Happy hormones are known to promote positive feelings like pleasure, happiness, and love. Hormones and neurotransmitters play an essential role in various essential processes, like balancing heart rate and digestion, and also help to boost moods and feelings.
Happy hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, and some of them are known for their ability to help people bond well with each other, feel joy, and experience pleasure. Happy hormones are directly proportional to happy humans.
Let’s understand happy hormones (and neurotransmitters)
Hormones are basically chemicals produced by various glands in the human body. The primary function of these hormones is to communicate between two glands or between a gland and an organ.
The level of hormones in the human body keeps rising and falling throughout the day. For example, a surge of cortisol helps people to get off their beds in the morning, while another hormone, melatonin, prepares people for bed in the evening and then there are numerous hormones that tell people when they are hungry, full, happy or sad.
In the human body, there is a specific system called Endocrine system that controls the production and release of hormones into the bloodstream. It is a network of glands throughout the body, with each gland making at least one hormone, which is controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain.
Some hormones are involved in regulating mood, pleasure, relationships, and relieving pain as well. Sometimes, these hormones are also known as neurotransmitters. Hormones and neurotransmitters are not much different, except for their functionalities. Happy hormones travel through the bloodstream to reach different organs and tissues, while happy neurotransmitters are only found in the brain and central nervous system where they communicate via neurons.
Following Chemicals are involved in boosting our mood and making us happy:
The body has many feel-good hormones that helps to uplift mood and promote general wellbeing in many ways. Some are able to reduce anxiety and depression while others trigger pleasure, joy, bonding, and trust. Some of the main happiness chemicals in human body are:
Chemical Name Moods
Serotonin Mood Stabiliser, Wellbeing, Happiness
Dopamine Pleasure, Motivational Role in Brain’s Reward System
Oxytocin Bonding, LOVE, TRUST
Endorphins Pain Relief, Relaxation
Lesser known facts about the happiness hormones are that these are effects of direct positive or negative outcomes of one’s environment, relationships, diet, exercise regime, and, in some cases, even a person’s gut microbes are responsible for it.
People are themselves responsible to uplift their moods or get their moods influenced negatively. Let us briefly understand this phenomenon:
Serotonin: the feel-good hormones in your gut and a mood stabilizer An original happy hormone Serotonin is highly essential to uplift mood, improve digestion, sleep, brain function, and circadian rhythm. Surprisingly, up to 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut where it can act in two different ways:
It can act as a neurotransmitter that communicates with the help of enteric nervous system in the gut or by getting released into the bloodstream where it operates as a hormone on the body’s tissues.
A recent revelation is that a human gut bacterium plays a major role in serotonin production. Though unimaginable, yet true, the trillions of microbial cells in human colon actually have the ability to stimulate the cells that create serotonin.
This magical system appears to be articulated by the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by human microbiome. According to studies, butyrate and acetate, two important SCFAs, have been proven to increase serotonin production in the gut. Another important factor that leads to serotonin production is the availability of its precursor Tryptophan, a substance that could be turned into Serotonin by human gut.
Foods that help in the formation of Serotonin: The quantity of it can be increased in different ways. More prebiotic foods can be added into the regular diet routine so as to increase and improve serotonin levels. Some essential foods for the gut micro-biome are: Apples, Citrus fruits, Mushrooms, Barley, Cold Potato, Oats, Beetroot, Cranberries, Onions, Berries, Garlic, Rye, blackberries, wheat, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, legumes, pasta.
Foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan (the essential amino acid) could also be added to the regular diet for the production of serotonin. Foods rich in tryptophan are sunflower seeds, spirulina, soybeans, potatoes, eggs, oats, milk, chickpeas, wheat, cheese, quinoa, chicken/turkey etc.
Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone
Oxytocin promotes trust; it is particularly active during childbirth where it stimulates contractions. A lesser-known, but important function of it is, as a neurotransmitter that helps in regulating stress responses and calming the nervous system.
Human bonding, generosity, establishment of trust and few other studies prove that balanced levels of oxytocin in the human body initiate romantic relationships. Which is why, indeed, higher blood oxytocin levels have been linked to greater perceived love, responsiveness, and gratitude in couples. Oxytocin secretion is an outcome of stimuli perceived by the brain, which carefully monitors the environment for threats (and signs of safety) using your ears, eyes, taste, touch, and smell. It’s not only produced in response to touch and appropriate kind of eye contact, but also in times of stress to counterbalance the effects of cortisol.
Levels of Oxytocin could be increased naturally One can increase the levels of oxytocin naturally. There is no food known to contain oxytocin, because oxytocin is released when you engage yourselves in caring relationships, romance, soft friendly touch, friendship, pets, etc, or have a loving community around you, oxytocin gets naturally released.
Though there is an oxytocin supplement found in the form of a nasal spray, its primary use is to get rid of problems related to child birth and it is used in psychiatric research. For which doctor’s consultation is required.
Dopamine is the motivational or feel-good molecule Another hormone that makes humans happy while keeping them alive and alert, is Dopamine. It’s generally involved in a wide range of activities, and a number of severe conditions are associated with the dysfunction of the dopamine system.
Some systems and functions it’s involved in are cognitive functions, the brain’s motivation and reward system, decision-making and impulse control, memory and attention, and maternal and reproductive behaviors. This chemical is an essential part of the brain’s reward system. It gives pleasurable sensations.
Endorphins: the ‘Natural Pain killers’
Endorphins do make you happy, but not in all possible ways you might think they do. These are hormones and neuro-signalling molecules that act as painkillers. The transmission of pain signals in the central nervous system is inhibited by them, by binding to opioid receptors (the body’s natural morphine).
Tips to Boost endorphins
Endorphins and dopamine are generally confused with each other, since, each one is a chemical that makes people happy in a broad sense. However, they are in some ways related because, when endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, dopamine (the pleasure hormone) is released. Endorphin level will naturally be raised if a person exercises, laughs, listens to music, gets acupuncture, eats dark chocolates, dances, meditates, and runs.
Serotonin and Endorphins are both hormones and neuro-signaling molecules, but they have different functions.
It is a fact that the probiotic bacteria, L. reuteri, enhances the body’s natural production of wound-healing oxytocin.
Dopamine is an active neurotransmitter in addictions to substances like (drugs and alcohol) and behaviors (gambling, sex).
Dopamine and Endorphins are not same; as, endorphins naturally relieve pain and cause euphoria. Dopamine happiness comes from the brain’s reward system.
(With inputs from Atlas Biomed Team, Makers of microbiome; You and Your Hormones-an education resource from the society for Endocrinology)