Deficiency and excess of serotonin

Deficiency and excess of serotonin

Why does eating chocolate and exercising make you happy? Both increase serotonin production in the brain. The messenger substance serotonin plays a vital role in our mood: a lack of serotonin manifests itself as depression. Serotonin is an important messenger substance in the body, which plays a prominent role in transmitting signals in the brain. It is also of crucial importance in the cardiovascular and intestinal nervous systems. Serotonin is also known as 5-Hydroxytryptamine, abbreviated as 5-HT. The name entertain, also used synonymously for serotonin, is rare.

Serotonin: effect of this happiness hormone

Like most messenger substances, serotonin binds to specific receptors in the body. There are at least 14 different serotonin receptors, the so-called 5-HT receptors. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of various bodily processes.

In the cardiovascular system, for example, it influences the contraction of blood vessels, and in the intestinal nervous system, it controls intestinal peristalsis. However, serotonin exerts its most well-known effect on the brain. It is one of the messenger substances that play an essential role in the development and treatment of mental illnesses. Along with dopamine and noradrenaline, serotonin is often called happiness hormone.

Serotonin is also known as the “feel-good hormone” because it has a mood-enhancing effect and dampens the body’s stress response. Among other things, it works

  • relaxing
  • antidepressant
  • sleep-inducing
  • analgesic and
  • motivational

 

Serotonin deficiency: depression as a result?

Serotonin is credited with having a crucial influence on mood. Serotonin deficiency is, therefore, also associated with the development of depression. A lack of serotonin in the brain shows up in symptoms such as

  • depressed mood
  • Angst
  • Aggression
  • increased appetite

The sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, sexual behaviour, the sensation of pain and the development of migraines are also regulated by serotonin and are easily thrown off balance when there is a serotonin deficiency, which is often the case with depression.

SSRIs: Treat depression with serotonin

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to treat depression. These SSRIs mean that the serotonin released in the brain for communication between nerve cells can work over a more extended period. This indirectly compensates for the lack of serotonin and increases the serotonin level in the brain. However, whether therapy with serotonin alone is effective in alleviating depression is scientifically controversial. Some medications might even lower serotonin levels.

SSRIs are also often prescribed to treat anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Antidepressants from the group of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are for example:

 

Serotonin syndrome: excess serotonin

A lack of serotonin and an excess of serotonin can hurt health and well-being. If there is an excess of serotonin – often as a result of drug interactions – this is referred to as serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome are:

  • restlessness
  • anxiety states
  • states of arousal
  • Increased muscle tension
  • muscle twitches
  • Tremble

To avoid serotonin syndrome, antidepressants should consistently be dosed in consultation with the doctor treating you.

Compensate for serotonin deficiency with chocolate?

Serotonin is not only produced by the human body but is also found in various foods. Certain types of fruit and vegetables, such as kiwis, bananas, pineapples, tomatoes, walnuts or cocoa, contain large amounts of serotonin. Chocolate containing cocoa also contains serotonin.

However, the mood-enhancing effect of chocolate is less due to the serotonin it contains than to its high carbohydrate content. Serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. However, carbohydrate-rich food stimulates the formation of serotonin in the brain via a series of intermediate steps. Eating less serotonin-rich foods makes you happy; it’s more about the carbohydrate content.

Increase serotonin levels with exercise.

A lower-calorie way to be happy is to exercise: Studies on humans and animals have shown that endurance training can raise serotonin levels. Physical activity increases the availability of the amino acid tryptophan in the brain. The body produces serotonin from tryptophan. Ultimately, this has positive effects on mood and psychological well-being.

Exercising regularly can, therefore, permanently increase serotonin levels. Serotonin can indirectly contribute not only to physical but also to mental health.

 

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