Clinical studies have shown that serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP) acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. It has shown to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions.
Although serotonin is a chemical that has big effects on the brain, the process doesn’t start there. It’s been proven that over 90% of serotonin in your body comes from blood platelets and your digestive tract. Two chemicals called tryptophan and tryptophan hydroxylase react together to form serotonin.
Many ailments, acute and chronic, are believed to be due in part, to low levels of serotonin in the brain.
More About The Functions Of Serotonin
You have several psychological and bodily functions that need to be met on a daily basis, which include appetite, sleep patterns, sexual desire, and mood as we already mentioned. It also has some cognitive functions, including memory and learning.
Serotonin has a powerful influence on the brain, as it relays the proper messages to the brain so that these psychological and bodily functions can be carried out.
Your muscles and cardiovascular system function properly as well, with the help of serotonin.
When You Have Low Serotonin Levels
The function of serotonin is as one of the most important neurotransmitters which have lasting effects on brain function.
Low levels or inadequate functioning of serotonin in the brain is directly responsible for symptoms of depression, aggressive behavior, anxiety, and increased sensitivity to pain.
A biochemical shortage or a serotonin deficiency can have you feeling pessimistic, sad, distrustful, or ready to have a panic attack, says University Health News Daily (UHN).
Different parts of the brain and the body need different levels of serotonin. In the brain for example, the hypothalamus which is involved in mood regulation, required high levels of serotonin while the cortex, which is involved in many complex processes like thinking, memory, attention, awareness and consciousness, requires very little.
In the medical community, it is gaining tremendous popularity in treating several mental conditions like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia with 5-HTP.
Low levels are also linked to irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Men became impulsive but not necessarily depressed. Women, on the other hand, can experience a marked drop in mood and became much more cautious, an emotional response commonly associated with depression.
The researchers noted that these findings could be relevant in understanding why women show a higher prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders compared to men, while men show a higher prevalence of alcoholism, ADHD and impulse control disorders.
How To Help Raise Your Bodies Serotonin Levels
There are a few ways you can boost your brains serotonin. With exercise, the dirt in your garden, and your diet.
It doesn't take a lot of exercise to get a boost in your body's serotonin. According to the University of Vermont researchers, just 20-minutes of aerobic exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours.
Medicine Net says an aerobic exercise plan should be simple, practical, and realistic. Some of the things you may be already doing can be considered aerobic exercise. Such as running, jogging, swimming, brisk walking, hiking, aerobics classes, bicycling and dancing among many other activities.
The simple act of digging in the dirt can help boost your serotonin and help regenerate brain cells that keep you from becoming depressed. How so?
A tiny microbe that lives in healthy soil called Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to have the same effect on neurons in the brain that drugs like Prozac do.
This remarkable form of bacteria has been found to increase an individual’s serotonin levels that help to stabilize mood and can also help reduce allergies and other physical disorders which arise from the “clean-obsessed” society in which we live.
Many synthetic anti-depressant medications do not make serotonin, but are designed to boost the chemicals levels to provide a chemical-induced reaction in the brain. But they also destroy your gut bacteria.
Besides having the experience of creating something worthwhile, like a rose garden or vegetable garden, it also helps to send healthy mood-lifting messages to your brain boosting your health and well-being.
Some researchers even suggest that the simple act of inhaling Mycobacterium vaccae during a walk in the garden can invigorate a happy state of mind.
Further research adds that ingesting the food you grow from your own garden further helps alleviate a depressive mood.
As mentioned early on, trytophan an essential amino acid is needed to make serotonin. Trytophan is not made by the body and so must be acquired from food or a supplement.
Food potentially provides 'new' serotonin to the body whereas SSRIs (medications for depression) reuse whatever amount is found in the body. Therefore, it is crucial to eat foods that help the body to make the necessary chemical.
Foods high in tryptophan include, dark chocolate, oats, bananas, durians, mangoes, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, and peanuts.
Research has shown that brain levels of serotonin are linked to the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut during early life.
Following a healthy diet is also a way to encourage a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Base your diet on fruits and vegetables.
Add fermented foods and beverages, such fermented apple cider vinegar, fermented kefir water, kombucha, kefir and yogurt, for a good natural source of probiotics.
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