You might have heard dopamine and serotonin described as the “happy” hormones. Not because they’re molecules that look like smiley face emojis, although that would be cute. But they’re called this because of the way they directly affect your mood and sense of well-being.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that the result of being deficient in these “happy hormones” is low-mood and depression. Also, low energy and lack of motivation. Not enough “happy hormones” makes you feel really unhappy. Understatement.
Both dopamine and serotonin are vital compounds that your brain needs to function effectively. So when their levels are out of balance, it has a noticeably adverse effect on your daily life and your experience of being human.
Sadly, so many of us suffer from an imbalance or lack of “happy hormones”. This is evident in the stats. A staggering 15% of the UK population took anti-depressant meds last year. And many more people are going undiagnosed or choosing to treat their depression without prescribed medication.
The good news is there are effective methods to naturally support your dopamine and serotonin levels. So if you’re struggling with the symptoms of depression and you want to avoid the nasty side effects of anti-depressants, you might be wondering if Lion's Mane supplements could help.
This blog will discuss the evidence and the effects of Lion's Mane on dopamine and serotonin.
The Role Of Happy Hormones
Dopamine and serotonin often get lumped together as though they’re practically the same chemical. This is not the case, as they have quite different characteristics and functions within your brain and your body.
Dopamine affects your movement and coordination, and it regulates motivation. When your brain releases dopamine, it gives you a temporary happy feeling, like the hit you get from eating chocolate or receiving a gift. Dopamine makes you feel pleasure and also motivates you to seek more of the same. This explains why you might struggle to just have one piece of chocolate!
A dopamine deficiency affects your motivation and can even cause muscle tremors.
Serotonin regulates your mood, controls impulsive behaviour, and it also affects your metabolism and digestion. When your brain releases enough serotonin, you get a longer-lasting feeling of pleasure than with dopamine. It provides you with an overall sense of contentment and wellness.
A serotonin deficiency can increase aggressive behaviour and can lead to morose or melancholy feelings.
What Causes Happy Hormone Deficiency?
Hormonal imbalances and deficiencies can have many different causes. Some people are more likely to suffer from depression as a result of irregular hormonal activity due to genetic factors. Other common causes of serotonin and dopamine deficiency are:
- Prolonged stress
- Chronic inflammation
- Anxiety and depression
- Poor sleep
- Poor nutrition
- Digestive tract issues
Particular health conditions can also cause low levels of dopamine and serotonin, for example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and thyroid function problems. And there’s a vicious cycle between depression and hormone levels. Depression makes hormonal deficiency worse, and the deficiency prolongs depression.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There are effective ways to improve your serotonin and dopamine levels and get your body and mind on the way to recovery and good health. Lion’s Mane mushroom supplement is a natural way to do this.
How Lion’s Mane Mushroom Affects Dopamine & Serotonin
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are one of those natural miracle substances that contain endless benefits for humans. The compounds within Lion's Mane can support your health and well-being in so many areas. Improving hormonal function and mental health is arguably the best effect of taking a Lion's Mane mushroom supplement. But how does it work?
Stress increases inflammation in the body and negatively affects hormone levels. Studies using Lion's Mane extract have proven its ability to reduce stress levels and symptoms of stress.
A Taiwanese study showed that mice given Lion's Mane extract responded to prolonged stress differently than the control group. Scientists found that when mice were exposed to stressors, “good” neurotransmitters in the mice’s brains decreased and inflammatory cytokines increased. Stressing out the poor mice gave them inflammation and decreased brain function! The mice given Lion's Mane extract had opposite effects on the brain.
Serotonin and dopamine levels were higher in the Lion's Mane group, and their inflammatory response was also lower than in the control group. This shows that Lion's Mane extract increased the mice's serotonin and dopamine levels and decreased inflammation. Lion’s Mane made the mice happy and relaxed!
We know that chronic inflammation negatively affects your physical health as well as your mental health. This is because inflammation in the body also leads to inflammation in the brain. And brain inflammation is linked to depression and anxiety.
Studies show that inflammation in the brain can lower neurotransmitters and make it difficult for your brain to regulate your hormones, leading to serotonin deficiency effectively.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are incredibly rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that protect brain cells from damage and inflammation. One of the compounds found in Lion's Mane is Amycenone. Studies demonstrated that a single dose of Amycenone in mice led to a noticeable reduction in pro-inflammatory proteins.
Reduces Anxiety And Depression
The potential effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom on serotonin levels are just one of the ways it may be beneficial for brain health. It’s believed that low serotonin levels cause or contribute to depression and anxiety. So increasing serotonin should improve symptoms significantly.
Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a compound called hericystin, which has been shown to increase the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain. NGF is a protein that promotes the growth and survival of nerve cells, including those that produce serotonin.
One study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, found that participants who took a Lion’s Mane mushroom supplement for four weeks had an increase in NGF levels and an improvement in mild cognitive impairment.
Another study, published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, found that taking a Lion’s Mane mushroom extract improved symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with major depressive disorder.
Improves Gut Heath
We know that 90% of the serotonin in our bodies comes from our gut, so it's unsurprising that poor gut health leads to low serotonin levels. Our guts are linked with our brains through the gut-brain axis. So what’s going on down there directly affects what’s going on up here *points to head*.
Lion’s Mane contains beta-glucans and polysaccharides. These proteins boost the good bacteria in your gut, which can help restore the balance of your gut bacteria. Having a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut will improve the functioning of your gut-brain axis and support it in producing healthy serotonin levels.
Can A Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplement Help You?
If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety and you believe that low dopamine and serotonin levels are to blame, you’re probably keen to use the information in this blog to get started with improving your symptoms and getting your life back on track.
If you’re unsure about which Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts to try, look at our 100% hot water Lion’s Mane fruiting body capsules. This could be the supplement that changes it all.