each person is different, but a good starting dosage would be about 4,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D. The only time that the vitamin D would not be necessary is if a person is getting 20 minutes daily of direct sunlight on their skin (no sunscreen).
Here are my bare bones essential recommendations:
a. a multivitamin and mineral daily which will supply the B vitamins and minerals you need.
Nu-Life THE ULTMATE ONE – MEN 50+ (canadianvitaminshop.com)
** I recommend this multi for all ages.
Nu-Life THE ULTIMATE ONE – WOMEN 50+ (canadianvitaminshop.com)
**I recommend this multi for all ages
** Both these multi’s are the ONLY ones I recommend out of all the multi’s available in all of Canada.
Vitamin B deficiency influence memory function, cognitive impairment and dementia. In particular, vitamins B1, B3, B6, B9 and B12 are essential for neuronal function and deficiencies have been linked to depression.
Cells depend on minerals to create certain chemical reactions necessary to produce vital hormones and other chemicals, such as serotonin.
b. 4,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. **Please note that whether or not you are taking ALL the Daily Essential Nutrients (was sold as the Total Health Pack) or this list of bare bones basics, you will want to increase your dosage of vitamin D as there is only a small amount of vitamin D in your multivitamin/mineral.
Prairie Naturals VITAMIN D3 1000 IU (canadianvitaminshop.com)
Prairie Naturals Vitamin D3 2500 IU – Bonus Size (canadianvitaminshop.com)
Studies show a very clear link between low levels of vitamin D and significantly higher rates of depression.
c. 1,000 mg of buffered vitamin C with bioflavonoids daily.
Sisu Ester-C – 1000 mg Bonus (canadianvitaminshop.com) (tablet one a day or two capsules daily).
Sisu Ester-C – Bonus Size (canadianvitaminshop.com) (600 mg capsules)
Vitamin C and bioflavanoids: also work together to help prevent stress burnout. Your adrenal glands use up about 90% of the vitamin C you take in and require a constant rich supply of the B vitamins as well. This is critical given that adrenal exhaustion is a common cause of depression.
d. One omega 3 daily.
New Roots Herbal Wild Omega 3 (canadianvitaminshop.com)
Omega-3: is great for alleviating depression because omega 3’s first home is your brain. Every time you consume omega 3, your brain gets first dibs, because no other fats can do as good a job.
Omega 3 is another nutrient that isn’t necessary for the conversion but is extremely helpful for those who suffer with the mood symptoms of low serotonin. For example, a large Norwegian study of nearly 22,000 participants revealed that those who regularly supplemented with Omega 3 were about 30% less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not.
Another study at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, found that patients who received Omega 3 supplements had significantly greater improvements compared with the placebo group in scores for depression, suicidality and daily stresses.
Is L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP Safe?
a. If you are already taking an antidepressant such as an SSRI or an MAO please do not use these amino acids without seeking the advice of a qualified health care practitioner.
b. If you are seeing a mental health specialist for severe depression or bipolar disorder you should only use these amino acids on the advice of a doctor trained in holistic medicine.
The essential nutrients listed above are not contraindicated in either case a or b. In fact, they are recommended as the foundation to any wellness program.
Tryptophan is rapidly metabolized and cleared from the body so there is no toxic buildup over time and 5-HTP is a naturally occurring compound in the body. Thus, side effects with either amino acid are extremely rare.
The infrequent but possible side effects are:
- Slight morning drowsiness (which if experienced at all is trivial compared to the heavy sedation experienced with some of the traditional antidepressant medications or sleeping pills)
- Stomach queasiness or mild nausea
- Erratic dreams
- Slight headaches (although I know of clients you have used tryptophan to successfully treat their migraines)
- Transient agitation
- Blood pressure changes in a few who have a pre-existing high, unstable blood pressure and who are over sixty years old (this symptom is not noted with people who do not have blood pressure problems)
If you experience a side effect, you have the following options:
- Cut back the dosage.
- Wait 5 days. If the symptoms do not go away, then the supplement you have chosen may not be a suitable for you.
- Try the other amino acid.
How Much Should You Take and When?
L-tryptophan needs to be taken away from a protein rich meal or snack or it will have to compete with all the other amino acids (found in protein) that also want to get into the brain.
First thing in the morning, 3 hours after a meal/snack with protein or last thing at night are the best times to take l-tryptophan.
You can take tryptophan if you have just eaten only fruit and/or vegetables. In fact, eating a bit of healthy carbohydrates at the same time as taking l-tryptophan can improve the uptake of tryptophan into the brain.
5-HTP does not compete with other amino acids therefore does not need to be taken on an empty stomach and absorption is not enhanced when taken with healthy carbohydrates.
The dosage range of 5-HTP is typically 50 to 100 mg one to three times per day. Start with 50 mg and increase gradually if needed.
The dosage range of l-tryptophan is usually 440 mg to 1100 mg one to three times per day. Start with 440 mg and gradually increase by increments of 440 mg if needed.
If you are taking l-tryptophan or 5-HTP for sleep issues, then take it before bed. If you need to increase beyond 100 mg of 5-HTP or 1100 mg of l-tryptophan, then add your dosage before dinner.
New Roots Herbal L-Tryptophan (canadianvitaminshop.com)
AOR 5-HTP 50 mg (canadianvitaminshop.com)
If you are taking either amino acid for issues other than sleep, still start with your first dosage before bed, and if more is needed or you can take it first thing in the AM.
You can increase your dosage of either supplement every 2 days if you are not getting the desired result.
Your bare bones supplement regime would look like this. For more details refer to “10 Ways to Boost Your Mood Naturally”.
After Breakfast or lunch
1,000 to 1,200 mg of vitamin C
4,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D
1 Pro Biotika (probiotic)
1 omega 3
1 Pro Biotika
1 to 5 magnesium citrate with l-taurine
5htp or l-tryptophan as per this article.
Copyright Brenda Eastwood 2023 –“How To Raise Serotonin Naturally”
The information made available in this document is intended for educational or reference purposes only. Nutritional Therapy and/or Coaching is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, mental or physical, and is not intended as a substitute for regular medical care.