What is serotonin and what role does it play in depression and anxiety?Arfaq Hussain
Serotonin is a chemical that is produced by nerve cells and is used to send signals between them. Serotonin is found mostly in the digestive system, although it is also found in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system.
Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must enter your body through your diet and is commonly found in foods such as nuts, cheese, and red meat. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower serotonin levels which can result in mood disorders like anxiety or depression. Image
Serotonin impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. Serotonin is considered to be a natural mood stabiliser. Serotonin is the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting. Serotonin also helps to:
- Reduce Depression
- Regulate Anxiety
- Heal Wounds
- Stimulate Nausea
- Maintain Bone Health
Bowel movements: Serotonin is found primarily in the body’s stomach and intestines. It helps control your bowel movements and function.
Mood: Serotonin in the brain is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. Low levels of the chemical have been associated with depression, and increased serotonin levels brought on by medication are thought to decrease arousal.
Nausea: Serotonin is partly the reason why people become nauseated. Production of serotonin rises to push out noxious or upsetting food more quickly in diarrhoea. The chemical also increases in the blood, which stimulates the part of the brain that controls nausea.
Sleep: This chemical is responsible for stimulating the parts of the brain that control sleep and waking. Whether you sleep or wake depends on what area is stimulated and which serotonin receptor is used.
Blood clotting: Blood platelets release serotonin to help heal wounds. The serotonin causes tiny arteries to narrow, helping form blood clots.
Bone health: Serotonin plays a role in bone health. Significantly high levels of serotonin in the bones can lead to osteoporosis, which makes the bones weaker.
Sexual function: Low levels of serotonin are associated with increased libido, while serotonin levels are associated with reduced libido.
Serotonin helps regulate your mood naturally. When your serotonin levels are normal, you feel:
- More Focused
- Less Anxious
- More Emotionally Stable
You can increase your serotonin levels through medication and more natural options.
Low levels of serotonin in the brain may cause depression, anxiety, and sleep trouble. Many doctors will prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to treat depression. These are the most commonly prescribed type of anti-depressant. SSRIs increase the levels of serotonin in the brain by blocking reabsorption of the chemical, so more of it remains active. SSRIs include Prozac and Zoloft, among other ingredients.
Exposure to bright light: Sunshine or light therapies are commonly recommended remedies for treating seasonal depression.
Exercise: Regular exercise can have mood-boosting effects.
A healthy diet: Foods that can increase serotonin levels include eggs, cheese, turkey, nuts, salmon, tofu, and pineapple.
Meditation: Meditating can help relieve stress and promote a positive outlook on life, which can greatly boost serotonin levels.