Serotonin is a hormone that also functions as a neurotransmitter. It is also referred to as the happiness hormone, since a lack of serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety. The increase in serotonin in the body of the affected person through medication or through diet usually leads to an improvement in mood.
What is serotonin deficiency?
Serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine works and is mainly found in the nervous system, cardiovascular system and intestines. In the brain, it is involved in the regulation of pain perception, sleep and appetite. Furthermore, it plays a role in the regulation of body temperature, the formation of other hormones, migraine. For hemangioma (blood sponge) in dictionary, please visit dictionaryforall.com.
The most well-known role of serotonin is in controlling mood. The release of serotonin has a calming effect and promotes serenity. Therefore, a lack of serotonin has an adverse effect such as depressive moods, anxiety and even occasionally aggression.
Serotonin antagonists such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) have a euphoric effect. In addition, serotonin is involved in the contraction and relaxation of the smooth muscles of the blood vessels and thus has a function in the regulation of blood pressure.
Serotonin is produced from the amino acid L-tryptophan in several steps. Serotonin can be obtained directly from food or made from L-tryptophan. However, serotonin cannot get into the brain. It has to be made by the brain itself.
Serotonin is mainly found in walnuts, bananas, plums, tomatoes, kiwi and cocoa beans. Serotonin is mainly stored in the gastrointestinal tract. About 90 percent of the serotonin in the human body is stored in the enterochromaffin cells, specific cells in the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract.
The other ten percent are stored by surrounding nerve cells in the intestine. The brain can make serotonin because serotonin cannot be taken up from surrounding tissues across the blood-brain barrier. As soon as the epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal tract release the serotonin, it gets into the blood and is taken up by the blood platelets, the thrombocytes, and transported further in the body.
The causes of serotonin deficiency often lie in nutrition. A lack of tryptophan is usually not the reason for a lack of serotonin. However, factors involved in the synthesis of serotonin can be disrupted in their function. This can happen if the affected person suffers from constant stress, insulin resistance, cancer, chronic infections or vitamin B6 deficiency.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A lack of serotonin mainly leads to a depressive mood. This is expressed by an anxious appearance of the person concerned. It can be associated with dissatisfaction, stress and irritability as well as depression. Less expressive symptoms include an altered appetite, constant tiredness, an increased sensation of pain, and an altered perception of temperature.
Serotonin plays a role in the gastrointestinal tract. Doctors suspect that the so-called irritable bowel syndrome is due to a serotonin disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease without organic causes that can lead to constipation, severe flatulence, cramping pain in the abdomen and/or diarrhea.
In some cases, a lack of serotonin can promote the development of irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, a lack of the messenger substance leads to tiredness, exhaustion and listlessness and can consequently reduce well-being. In the long term, a serotonin deficiency can also promote the development of mental illnesses. A deficiency initially leads to depressive moods, which can eventually develop into a pronounced depression.
Other complications include increased anxiety and an increased perception of pain. A lack of the messenger substance can also affect various endogenous processes and, in the worst case, throw the hormone balance out of balance. Complications can also occur when treating serotonin deficiency. For example, the prescribed serotonin reuptake inhibitors can cause sexual dysfunction, but also gastrointestinal complaints, headaches, dry mouth and sleep disorders.
Sometimes after taking the preparations there are also vision problems, increased sweating and dizziness. Rare side effects: hand tremors and weight changes. In patients with eating disorders in particular, taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors can lead to further problems in their daily diet. It is therefore advisable to discuss the medication with a doctor in advance.
When should you go to the doctor?
A serotonin deficiency should always be treated by a doctor. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications that can make everyday life of those affected significantly more difficult. In order to prevent further symptoms, a doctor should be consulted at the first sign of a serotonin deficiency. The doctor should be consulted if the patient suffers from a strong psychological upset. This upset occurs for no particular reason and significantly reduces the quality of life. Furthermore, the patients suffer from severe depression or stress, these complaints appear without any particular reason.
In many cases, permanent flatulence, diarrhea or severe pain in the abdomen indicate a lack of serotonin and should be examined by a doctor. Those affected appear slightly aggressive and are usually dissatisfied with their lives.
If a serotonin deficiency is suspected, the family doctor should be consulted in the first place. The further treatment is then carried out by the respective specialist, whereby the disease can usually be treated well.
Treatment & Therapy
The serotonin deficiency can be determined by a blood test at the doctor’s. However, this test only determines the serotonin level in the body, not in the brain. Because of this, this test is not considered very accurate. A stool test can also be performed. The concentration of serotonin in a healthy person is around 50 to 100 ng/g. A value below these numbers is called serotonin deficiency and is treated by a doctor.
Serotonin deficiency can be treated by changing your diet. Simply taking serotonin cannot counteract a serotonin deficiency because serotonin does not reach the brain. When it comes to nutrition, attention should be paid to a diet rich in protein and tryptophan.
Foods high in tryptophan include peanuts, fish, cheese and eggs. In addition, the doctor can prescribe tryptophan preparations. To treat depression, serotonin is not administered directly, but selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are given to the affected person. These are serotonin transporter inhibitors.
There is an increased concentration of serotonin at the synaptic cleft, the connection between the nerve cells, where the serotonin can act longer. To treat the sleep disorders that are associated with a lack of serotonin, tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan, both starting products in the production of serotonin, are usually treated.
Or the patient puts you on hormone therapy. The serotonin level can also be increased through physical activity. Despite a popular belief that eating chocolate makes you happy because of the serotonin content, this is not the case. In order to achieve happiness from eating chocolate, a very large amount of chocolate would have to be consumed.
To prevent serotonin deficiency, it is advisable to pay attention to the diet and to get enough rest and exercise. The diet should be healthy and contain tryptophan-rich foods. A balanced lifestyle is advisable, in which attention is paid to sufficient rest periods, but also regular exercise is practiced.
It is also important to have an intact social environment. These essential factors can counteract a serotonin deficiency and also ensure that it does not develop in the first place.
In order to subsequently keep the serotonin level at a healthy level, appropriate medication can be prescribed by the doctor treating you. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as citalopram, paroxetine or fluoxetine, for example, actively interfere with the metabolism of neurotransmitters by curbing the uptake of serotonins into the storage vesicles. This increases the amount of serotonin released and its effect as a messenger substance unfolds longer.
Drugs such as venlafaxine and duloxetine also inhibit the uptake of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. However, common side effects of these drugs include restlessness, headache, and nausea. In the case of severe mental illnesses, medical support from a specialist doctor is often necessary. In order to compensate for the lack of serotonin in a natural way, additional non-drug measures can be taken.
It is advisable to do sports and maintain a balanced diet. In the case of the latter, serotonin intake through the consumption of serotonin-containing foods is not sufficient, since the hormone is not directly routed from the blood to the brain. Instead, the body needs the essential amino acid L-tryptophan, which is present, albeit insignificantly, in all protein foods, as well as vitamins B3 and B6, magnesium and zinc. The body can synthesize its own serotonin from these substances.
You can do that yourself
The way in which the patient can take action against a serotonin deficiency varies depending on the cause. Conscious intake of the serotonin-forming amino acid tryptophan can, if necessary, alleviate the symptoms. Wheat, peanuts, meat, fish, legumes or dairy products, for example, have a high proportion of tryptophan. The diet should also be as basic as possible and rich in B vitamins, especially B6.
An improvement in blood-brain uptake can be achieved by consuming tryptophan together with carbohydrates. Because of the subsequent surge of insulin, the other amino acids waiting for absorption in the brain are transported away to the muscle tissue, so that the tryptophan can pass the barrier “unrivaled”.
People who are overweight can make progress by losing weight. High blood sugar fluctuations also have negative effects. Foods high in simple sugars (soda pop, fruit juices, sweets) should only be consumed in moderation. The consumption of alcohol and other drugs that influence the serotonin balance should be avoided.
A reduction in everyday stress is also helpful, as this increases serotonin consumption. The environment in which the affected person moves also has an often underestimated effect on the serotonin level. Creating a “feel good environment” at home and at work can bring improvement. A colorful bright decoration can stimulate the body’s serotonin production.