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Best Serotonin Supplements to Support Depression and Mood

Posted by Naturobotanica on 3rd Jul 2020

Best Serotonin Supplements to Support Depression and Mood

Photo by Philipp Deus


  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes and Risk Factors
    1. Life Stressors
    2. SAD & Vitamin D Deficiency
    3. Diet
    4. Blood Sugar Balance
    5. Alcohol
    6. Adrenal Function
    7. Toxins and Toxic Exposure
    8. Thyroid Function
    9. Diet & Inflammation
    10. Obesity
    11. Gut Health
  3. Best Food Practices
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Best Supplements for depression & Mood
    1. Vitamin D
    2. Probiotics
    3. Fish Oil
    4. Vitamin B5 and B12
    5. 5-HTP
    6. Ashwagandha
    7. Theanine
    8. St Johns Wort

1. Symptoms

Depression, Anxiety, Mood affects many aspects of our lives, symptoms include fatigue, Sleep Disturbance. Cognitive Dysfunction or Difficulty Concentrating, Feelings of Worthlessness or Hopelessness, Irritability or Restlessness, Loss of Interest in Hobbies or Activities, Appetite Changes, Persistent Aches or Pains, Digestive Issues, Anxiety, Sexual Dysfunction, and many others.

Photo by Gabriel

2. Let's have a look at some of the Causes and Risk Factors

Causes can be both biological and psychological and combined with trauma and stress in a person’s life. These include:

Life Stressors

Work-related stress, money, divorce, redundancy, family and home life. Leads to stress and research has shown that psychosocial stress stimulates the pro-inflammatory cytokine network, including increases in TNF-α and IL-1. These increases in inflammatory cytokines are in turn closely related to depressive symptoms. (Khairova R, Machado-Vieira R, 2009)

SAD and Vitamin D deficiency

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or “winter depression" shows symptoms during the winter and fades by spring. Includes low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day, craving carbohydrates and gaining weight. (NHS 2015)


Diet is a major contributor to the development of depression. Not getting enough nutrients, too much sugar. A study into mice with magnesium deficiency by Neuropharmacology in 2004 showed the mice had depressive and anxiety behaviours.

Poor diet will not only affect our digestion and energy, but also negatively affect the neurotransmitters. Also high levels of omega-6 and 9 fatty acids in refined and processed foods have been found to cause dramatic problems in the production of serotonin. (Patterson E, Wall R. 2012)

Blood Sugar Balance

Hypoglycaemia can be caused by consuming too much sugar and simple carbohydrates which causes rapid rise in blood sugar followed by a high insulin response. A 2013 study conducted at the University of Washington Medical School involved over 4,000 patients with diabetes. Researchers found that depressed patients (compared with non-depressed patients) had a significantly higher risk of severe hypoglycaemic episodes and a greater number of hypoglycaemic episodes.


Alcohol has a negative effect on the brain and nervous system. Alcohol lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels which get worse the more alcohol consumed. (Boden J, Fergusson D. 2011)

Adrenal Function

The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis communicates between hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. Underactivity is linked to depression with accompanying fatigue, lethargy, and indifference. This leads to an imbalance and hyperactivity in the HPA axis which results in hypersecretion in cortisol. (Heim C, Newport J. 2008)

Toxins and Toxic Exposure

Heavy metals such as amalgam fillings, toxic mould exposure, cosmetics and pesticides, etc. Researchers at Colorado Injury Control Research Centre 2012, found that pesticide exposure may lead to depression, anxiety and psychiatric disorders. A study of farmers finds that those with the highest number of lifetime exposure days to agricultural pesticides were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression than those with the fewest application days and were 80%. (Jaga K, Dharmani C, 2011)

Thyroid Function

Women with high levels of anti-thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) antibodies seem to be more vulnerable to depression. (Dayana C, Panickerb V. 2013)

Diet and Inflammation

Modern diet is high in foods that provoke inflammation, such as refined flour, excess sugar, oxidized (rancid) fats, trans fats, and chemicals and preservatives. Anti-inflammatory foods are long-chain omega-3 fats, fermented foods, and fermentable fibre. In a study conducted by Public Health Nutrition on 2017 the finding concluded higher consumption of a high sugar, high saturated fat dietary pattern is associated with more depressive symptoms and with depressed mood.


In a study by Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Shelton, 2013. It was shown that higher levels of inflammatory cytokines appear in obese people, and weight loss is associated with a decrease in those cytokines. Adipose tissue is a rich source of inflammatory factors including adipokines, chemokines, and cytokines, and a bidirectional relationship between adiposity and depression has been revealed.

Gut health

Disruptions in gut microbiome and leaky gut both contribute to inflammation and correlate with depression. For example, a leaky gut permits endotoxins called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to escape the gut and enter the bloodstream, where they provoke the release of inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1 and COX-2. (Kelly J, Kennedy P, et al. 2015) have linked unfavourable changes to the bacteria inhabiting our gut with major depressive disorder. (Carabotti M, Scirocco N, et al. 2015)

3. Best Food Practices

Anti-Inflammatory diet

Photo by Edgar Castrejon

AVOID foods high in saturated fat, and sugarINCLUDE Anti-Inflammatory Foods
refined carbohydrates; white bread and pastriesolive oil
French fries and other fried foodsgreen leafy vegetables, spinach, kale, and collards
Fizzy drinks and sugar-sweetened beveragesTomatoes
red meat (burgers, steaks) processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)nuts almonds and walnuts
margarine, shortening, lard (BNF 2014)fatty fish wild salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
General Takeaway foodsfruits strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges (Harvard Health 2014)

Positive Mood Diet

Consumption of foods that boost neurological health and cellular function as well as consuming vital nutrients that support a positive mood. The journal Nutritional Neuroscience published a paper in April 2017, exploring relationship between diet and depression and makes five key recommendations:

  • “‘Traditional’ dietary patterns, such as Mediterranean, Norwegian, or Japanese diet are recommended as this is based whole-plant-based foods and fish, and the shared family and community experience.
  • Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, and seeds. These should form the bulk of the diet as they are nutrient dense, high in fibre, and low in saturated and trans-fatty acids.
  • Include a high consumption of foods rich in omega-3 PUFAs. Fish is one of the main sources of omega-3 PUFAs, and higher fish consumption is associated with reduced depression risk.
  • Limit intake of processed-foods, commercial bakery goods, and sweets as they are high in trans-fatty acids, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars, and are low in nutrients and fibre.
  • Replace these unhealthy foods with wholesome nutritious foods.”

4. Lifestyle

Photo by Erwann Letue

Physical activity

Exercise showed improvements and lowering of IGF-1 (Vermeulen E, Stronks K,et al. 2017). Exercise also releases endorphins. The recommended amount of exercise three to five times a week for 20 minutes or more. (Craft L, Perna F. 2004.)


Sleep is important and there is a need for successful management of sleep disturbance in depression, in order to improve quality of life and reduce an important factor in depressive relapse and recurrence.. (Nutt D, Wilson S, et al. 2008)

Meditation and Relaxation

Mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations. (Hofmann S, Sawyer A, 2010)

Essential Oils

Certain essential oils help to relax, calm, boost mood, with the smells travel directly to the brain, they serve as emotional triggers. Oils used include bergamot, lavender, Roman chamomile, ylang ylang and patchouli oil. “Lavandula tincture may be of therapeutic benefit in the management of mild to moderate depression as adjuvant therapy.”(Akhondzadeh S, Kashani L, et al. 2003)

5. Supplements

Vitamin D

May cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can manifest depression, in people who don’t get regular sunlight. Higher doses of Vitamin D showed less depressive symptoms than those with a higher dose. (Jorde R, Sneve M, et al. 2008)

Cytoplan Wholefood D3 provides 1000IUMinami Fish Oil also contains a dose of 1000iuNutriAdvanced D3 provides 5000iu which is a strong dose


In a systematic review of probiotics and depression by Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2017; it was found that The evidence for probiotics alleviating depressive symptoms is compelling but additional double-blind randomized control trials in clinical populations are warranted to further assess efficacy. Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium metabolise glutamate into GABA and may influence serotonin signalling. (Foster, McVey Neufeld. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends Neurosci. 2013)

Bio-kult contains both

Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium

Garden of Life contains Ashwagandha for stressOptibac is one of the most researched probiotic brands

Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are critical for neurotransmitter function, which is a key component for emotional and physiological brain balance. Supplemental use of omega-3 fatty acids in those with depressive symptoms. (Dashti-Khavidaki S, Gharekhani A, et al. 2014)

Eskimo 3 Brain Sharp focuses on Brain HealthClean & Pure Wiley's Finest peak EPA + DHAMinami Mind focuses on EPA contentAward-winning fish Oil Bare Biology

B Vitamins B5 and B12

Help neurotransmitter function. Those with major depression have low levels of vitamin B12; take oral doses improve treatment outcomes in depression. (Syed E, Wasay M, et al. 2013)

Nutri B complex contains easily absorbed Folate Garden of Life provides an organic B12 spraySun Chlorella is the only form of naturally activated B12


In a double-blind clinical trial by Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1983, it was concluded that 5-HTP with medication proved more effective than a placebo.

Brainfeed is all about mind nutrientsNutri 5-HTP

Ashwagandha The Adaptogen

In a randomized trial by Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 found that that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.



St. John’s Wort

In a trial by J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2005. St John's wort was significantly more effective than fluoxetine and showed a trend toward superiority over placebo.

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