Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter, synthesized in the brain and gastrointestinal tract. It plays a very important role in regulating the processes of sleep, cardiac rhythm and breathing.
Serotonin was first isolated in 1948. It is also commonly known as the "hormone of happiness". Despite the fact that it's released by the brain, where it carries out its functions, in the body it is found in the gastrointestinal tract and blood platelets.
Functions of Serotonin
Serotonin plays the function of a carrier of nerve impulses. It is important for gastrointestinal tract function and blood clotting. It balances emotions and mood, thus having a highly important role for the mental stability of a person. Serotonin also influences the way we eat, the normal functioning of muscles, the cardiovascular system and some parts of the endocrine system.
Serotonin participates actively in the processes of regulating the circadian rhythm of body, sexual behavior, body temperature. It affects feelings of pain, nausea and vomiting.
Serotonin has an indirect influence in regulating sleep, since it acts as a precursor to the hormone melatonin. The difference in serotonin level in men and women is negligible, with levels slightly higher in males. However, the differences in the ways the 2 sexes react to a drop in serotonin are substantial. Therein also lies the answer to the question of why women are more susceptible to depressive states.
Sources of Serotonin
Foods from which a person can obtain serotonin are bananas, chocolate, nuts, spinach and green salads, chili peppers, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. To increase the level of serotonin in the body, it's advised to drink more water, ingest less salt and spend more time walking outside and in the sun.
Out of the above mentioned, it's clear that the favored by many chocolate is one of the best sources of serotonin. But in order to have a full effect, it needs to be dark chocolate. Natural chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is among the most fitting ways of procuring serotonin.
Another point that needs to be considered is that the synthesis of serotonin begins with the help of tryptophan. This is a natural precursor to serotonin and a valuable amino acid found in the proteins of food. The #1 sources of tryptophan are fish, cheeses, different kinds of meat, milk and pumpkin seeds.
Serotonin and Exercise
Regular physical activity has been proven to improve body shape and mood. Exercise raises levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. Activeness in general is an incredible treatment for depressive states. Physical exertion gets rid of negative thoughts and elevates mood.
Low Levels of Serotonin
Excessively low levels of serotonin in the body are harmful to health because they predispose to aggressive behavior and depression, fibromyalgia, irritable stomach and nervous disorders. Insufficient amounts of this neurotransmitter can lead to demotivation and disturbances in sleep.
A study has shown that men who are in a depressive state produce low levels of serotonin or have few cells that use the hormone as an intermediary impulse transmitter. Individuals who have committed a crime after using alcohol, rapists and murderers also have low levels of this hormone.
According to another study, young children who have died with no evident cause have been found to have relatively low levels of serotonin and the enzyme responsible for its synthesis. It has been proposed that sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is caused by this same deficiency.
Undoubtedly, serotonin is a crucially important neurotransmitter. Its wide distribution shows its effect on numerous bodily functions. About 40 million brain cells are directly dependent on mood, appetite, potency, heat transfer, knowledge and sleep.
Serotonin syndrome is a condition in which the levels of serotonin in the brain and blood are too high. The syndrome is most often the result of self-treatment or mistakes in the treatment prescribed, where the doses of the drug do not match the needs of the patient. It is sometimes seen as a side effect of some older types of antidepressants.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include fear, shaking, confusion, problems with coordination, high temperature, increased heart rate. In very rare cases death may occur.