Serotonin

So you care about your moods?

I was wondering what happened to my daily newsletter today and I realised that I scheduled it for 9 PM instead of 9 AM. Thank you for pinging me folks :) I must sleep more to have more attention to details.

Today let us talk about another important neurotransmitter, Serotonin. This week is dedicated to happiness 😉

Serotonin is a less used neuro word in our everyday language but in all honesty we must talk about serotonin more. It is a monoamine neurotransmitter and is also referred to as “happy chemical” so there is a lot of confusion between dopamine and serotonin. Let’s discuss the specifics and differences.

Structure & Function

Serotonin is created by a biochemical conversion process that combines tryptophan, a component of proteins, with tryptophan hydroxylase, a chemical reactor. Together, they form 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), or serotonin.

It looks like this

Serotonin is most commonly believed to be a neurotransmitter, although some consider it to be a hormone. It is produced in the intestines and the brain. More than 90% of the body’s total serotonin resides in the enterochromaffin cells in the gut, where it helps regulate the movement of the digestive system. It is also present in the blood platelets and the central nervous system (CNS).

In addition to aiding digestion, serotonin is involved in regulating:

  • the sleep-wake cycle

  • mood and emotions

  • metabolism and appetite

  • cognition and concentration

  • hormonal activity

  • body temperature

  • blood clotting

Bowel function: Most of the body’s serotonin is found in the GI tract (that is why we call our gut as second brain), where it regulates bowel function and movements. It also plays a part in reducing the appetite while eating.

Mood: In the brain, serotonin impacts levels of mood, anxiety, and happiness. Illicit mood-altering drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD cause a significant rise in serotonin levels.

Clotting: Serotonin contributes to the formation of blood clots. It is released by platelets when there is a wound. The resulting narrowing of the blood vessels, reduces blood flow and helps blood clots to form.

Nausea: If you eat something that is toxic or irritating, the gut produces more serotonin to increase transit time and expel the irritant in diarrhoea and nausea.

Sexual function: Serotonin appears to inhibit sexual activity. People who take medication (SSRIs) experience a range of symptoms related to sexual dysfunction.

As it occurs widely throughout the body, it is believed to influence a variety of body and psychological functions. Serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so any serotonin that is used inside the brain must be produced inside the brain.

As a neurotransmitter, serotonin relays signals between nerve cells, or neurons, regulating their intensity.

Credits: From Marc Dingman’s famous Youtube Channel (Neuroscientifically Challenged)

Low serotonin levels may lead to the following symptoms:

  • craving for sweet or starchy foods

  • difficulty sleeping

  • low self-esteem

  • anxiety

  • aggression

No wonder we reach out to chocolates when we are stressed and anxious. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with poor memory and low moods.

SSRIs

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to treat depression. In reuptake aka reabsorption, a transporter protein blocks the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin into neurons (specifically in the synaptic cleft of the neuron that released them). This makes more serotonin available to improve transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs are called selective because they mainly affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

SSRIs are typically used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. We will speak about SNRIs next.

Dopamine & Serotonin

Neurotransmitters do not act independently. They interact with and affect each other to maintain a careful chemical balance within the body. There are strong links between the serotonin and dopamine systems, both structurally and in function.

The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin regulate similar bodily functions but produce different effects. Unlike dopamine, the body stores the majority of serotonin in the gut, instead of in the brain. Serotonin helps regulate mood, body temperature, and appetite.

Dopamine regulates mood and muscle movement and plays a vital role in the brain’s pleasure and reward systems.

In some cases, serotonin appears to inhibit dopamine production, which means that low levels of serotonin can lead to an overproduction of dopamine. This may lead to impulsive behaviour, due to the role that dopamine plays in reward seeking behaviour. Serotonin inhibits impulsive behaviour, while dopamine enhances impulsivity.

Dopamine and serotonin have opposite effects on appetite; whereas serotonin suppresses it, low levels of dopamine can stimulate hunger.

Boosting Serotonin

If Serotonin is low, you will be perceived as unfriendly, moody, pessimistic and in-shorts an ass hole. Don’t be one. There are ways to enhance your serotonin naturally.

Tryptophans are an amino acid that can be found in food and it can reach your brain.

  1. Low Glycemic Index foods and High protein foods (egg/cheese/chicken etc)

  2. Get some sunlight

  3. Get a massage

  4. Meditation helps

  5. Remember happy times. Just smile.

  6. Better quality of sleep

  7. Exercise (Walking for 20 mins would do)

🥂to good moods!


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