The influence of serotonin on emotional and mental health has been discussed for decades, and the idea that adequate levels of serotonin can help us avoid the clutches of depression is not new. However, the role of this hormone is much more complex and diverse than regulating mood.
Strictly speaking, serotonin isn’t really a hormone – or rather, it serves more than just this role. It’s synthesized in the brain and the central nervous system in general – and there it functions as a neurotransmitter, that is, an impulse transmitted between nerve cells. The second place of synthesis is the gastrointestinal tract, where it already becomes a full-fledged hormone, an active substance that participates in the regulation of certain processes in the body.
The list of tasks that serotonin performs and the processes in which it is involved is impressive. It’s involved in the regulation of vascular tone and wound healing by helping to narrow the arteries, and increases blood clotting. It causes a reaction of nausea in cases of poisoning, and helps the body get rid of harmful substances with diarrhea. This hormone plays a role in digestion and controls intestinal peristalsis. It’s necessary to maintain bone health – lack of serotonin contributes to osteoporosis. Moreover, it participates in the formation of allergic reactions and inflammation. It affects the pituitary gland and endocrine system, takes part in sexual arousal and even in childbirth.
Finally, serotonin is called the happiness hormone because it regulates anxiety and is responsible for mood – low levels are associated with depression. Too high levels are also discouraged – it can lead to neuromuscular disorders and even hallucinations. Serotonin stimulates parts of the brain that control sleep and wakefulness.
How to Know You Have a Serotonin Deficiency and How to Avoid It
It’s best to identify a lack of certain substances in the body with the help of a specialist – serotonin is no exception. The general idea is that the lack of this hormone manifests itself in a bad mood, apathy, decreased cognitive functions and the ability to concentrate on things – in general, life loses its colors. However, these same signs can also indicate other conditions – for example, a lack of dopamine, another hormone and neurotransmitter that also has a fairly wide range of tasks, which include the formation of feelings of satisfaction and even falling in love. Therefore, it’s better to go to a therapist, endocrinologist, and neurologist for a clear picture.
There are also steps that you can start to take on your own – if the problem has not been taken on a more serious scale, they may well help to correct the situation. First, reconsider your level of physical activity – the more active you are during the day, the less chance you have of getting serotonin deficiency. And it isn’t about running a marathon twice a week. Alternating between different types of activity – running, walking, swimming, and yoga – will do more good. Moving more and with pleasure are two necessary conditions. Moreover, try to spend some time outdoors every day because the production of serotonin requires ultraviolet light. This is especially important for the fall and winter period, when UV radiation is weakened and the daylight hours are getting shorter.
Secondly, it will be useful to work with the level of stress – perhaps reconsider the number of difficult, disturbing work tasks, learn to meditate, enjoy the most relaxing games at an online casino, take relaxing baths, find a massage therapist, consult a psychologist if you cannot change your attitude to the events that cause negative emotions on your own.
Does Sleeping Help Fight Serotonin Deficiency
Serotonin and sleep are inextricably linked, although everything isn’t so unambiguous. This hormone is produced in the body from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which we get with food. In turn, serotonin itself is essential for the production of another important hormone, melatonin. Together they play a role in regulating sleep and wakefulness. Roughly speaking, melatonin, with the onset of darkness, tells the systems that it’s time to sleep and triggers the repair processes that take place in our bodies while we are resting. Serotonin, on the other hand, reacts to the onset of daylight and makes the body wake up and sing.
Lack of sleep negatively affects many processes in the body – and serotonin levels are no exception. And without serotonin, melatonin, on which our ability to sleep and get enough sleep depends, won’t be enough. But it’s worth understanding that in addition to the quantity, the quality of sleep is also important. For example, going to bed in the morning and sleeping until evening isn’t the best idea, because the work of both hormones is closely connected with the so-called circadian rhythms, the cyclic processes in the body, which depend on the time of day. Therefore, we shouldn’t sleep a lot, but enough, and preferably following the regime – experts advise to rest for at least 7-8 hours a day and go to bed before 11 p.m., curtains closed and lights off.
Apart from that, bad habits and high stress levels have a negative influence on the quality of sleep, so before going to bed, give up alcohol, tobacco, and other unhealthy substances, as well as leaving work after hours. Bright light from TV screens and other gadgets can also interfere with melatonin production – it’s advised to give them up at least an hour before bedtime in favor of an interesting book, talking with your loved ones or other pleasant activities.
Can Candy Help Improve Mood?
Cocoa beans boast a fairly high content of tryptophan, so they are considered a good dietary supplement for those who may be deficient in this amino acid and, consequently, serotonin. But there are nuances – first, experts never tire of repeating that it is important to have a variety of foods. Secondly, the recommendation refers specifically to dark chocolate, the cocoa content of which is high, but the sugar content, on the contrary, is quite modest. And this is important, because too much sugar can not only threaten a number of health problems, but also causes addiction, creating a vicious circle – the more sweets we eat, the more we want.
Is Depression Due to a Lack of Serotonin?
The connection between serotonin levels and depressive disorders in general isn’t doubted by modern science, but it isn’t entirely clear what is the consequence and what is the cause. There is also a scientific point of view that depression causes the levels of this hormone to fall, not the other way around. A number of other phenomena – from childhood psychological traumas to taking drugs and chronic diseases – are also attributed to the causes of depression. Therefore, it is always necessary to determine the presence and source of this problem with the help of a specialist, but not through self-diagnosis. The same applies to treatment.