Serotonin (S-T) is a neurotransmitter – chemical responsible for transferring signals in the brain. Although serotonin is produced mainly function in the brain, some proportion of serotonin can be found in digestive system and in the blood. Serotonin (5-HT) is responsible for mood regulation, sexual desire, sleep pattern, temperature regulation, memory and concentration as well as for pain perception and appetite (hunger, food craving and satiety). It was discovered that serotonin can trigger the production of very specific substances in brain vessels which can cause headaches and migraine.
Besides of several “responsibilities” in the brain, serotonin can also have a special influence of some body functions including cardiovascular and endocrine systems and muscles.
It is important to mention that S-T and norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters that are involved in mood regulation and actually both are connected to depression. It was proved that deficit of serotonin has a direct connection with depression symptoms including bad mood, sleeping disturbances, sexual dysfunction, cognitive problems, reduced activities and often suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Some scientists suggested that deficit of S-T is just making people vulnerable to different types of depression.
Serotonin and Depression
Serotonin and Depression
Depression and serotonin are strongly linked. Several scientific studies demonstrated that abnormal concentrations of S-T could trigger depression. It was noted that deficit of S-T could be a result of few dysfunctions: decreased production of S-T by brain cells (provoked by stress or other factors); reduced number of so called “serotonin receptors” which can “recognize” and “digest” serotonin from blood stream; inability of S-T to reach the receptor sites and reduced levels of chemical from which serotonin is made. In all mentioned cases the reduced levels of S-T can easily trigger the development of depression symptoms.
Scientists could not demonstrate for sure whether the deficit of S-T causes depression itself or the depression causes decreased levels of serotonin.
Actually the development of anti-depression medicine (so called “antidepressants”) is based on S-T deficit – antidepressants are developed for boosting the level of S-T in blood stream. Increased concentration of S-T is reducing frequency and severity of depression symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, fatigue, fear, negative feelings, insomnia, worthlessness, etc.
Deficit of S-T could cause also pain without any objective reasons. It was discovered that serotonin is able to keep closed so called “pain gates” and if you are experiencing S-T deficit, it could increase your pain feelings. For example, back pains are very common during depression.
Normalized levels of S-T can also help to modulate normal sleep patterns.
Medical professionals noted that physical activities and generally speaking active life can boost the level of S-T. So, physical activities are recommended for most types of depression. Concentration of S-T can be increased also with very special diet full of omega-3 fatty acids (meat, chicken, nuts, fowl). Complex carbohydrates, vitamin B-6 and vitamin C can also increase the level of S-T.
Nowadays sun and light are strongly recommended during almost all typed of depression – greater exposure to summer sun or special light boxes can reduce or even eliminate mood problems and negative thoughts. S-T levels are usually increased during sun or bright light exposure – this is why women have better mood during summer and sunny days.
Actually light therapy affects the melatonin-serotonin system and elevates mood.
It is well known that about twice as many women as men experience depression. At the same time, it was noted that men have slightly more serotonin than women. Scientific studies also show that there might be a huge difference in how men and women react to reduced levels of S-T and that could be a reason why women suffer from depression far more than men. During decreased levels of S-T usually men became impulsive (not necessarily depressive) and women during similar deficit experience bad mood, anxiety, fatigue and other symptoms of depression. While the S-T processing system seems the same in both sexes, researchers now believe men and women may use serotonin differently.
It was also suggested that female hormones are interacting with S-T especially during premenstrual period, during postpartum (after delivery) and during menopause.
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Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.