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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can I increase my serotonin levels naturally without taking antidepressants?

    Are there serotonin supplements or certain foods that can increase my brain's serotonin levels?
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    Penny Lewis

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I am a Clinical Psychologist with more than 25 years experience working with adults with a broad range of backgrounds dealing with a wide variety … View Profile

    This is a great question that I am often asked, but I first need to say this. The first question is why do you want to increase your serotonin? There is a very big difference between needing to take an antidepressant when you have been diagnosed with depression, to just taking it to feel better. The most common mistake is that people who have a good reason to be feeling down because of life events, think that increasing their serotonin will make them feel better. In this case, you will not feel better until you deal with the life events.

    There are a range of supplements that have been found to assist with depression. SAMe and tryptophan have already been mentioned.  St John’s Wort  and Omega-3 supplements like Fish Oil  have also some evidence in their efficacy with depression. However, if you are looking for supplements to avoid side-effects of medications, please be aware that supplements, like medications, can all have side-effects (note the side-effects for these two supplements mentioned in the links), cause allergic reactions or interact with other medications or supplements. Just because a product is “natural” or occurs in a food, does not mean that in a supplement form it is safe.  Follow this link to a  good website that looks at benefits, risks, side-effects and interactions of supplements. 
     
    See also my answer to similar question about supplements and prescription medications for depression for a more detailed analysis of the pros and cons of supplements versus medications.
     
    P.S. Did you know that another natural way of boosting your serotonin is hugging – and it has no nasty side effects!

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