Neurotransmitters

Serotonin


For most people the neurotransmitter serotonin is associated with depression. This is because many medications to treat the illness are in the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) group of chemicals.

An SSRI will reduce the reabsorption of serotonin, resulting in larger concentrations for the body to utilize. They are also employed to treat anxiety and eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, premature ejaculation, stroke recovery.

Although serotonin is often thought of as a chemical that mainly affects the brain, its role in this respect is limited. Most serotonin in the body is found in the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines) where its function is to regulate intestinal movements.

Low Serotonin Levels
Increasing Serotonin Levels
High Serotonin Levels
Serotonin Related Notes
Serotonin Related Links


Symptoms Of Low Serotonin Levels

There is some debate as to whether low levels of serotonin are responsible for all the maladies that are being treated with drugs that increase the amount of serotonin in the human body.

Doctors and other professionals who have a thorough understanding of the subject are becoming more vocal in stating that low serotonin levels are not solely responsible for many of the conditions that are currently treated with SSRI drugs.

Listed below are some of the various symptoms that low serotonin levels may contribute to:
--- Depression.
--- Anxiety.
--- Insomnia.
--- Headaches.
--- Mood Swings.
--- Impaired Thinking.
--- Sensitivity To Light.
--- Increased Sex Drive.
--- Problems With Digestion.
--- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


How To Increase Serotonin Levels

Exercise can help balance serotonin levels as well as other neurotransmitters, resulting in a better mood. But exercise can be a difficult task if you are suffering from illnesses that reduce energy, like depression.

Some people find exposure to bright light (like sunlight) helps them. Not necessarily being out in the direct sun, but in a place where the eyes get used to large amounts of light, for as much time as possible.

A balanced diet will help provide your body with the nutrients it needs to produce the required amounts of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. In addition it will aid with other bodily processes.

Tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements may help increase serotonin levels for individuals who do not produce satisfactory amounts in their bodies. Tryptophan and 5-HTP are precursors to serotonin in the human body.

How it works:
Tryptophan is converted to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is then converted to Serotonin.

If you experience low levels of tryptophan or 5-HTP, your body might not be able to produce enough serotonin. Most find tryptophan is milder, and it might be the better option as a supplement if 5-HTP produces negative side-effects.

Do not consume large doses of tryptophan or 5-HTP daily for extended periods of time, because of possible negative effects that may be dangerous. Vitamin B6 can aid in converting tryptophan to serotonin

Some people recommended consuming foods that contain tryptophan to increase serotonin levels. This practice has limited effect or no effect at all on increasing serotonin levels available to the body.

However, taking high-percentage purified tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements can increase serotonin levels for those individuals with low levels of these compounds existing in their bodies.

For the past few decades, doctors have been prescribing SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs in large quantities to treat depression and many other illnesses. It has gotten to the point where SSRI drugs are even prescribed for pain.

SSRI drugs include celexa, lexapro, luvox, paxil, prozac, zoloft. These types of drugs should be a last resort to raise serotonin. They do help a small number of people, but for others they can cause more harm than good.

A study led by Perreau-Linck and colleagues found self-induced modified mood may increase serotonin synthesis. In short, thinking positively may physically change the brain in a way that is similar to increasing serotonin levels.


Symptoms Of High Serotonin Levels

Excess levels of serotonin may lead to a condition referred to as serotonin syndrome, which could be fatal if not treated. If you think you are suffering from serotonin syndrome, seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

Serotonin syndrome can be the result of:
--- Taking drugs that increase serotonin levels.
--- Combining drugs that increase serotonin levels.
--- Overdose of drug(s) that increase serotonin levels.

Drugs that may contribute to serotonin syndrome include:
--- Antidepressants (SSRI's, MAOI's, TCA's, SNRI's).
--- CNS stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy).
--- Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban).
--- Others (LSD, St John's Wort).

Mental effects include: agitation, hallucinations, hypomania, confusion. Physical effects include: headache, diarrhea, nausea, shivering, sweating, twitching, weakness.

Other effects include:
--- Elevated heart rate.
--- Increased body temperature.
--- Narrowing of the blood vessels.

Treatment for serotonin syndrome includes stopping the intake of drugs that increase serotonin, and in moderate to severe cases giving the patient a serotonin antagonist. Agitation may be reduced by administering benzodiazepines.


Notes

1 --- The psychedelic properties of drugs like LSD, mescaline, magic mushrooms (that contain psilocybin) are at least partially due to the fact that they bind to certain serotonin receptors and affect messages the receptors send to the brain.


Links
Increasing serotonin in the human brain without drugs.
Wikipedia serotonin page.
Wikipedia serotonin syndrome page.