happy person thanks to serotonin

How the Gut Brain Connection Can Naturally Boost Serotonin Levels

They say the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Well, that might just be where your happiness truly lies! Our body relies on neurotransmitters such as serotonin to elicit feelings of bliss. So, if you need to boost serotonin levels, you must get your gut health in check. Why’s that? Let’s take a closer look at the gut brain connection and how to boost serotonin naturally.

What is the Gut Brain Connection?

Before learning how to boost serotonin levels, let’s get down to basics. The gut brain connection, also known as the gut-brain-axis, is a complex communication system. This network is between, you guessed it, the gut and the brain.

The gut has a reputation as our second brain. It’s earned this moniker because research shows that the condition of the gut biome severely impacts several systems throughout the body that influence our mood 1.

Our gut bacteria influences:

  • Central Nervous System (CNS)
  • Enteric Nervous System (ENS)
  • Autonomous Nervous System (Sympathetic and Parasympathetic)
  • Neuroendocrine Pathways
  • Neuroimmune Pathways

The way the body regulates all of this is through a series of nerves known as the singular term–the vagus nerve. Our vagus nerve interacts with the short-chain fatty acids and metabolites in our system. Based on those reactions, the vagus nerve sends pulses to the mind. After the brain interprets these pulses, you consciously experience your present mood.

Gut Biome and Mood

There is more to the gut brain connection than gastrointestinal distress causing bouts of anxiety. The stomach is actually responsible for our body producing hormones.

A comprehensive meta-analysis looking at the gut-brain-axis noted,

“In addition to generating these metabolites that activate endogenous CNS signaling mechanisms, the microbiota can independently produce or contribute to the production of a number of neuroactive molecules including but not limited to γ-aminobutyric acid, 5-HTP, norepinephrine and dopamine 2.

– Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol

Those findings are very promising in pinpointing a link between the gut and mental health. After all, dopamine helps us feel a sense of reward. Meanwhile, norepinephrine can increase your focus. However, this is an article where you are looking to boost serotonin levels. The key here is the fact that the gut biome produces 5-HTP.

How Does 5-HTP Help Boost Serotonin Levels?

5-Hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP, is a nonessential amino acid. This fatty substance is derived from the hormone, tryptophan. Yes, the sleepy hormone found in turkey.

When it interacts with the system, 5-HTP may cause pain relief and of course, improve sleep. However, this amino acid can also make you feel happier. That’s because our body converts 5-HTP into serotonin.

Research states,

“5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the intermediate metabolite of the essential amino acid L-tryptophan (LT) in the biosynthesis of serotonin. Intestinal absorption of 5-HTP does not require the presence of a transport molecule, and is not affected by the presence of other amino acids 3.”

Altern. Med. Rev.

So, not only does the gut produce 5-HTP, but our stomach acids also don’t hurt the integrity of this important molecule. However, 5-HTP isn’t the only way gut health can boost serotonin levels.

Why Gut Health Can Boost Serotonin Levels

We often relate serotonin to our mind because it’s a feel-good hormone. Mistakenly, we’d assume most of our serotonin is made in the pineal or adrenal glands. However, the majority of our serotonin levels come from the gut.

Research suggests 90% of serotonin is formed in our stomach 4. In fact, our stomach bacteria can trigger even more production. That is, as long as the right beneficial bacteria are in the gut biome in the first place.

Which Stomach Bacteria Boost Serotonin Levels?

More studies are coming to light that point which stomach bacteria may play a role in mental health issues. In this research, scientists have discovered that gut bacteria can also prevent symptoms of mental health conditions due to these microbes acting as catalysts for serotonin production.

One study found that the following microbes were instrumental in the development of serotonin 5:

  • Lactococcus lacti subsp cremoris
  • Lactococcus lacti subsp lactis
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus

Interestingly enough, microbes also produce serotonin in different stages of their life cycle. For instance, one analysis found that serotonin levels grew during the late growth phase of Escherichia coli K-12 subspecies.

How to Improve Gut Health to Boost Serotonin Levels

Since microbes are responsible for serotonin production in the first place, the only way to boost serotonin levels naturally is to replenish the good guys. Here are a few tips to biohack your gut health and boost serotonin levels.

Microbiome Testing

The only way to find out what is going on in your gut (and in your head), is to test it. Take a gut test with Ombre.

We send you everything you need to test your gut health in the privacy of your own home.

Just mail us a sample using the secure and sterile equipment we provide. We will analyze your collection and determine which stomach bacteria is in your gut biome. That way, we can come up with a plan to improve your gut health and boost serotonin levels.

Strain-Specific Probiotic Supplements

When it comes to mental health, probiotics are the real deal. We already mentioned some of the beneficial bacteria responsible for serotonin synthesis 6.

Research on Bifidobacteria states,

“Probiotics may elevate blood tryptophan concentrations, modulate serotonin levels in the frontal cortex, and modulate cortical dopamine metabolites, thereby ameliorating depressive symptoms. “

J Psychiatr Res.

By elevating tryptophan counts in the bloodstream, probiotics can assist your body in boosting serotonin levels.

Eat Prebiotics

Think the way to your heart is through the stomach? Gut bacteria feels the same way. Hey, they’re living things. Microbes need to eat too!

Studies suggest that eating prebiotics reduces the adverse effects caused by metabolized fat, including anxiety 7. When we eat prebiotics, it elevates levels of the serotonin 2A receptor in the brain.

Research about the exact functions of the serotonin 2A receptor is still in early stages, but scientists believe,

“The serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2A) has been implicated in mental disorders with complex etiologies that are still not clearly understood, in processes such as learning and memory, and also in neurogenesis. “

Serotonin Receptors in Neurobiology

Prebiotics are fibers our body can’t digest on their own. However, the beneficial bacteria that boost serotonin levels gobble them up.

Eat plenty of:

  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Chicory 
  • Wine
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Lentils
  • Whole Grains
    By knowing which bacteria you are low in. we can tailor food recommendations to you to promote diversity. That way, you know your microbes are getting the fuel they need to boost serotonin levels naturally.

    Consume More Tryptophan

    If you want to boost serotonin levels, you need to give it a better chance of success. Boost your tryptophan intake. This amino acid is the precursor to 5-HTP, which converts to serotonin. So, eating foods rich in this fatty substance will help your mental state.
    Foods rich in tryptophan include:
    • Eggs
    • Turkey
    • Soybeans
    • Pumpkin Seeds
    • Spirulina
    • Chicken
    • Spinach
    • Salmon
    • Nuts

      With Ombre, we can help you find the right foods you need to succeed.


      • 1 Cryan, John F, and Timothy G Dinan. “Mind-Altering Microorganisms: the Impact of the Gut Microbiota on Brain and Behaviour.” Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22968153.
      • 2 Martin, C. R., Osadchiy, V., Kalani, A., & Mayer, E. A. (2018). The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis. Cellular and molecular gastroenterology and hepatology, 6(2), 133–148. doi:10.1016/j.jcmgh.2018.04.003.
      • 3 Birdsall, T C. “5-Hydroxytryptophan: a Clinically-Effective Serotonin Precursor.” Alternative Medicine Review : a Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 1998, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9727088.
      • 4 Yano, J. M., Yu, K., Donaldson, G. P., Shastri, G. G., Ann, P., Ma, L., … Hsiao, E. Y. (2015). Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Cell, 161(2), 264–276. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.047.
      • 5 Özoğul F. Production of biogenic amines by Morganella morganii, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Hafnia alvei using a rapid HPLC method. Eur Food Res Technol.  2004;219:465–469. 219(5): 465–469.
      • 6 Desbonnet L, Garrett L, Clarke G, et al.  The probiotic Bifidobacteria infantis: an assessment of potential antidepressant properties in the rat. J Psychiatr Res . 2008;43:164–174.
      • 7 Stilling RM, Ryan FJ, Hoban AE, et al.  Microbes & neurodevelopment—absence of microbiota during early life increases activity-related transcriptional pathways in the amygdala. Brain Behav Immun . 2015;50:209–220.

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