Serotonin and Mood

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is an inhibitory monoamine neurotransmitter involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. It is mainly found in the brain, gastrointestinal tract and blood platelets and is responsible for the sense of well-being and happiness. Serotonin is almost associated with the brain functions, but surprisingly 90% of it is found in the enterochromaffin cells of the GI tract. The essential amino acid tryptophan in the presence of tryptophan hydroxylase enzyme gets converted to serotonin. As tryptophan is an essential amino acid it should enter your body through diet. So a deficiency in tryptophan may lead to low levels of serotonin as result you will encounter with depression and anxiety.

Serotonin Functions

Serotonin in the brain regulates mood, sleep, social behaviour, libido, temperature regulation, memory and learning and in the gut it is believed to play a part in the appetite and digestion. Researchers even found evidence that serotonin may play a role in breast milk production, bone metabolism, liver regeneration and cell division.

How Serotonin Affects Mood

There is a strong association between serotonin and depression bit it is unsure that lower levels of serotonin lead to depression or depression leads to lower levels of serotonin. It is possible to measure the level of serotonin in the bloodstream but it is not possible to measure serotonin levels within the brain.

Serotonin Deficiency Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Constipation
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Binge eating
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Poor cognitive function

Serotonin deficiency also increases the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Treatment

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs that are most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Some of the SSRIs approved by FDA to treat depression are

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)

Possible side effects of SSRIs include drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, insomnia, dizziness, headache and blurred vision.

How to Boost Serotonin Levels Naturally

  • Mood induction
  • Light
  • Exercise
  • Diet

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