Virtually all women are vulnerable to serotonin deficits, says Daniel Amen, MD, author of Your Brain Is Always Listening. In fact, research indicates women produce 52 percent less of the feel-good brain chemical than men. That’s a problem since serotonin plays a key role in regulating sleep and mood. Says Aimee Duffy, MD, founder of Carolina Integrative Medicine in Clemson, South Carolina, “When levels are depleted, sleep disturbances, fatigue and anxiety can result.”
Women over 50 are most at risk. Why? Estrogen enhances serotonin production, so hormonal flux at this time can cause levels to dip by 77 percent.
The medication many doctors prescribe to boost serotonin levels can backfire, worsening symptoms like fatigue and weight gain. The good news: The steps below can replenish serotonin to improve energy, mood, and more.
Try nature’s Prozac. Taking 5-HTP like Nutricost 5-HTP Capsules (Buy on Amazon, $14.95) boosts serotonin and increases time spent in deep sleep by up to 53 percent. Dr. Amen suggests taking 50 mg. at bedtime, “If you don’t get the results you need, increase the dose by 50 mg. (up to 200 mg. each evening) until you hit the amount that works for you.”
Easy exercise boosts serotonin, says Dr. Amen. It also lowers cortisol, a stress hormone that depletes serotonin. Aim for 30 minutes of walking, biking, or swimming four times a week. Gardening is a good option too, says Dr. Duffy, and time in the sun also raises serotonin levels.
Enjoy quinoa, sweet potatoes, and bananas, says Dr. Amen. “Healthy carbs elicit a short-term insulin response that drives tryptophan (an amino acid the body uses to make serotonin) into the brain.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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