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Serotonin & Health Effects

Your Not Broken (Preview)

A preview from my upcoming ebook linking the the gaps between mental health and overall health, Please note this is just a draft and will be edited. *This is for educational purposes only*

Serotonin 

Serotonin is manufactured in the raphe nuclei, an area located in the midbrain. Its production is triggered by activation of the tectum (Latin for roof), also located in the midbrain (59)

Stimulation of the midbrain roof depends on adequate light.

So if someone spends a lot of time in a poorly lit office, travels home and to work in the dark. The midbrain roof (Tectum) may not get enough stimulation and does not get the rest of the midbrain fired up causing serotonin production to suffer.

This could be why serotonin deficiency is often associated with depression and moodiness during winter, on cloudy days, or with too many days spent inside

Symptoms of Serotonin Impairment or Deficiency (59,170-76)

Low serotonin activity has been associated with, Loss of pleasure in hobbies and interests, Feelings of inner rage and anger, Feelings of depression, Difficulty finding joy from life pleasures, Depression when it is cloudy or when there is lack of sunlight, Loss of enthusiasm for favourite activities, Not enjoying favourite foods, Not enjoying friendships and relationships, Unable to fall into a deep restful sleep. 

A Domino effect of Serotonin Impairment (170.)

you may not experience all of the above symptoms but an example of how having unbalanced serotonin would play out.

It might start with a loss of enthusiasm for your favourite activity where for the first time you are having to get yourself motivated to do/ enjoy it. Socialising whether, at work, home or with friends starts to become an effort. Food starts to lose its flavour and you start to lose your appetite so you stop enjoying food like you used to. You might then start to think that this is just a phase you’re going through, maybe some sleep will help but you are now struggling to get some deep restful sleep if any at all and now you showing up late for work for the first time in your life and struggling to get anything done. 

You’re not enjoying life anymore so you go see a doctor after your breathing starts to get heavy and you’re getting pains in your chest. They may say it’s anxiety-related and gives you some medication to combat it along with some sleeping pills. This may help for a short while but then things start to go back to the way they were and then you may start to turn to alcohol to try to self medicate and get yourself back on track.

Too much Serotonin (59 & 170.)

Too much serotonin can make you extremely nervous, hesitant and distracted, Feeling very vulnerable to criticism and having a fear of being disliked which could lead to anger and sadness and a desperate desire for social contact but ironically being too afraid to initiate it (177.)

Not to forget that producing too much serotonin can affect the production of it leaving us with low serotonin traits like feelings of depression.

Serotonin & Foods,

Foods that have been known to have high tryptophan (which gets converted into serotonin) are chicken, eggs, cheese, peanuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, milk, shrimp, mushrooms, snapper, halibut, scallops, spinach, turkey, lamb, beef, liver, and salmon (59,170, 178)

The standard western diet includes enough of the precursors for all amino acids so adding more of these foods might not improve your mood too much. 

The bigger issue is whether the precursors make it into the brain and are able to be synthesized into serotonin. Again, this is where general brain health, stress, and blood sugar imbalances determine how well the brain is able to uptake and use serotonin precursors (59.) 

As discussed in the blood sugar imbalances section too much glucose in the blood disrupts the distribution of Tyrosine to the brain therefore leaving us with too much or too little serotonin.

Tryptophan, found in protein-rich foods, is two steps away from serotonin. Tryptophan gets converted into 5-HTP and then 5-HTP to serotonin. However, these conversions are dependent on Iron. If you are showing symptoms of Serotonin deficiency you may want to consider having an Iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency anaemia signs and symptoms may include (179):

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anaemia

Nutritional Compounds to help support Serotonin

5-HTP & Tryptophan

There’s an ongoing discussion in the natural health community whether it’s better to take tryptophan or 5-HTP to increase serotonin levels.

Tryptophan more readily enters the brain, but 5-HTP requires one less step to convert into serotonin (180.)

5-HTP supplements are thought to treat depression by increasing serotonin levels Several small studies (182-85) have found that 5-HTP reduced symptoms of depression. (However, two of them did not use placebos for comparison, limiting the strength of their findings) (181.) 

findings support that combining 1 to 3 g per day of l-tryptophan and early-morning bright light exposure is more efficacious than either treatment alone in patients diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. In a double-blind study, 58 per cent of generally anxious patients randomized to 3 g per day of l-tryptophan reported significantly greater reductions in baseline anxiety compared to placebo (186)

Other nutritional compounds 

SAM-e naturally occurs in every cell of the body and brain and fuels over 100 metabolic reactions (180) SAMe is used to transfer a methyl group to boost serotonin production and increase serotonin levels. Several studies have shown it to be effective at easing depression (59, 187.)

St. John’s wort has been shown to act as a natural serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This means it allows serotonin to hang out in the synaptic cleft longer, therefore increasing its activity on postsynaptic receptor sites and boosting serotonin transmission (188-93.) 

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