These 6 Supplements Promote Mood, Motivation, Focus & More*
Known as the "chemical messengers" of the body, neurotransmitters are signaling molecules that help the nervous system communicate with neurons, muscle cells, glands, and other parts of the body so that all of your cells, organs, and tissues know what task to perform. They're primarily involved in mood and cognitive function but also influence muscle movement, heart function, and so much more.
Maintaining healthy levels of neurotransmitters is key to our whole-body health, as levels that are too high or low can affect our neurological and physiological health in a myriad of ways. While some neurotransmitters are far more popular than others (we're looking at you, serotonin!), each has a vital role in the way we think, feel, act, and process the world around us.
5 major neurotransmitters + why we need them.
Today, we'll focus on five major neurotransmitters that primarily affect our emotional well-being, cognitive function, and sleep health:
One of the more well-known neurotransmitters, dopamine heavily influences our ability to focus, concentrate, make decisions, learn, and motivate ourselves. Dopamine is a part of the brain's reward system, meaning we can experience a "dopamine rush" after sex, smelling or eating delicious food, shopping, and even receiving a phone notification or like on social media (which is precisely why mbg recommends a tech detox or other form of dopamine fast from time to time).
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
GABA is most commonly associated with sleep health because its inhibitory (i.e., not excitatory) neuronal pathways before bedtime help the body and mind relax so you can fall (and stay) asleep.* It's also known as the "learning chemical" for its role in facilitating learning and development—specifically, an individual's ability to perform mental tasks1 that require considerable concentration.*
Norepinephrine (aka noradrenaline)
This neurotransmitter affects mood, energy, memory, attentiveness, and concentration. Norepinephrine is also a stress hormone and plays a big role in both regulating the sympathetic nervous system and triggering the "fight or flight" response. Essentially, it helps you think quickly and mobilizes the body, sending energy where it needs to go so you can take action. Having healthy, balanced norepinephrine levels is crucial for stress management and overall well-being.
Commonly known as the "love" or "cuddle" hormone, oxytocin is involved in a number of emotions associated with love, sex, and relationships. The butterflies you get on a first date or the feeling of satisfaction you feel after an orgasm are both a result of a rush of oxytocin, for example. Warm, fuzzy feelings aren't all it's good for, though—oxytocin is essential for reproductive organ function as well. Its main function is to facilitate labor and childbirth, but it also plays an important part in breastfeeding, testosterone synthesis, and sperm transport (i.e., toward an ovulated egg in the female reproductive tract).
You know we didn't forget the "happy chemical"! Often working alongside dopamine, serotonin heavily influences emotional and mental well-being. (A feel-good hormone that supports overall mood and happiness? Sign us up!) In addition to mood regulation, serotonin helps enable appetite and digestion and plays a part in facilitating the sleep-wake cycle—all great things, no?
6 supplements that support neurotransmitter production.
So now that we've reviewed some of the most important neurotransmitters that have profound impacts on cognitive function, mood, and mental well-being, let's look at some targeted nutrients, bugs (the good kind), and bioactives in supplements you can use to promote their production:*
If you've been keeping up with mbg's vitamin D content, you already know how vital this essential vitamin is to whole-body health and overall well-being.* Considering vitamin D receptors are found in just about every cell in the body (including the brain), it's no surprise that the sunshine vitamin has a profound role in neurotransmitter synthesis2.*
When it comes to mood regulation, vitamin D influences serotonin production3 to maintain healthy levels of the happy chemical in the brain and in surrounding tissues.* A 2016 4Neuroscience 4animal study4 suggests that vitamin D also has an impact on dopamine regulation as well, which checks out, considering dopamine and serotonin often work together in the central nervous system.*
To help promote a good mood (and experience a number of other health benefits), consider taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement like mbg's vitamin D3 potency+.*
Cardiovascular health may be omega-3s' claim to fame, but in case you haven't heard, let me be the first to tell you—these fatty acids certainly aren't slacking off when it comes to cognitive function and brain health.*
Marine omega-3s (i.e., EPA and DHA), in particular, are touted (with evidence to boot) for supporting working memory, problem-solving skills, verbal learning, and a number of other cognitive functions.* With all the incredible things a fish oil supplement can do to bolster our brains, it's no surprise that omega-3s support neurotransmitter function as well.*
Though research on the exact mechanisms is ongoing, it's clear that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids affect the brain's dopamine system5, and omega-3 EPA, especially, has been shown to affect the brain's ability to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels6.*
For a high-quality omega-3 supplement that can help you support sufficient omega-3 levels and overall cognitive health, check out mbg's omega-3 potency+, which features 1.5 grams (1,500 milligrams) of EPA plus DHA in each serving, from sustainably sourced wild-caught, cold-water anchovy.*
The connection between gut health, brain function, and mental well-being is a bizarre one—how is it that the state of our gastrointestinal tract can have such a profound effect on our brain health? According to scientists, neurotransmitters play a big role.
The gut-brain axis is a complex and intricate communication system between the brain and the gut, and as it turns out, gut microbiota have a profound effect on neurotransmitter synthesis, especially the production of serotonin (aka the happy chemical) and GABA (the "calming" neurotransmitter that helps us sleep). In fact, the body's highest concentration of serotonin is found in the gut, so suboptimal gut health isn't ideal for your overall mood and emotional well-being.
Luckily, high-quality probiotics packed with gut-health-promoting microbes (like mbg's gut-centric probiotic+) are shown to support healthy levels of serotonin7 in the body and bolster overall gut health (and, subsequently, your brain and whole-body health).* Additionally, the antioxidant actions of probiotics assist GABA production8 as well (thanks to their free-radical-quenching abilities), and some strains of bacteria have even been shown to increase dopamine levels9.*
At mbg, we're big fans of B vitamins. These awesome essential nutrients affect growth and development, promote healthy methylation, help us convert food into energy, and help our brain health in myriad ways.* While B vitamins aid cognitive function, they're especially helpful in supporting stress management, a balanced mood, mental well-being, and—you guessed it—neurotransmitter synthesis.*
B vitamins—specifically, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12—help produce a number of vital neurotransmitters.* This is largely due to their important role in the methylation cycle, which requires bioactive forms of riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 to function optimally.*
B vitamins have been identified as key players in the production of dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine10, linking them to everything from mood and happiness to sleep and appetite.* To support your brain health and mental well-being, consider leveraging a high-quality supplement with a high-potency B complex—such as mbg's ultimate multivitamin+ (which boasts 33 vitamins, minerals, and botanical bioactives to support whole-body health and longevity) or our brand-new methylation support+ supplement (which is an especially beneficial precision nutrition solution if you have an MTHFR gene variant).*
If you haven't noticed, essential vitamins are key to neurotransmitter production and brain health—and vitamin C is no exception.* This powerhouse antioxidant micronutrient converts dopamine to norepinephrine11 and is required for the synthesis of oxytocin12 (aka the love hormone) as well, making it crucial for healthy levels of a number of neurotransmitters.* These critical actions play a vital role in brain function13, affecting everything from learning and reward to memory, trust, and mood regulation.*
Taking a high-quality vitamin C supplement with optimized bioavailability and absorption, plus the added antioxidant bonus of citrus bioflavonoids (like mbg's vitamin C potency+), can help promote cognitive function and a healthy mood.*
Last but not least, we have magnesium. This essential macromineral provides numerous health benefits, affecting everything from bone health and blood pressure to memory and, perhaps most famously: sleep health.*
Magnesium is involved in the synthesis of a number of neurotransmitters14—including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine.* This means magnesium can promote stress management, mood support, and more.* However, thanks to the restful and relaxing benefits of magnesium, its production of one particular neurotransmitter is most researched: GABA.*
It's no surprise that this mineral is heavily involved in producing the calming neurotransmitter GABA15 (which comes in supplement form itself, by the way).* Paired with healthy sleep habits, a targeted and hormone-free sleep supplement like mbg's sleep support+ that features magnesium (plus GABA) can help promote healthy, deep sleep night after night.*
Neurotransmitters you can support with supplementation.
To review, we can promote healthy levels of the following neurotransmitters with several targeted supplements:*
- Dopamine: B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3s, and probiotics
- GABA: B vitamins, magnesium, and probiotics
- Norepinephrine: B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium
- Oxytocin: vitamin C and magnesium
- Serotonin: B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3s, and probiotics
So, there you have it! There are a number of functional nutrients and bioactives you can leverage to help promote neurotransmitter production and overall brain health.* Use this guide to aid your hunt for the best supplements on the market to support daily peak performance of your neurological and emotional well-being.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.