We all have serotonin in our body and it is essential for happiness and to feel good. When there are low levels of serotonin in the body it is related to depression. Serotonin is a chemical in the body that has many functions in the body, such as maintaining the correct balance in the state of mind.Serotonin is found mainly in the brain, intestines and blood platelets and helps regulate the body’s sleep and wake cycles and the internal clock. It is also believed that serotonin plays a role in appetite, emotions and motor, cognitive and autonomic functions, as well as its key role in maintaining balance of mood.
Serotonin is created by a biochemical conversion process that combines tryptophan, an essential amino acid, with tryptophan hydroxylase, a chemical reactor. This combination is what serotonin does. Tryptophan can not be produced by the body and, therefore, must be consumed through our diet, commonly found in foods such as nuts and cheese. Deficiency of tryptophan can lead to lower levels of serotonin which, in turn, can cause mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Serotonin in the body
Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of mood and cognition and helps transmit messages from one area of the brain to another. Serotonin has a number of important functions in the body that include:
- It is a natural stabilizer of mood by helping to reduce levels of anxiety and depression .
- It helps the healing of wounds by the formation of clots. Serotonin is released by platelets when there is a wound, it helps to narrow blood vessels, which reduces blood flow and helps blood clots form.
- It regulates the intestinal function and reduces the appetite to eat.
What happens if you have low serotonin
If you have low levels of serotonin in your body can generate certain consequences such as:
- To feel down
- Bad memory
- Desire to eat sweet or junk food
- Problems sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
Serotonin and life
It is not known what are the exact causes that cause depression but it can occur due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters or hormones in the body, with low levels of serotonin. There is a link between the two, but it is not clear if low levels of serotonin contribute to depression or if they result from it.
It is believed that medications to treat depression relieve symptoms by increasing serotonin levels in the body, but it is also unknown how this works. Unfortunately, the increase in serotonin levels may not directly improve the symptoms of depression.
You are what you eat and with the diet it is necessary to take into account what is swallowed. It is believed that the intestine is the second brain and it is not difficult to see why some have reached this conclusion. 90% of the production of serotonin actually occurs in the gastrointestinal tract and only 5% represents the central production of serotonin.
For central serotonin production to take place, tryptophan needs access to the central nervous system (CNS) through the blood-brain barrier. However, tryptophan competes for transport with several other amino acids that are essential for brain function. This generally limits the amount of tryptophan available for the production of serotonin synthesis.
Unfortunately, when it comes to diet, there are no wonderful foods that can directly increase the serotonin supply. However, having said that, there are foods and some nutrients that can increase the levels of tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is produced.
Foods rich in tryptophan include: pumpkin seeds, soybeans, lentils and tofu. However, foods high in protein can cause levels of tryptophan and serotonin to decrease. This is because eating foods full of protein floods the blood with both tryptophan and its competing amino acids that struggle to enter the brain. That means that only a small amount of tryptophan passes and, as a result, serotonin levels do not increase.
However, eating a carbohydrate-rich meal causes your body to release insulin. This causes any amino acid in the blood to be absorbed by the body instead of the brain, with the exception of tryptophan. It remains in the bloodstream at high levels after a carbohydrate meal, which means it can freely enter the brain and cause serotonin levels to rise.
Exercise can do a lot to improve your mood ; Innumerable studies have shown that regular exercise can be an effective treatment for depression such as antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. You do not have to exercise for weeks to enjoy the benefits … only 40 minutes a day is enough to have an immediate effect on the mood.
However, it is not yet clear why and how exercise has this effect and more research is needed to discover the mechanics of all this. Compared to indoor exercise, outdoor exercise increases self-esteem, enthusiasm and pleasure, while reducing tension, depression and fatigue. Sunlight is believed to help increase serotonin, in addition to providing vitamin D, essential for physical and emotional health.
Serotonin also has a role to play in our sleep. High levels of the chemical are associated with being awake and alert, while low levels are associated with drowsiness. During deep REM sleep, our serotonin system is temporarily switched off with the help of melatonin, which is responsible for regulating our sleep cycles and promoting drowsiness during the night.