The Serotonin is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter in our brain, transmitting signals between nerves. As we well know, the complexity of our brain is something that surprises us every day. In its activity, the hormones it generates have a direct relationship with our behavior and how we feel. This is why serotonin has given so much to talk about, since it is considered one of the hormones responsible for our mood .
There are many investigations that work on how the thousands of chemical substances that our brain produces affect us. Our behavior has a clear biological component , and hormones are often responsible for sensations and behaviors that we cannot understand cognitively, through our reasoning. His Study implies knowing these relationships and to what extent they determine our behavior, emotions and feelings.
You have surely heard of serotonin, among so many chemicals that originate in the brain, why is serotonin so important? Its importance has to do with the relationship that is established between this hormone, well-being and happiness. To the point that it has been considered one of the “hormones of happiness”, along with endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine . Let’s see below how serotonin is generated, what its effects are and how it influences us.
General facts about serotonin
- It is considered as the substance responsible for our body that allows us to regulate our mood.
- It is a chemical substance that our body produces and has the function of a neurotransmitter. It is produced through a chemical conversion process.
- It is interesting to note that it is produced not only in the brain but also in the intestines. Most of the serotonin that circulates through our body is found in the gastrointestinal tract.
- The serotonin found in our central nervous system originates in its turn.
- Research has proven its role in our social behavior, digestion, appetite, sexual desire, memory, and sleep.
- There are hypotheses in conclusion to various investigations that report a close relationship between serotonin and depression. Although it is not yet known whether it is depression that causes a decrease in serotonin, or it is the substance itself that causes this mood disorder.
- Excessive amounts of serotonin in our body can cause the so-called “serotonin syndrome”, which can lead to hallucinations, restlessness, increased body temperature and hyperactive reflexes.
- Serotonin levels can spike out of control due to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that certain antidepressants contain. Also due to environmental factors, such as continued exposure to light, physical exercise and diet.
Effects of serotonin on your body and mind
Serotonin, also known chemically as 5-HT or 5-hydroxytryptamine , not only in our brain but also outside of it, in our body. Substances like these can only be found in certain specific cell types that are still being investigated.
This neurotransmitter, also considered a hormone, is synthesized in our central nervous system (as a neurotransmitter) and in the gastrointestinal tract (as a hormone) . The effect it has on the brain is that of an inhibitor, being essential to regulate our state of anger, body temperature, mood, and the ability to rest; also the appetite and sexual desire. As we see very important functions in our daily repertoire of behaviors.
In addition, these characteristics that serotonin regulates in our body and mind are associated with depression . This is why antidepressants are responsible for modifying serotonin levels in our brain.
These are some of the most important effects that serotonin has in our body . Its functions, as you will see below, are of great relevance to our existence.
This is one of the basic functions for the healthy maintenance of our body. Serotonin has an important role in the thermal regulation of our body and therefore in our homeostatic balance. Thanks to this thermal regulation, cellular tissues maintain their balance to perform vital functions.
How we are at each moment with respect to our state of mind does not come only from external factors and circumstances. Many times you have experienced sudden changes, finding yourself more energetic, less motivated, wanting to be alone or wanting to scream, dance, finding yourself in a state of euphoria. We live constant ups and downs that make us feel somewhat unbalanced, this has to do with the alteration of our hormones. In certain stages or moments that we live there are always hormonal imbalances that are associated with our moods. If you do not understand why you are in a certain way, do not waste a lot of time analyzing all the causes, you simply need to feel and understand that as a human being there are processes in your body that can alter your hormones.
Serotonin is one of these hormones, playing a fundamental role in how we find ourselves. To the point that this chemical substance, depending on the levels at which it is maintained, can determine our way of feeling and behaving .
The symptoms of depression have been associated with low levels of serotonin in the blood, although as we have said previously there is much controversy about whether it is this disorder that produces these low levels, or is it these levels that cause depression.
Drugs that alter mood such as ecstasy or LSD, uncontrollably increase the levels of 5-HT in our brain. Serotonin is known to have great relevance in our mood, being related to states of anxiety and perceived happiness.
Most of this chemical is found in our intestinal tract, regulating the function of bowel movements. In the blood this substance behaves like a hormone, unlike when it is found in the brain, which behaves like a neurotransmitter. It can be said that this substance facilitates a direct relationship between our body and intestine with our brain. This is why our stomach is called the “second brain”.
Among the functions that serotonin has in our intestine, the regulation of digestion stands out above all. High levels are associated with the appearance of diarrhea and low levels with constipation . It also contributes to the reduction of appetite when we eat, sending serotonin to the hypothalamus the sensation of satiation .
Decreases levels of aggressiveness
As we have previously explained, serotonin in the brain acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. One of the main inhibitions it is a part of is aggressive behavior. It helps regulate our violent behaviors. It has been proven that people who are more carried away by their aggressive impulses have lower levels of serotonin in the brain .
Testosterone, which has a great influence on aggressive behavior, acts by desensitizing neurons to serotonin, so that it does not achieve its aggressiveness-reducing effect.
Affects sexual desire
The studies that have been done on serotonin and sexual desire, provide us with data that report the correlation that exists between serotonin levels and sexual libido . The increase in 5-HT is associated with a lack of sexual desire . This has also been proven with drugs that fulfill the function of increasing serotonin levels, such as antidepressants. Presenting a reduction in the levels of libido and sexual desire in people who take these drugs.
Although when we fall in love, serotonin is one of the hormones, along with dopamine and norepinephrine, that increase the most. This is why it is associated in turn with the chemistry of love.
Regulation of the sleep cycle
Serotonin, like melatonin, has a fundamental role in the regulation of circadian cycles . Throughout the day, serotonin levels increase and decrease, marking the sleep times that our body follows preparing for rest (circadian cycles) Unlike melatonin, high levels of serotonin indicate that it is when there is more light, reducing its levels are at maximum when deep sleep occurs and there is a lower intensity of light.
Excessive stimulation of peripheral serotonin receptors and in the central nervous system (CNS) can lead to what is known as serotonin syndrome. This excessive increase in serotonin can occur as a result of some drugs, food supplements or medications. It is more likely to happen if these series of factors are combined together. For example, if medications such as antidepressants and medications to treat migraine are combined .
Symptoms of excess serotonin syndrome
Among the main symptoms we highlight the following:
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Shaking chills
- Muscular stiffness
Treatment of serotonin syndrome
Making a diagnosis of this syndrome is complicated, since the doctor first aims to rule out other possible causes of these symptoms. Once serotonin syndrome is diagnosed, treatment will aim to restore normal levels of this substance . In mild cases, it is checked which factors are those that have produced this excess of the substance. Either as we have said before, by medicines, drugs or nutritional supplements. And once the cause has been found, eliminate its consumption immediately.
In the most extreme cases this is not enough, since it has to require hospitalization. Medications will have to be given to counteract these symptoms , relaxing the muscles and controlling the heart and arterial frequency; thus avoiding the risk of the life of the person affected. Also, in some cases, what is done is blocking the production of serotonin.
Increase Serotonin Naturally
The syndrome that we have described due to excess 5-HT occurs only through chemicals that cause it to rise in an extreme way. Naturally it is not possible to reach these levels, in addition to resorting to a natural way allows us to regulate and balance our serotonin increasing it to levels that are beneficial to us .
These are some of the most recommended natural ways to increase this chemical in our body :
As is well known, sport and physical exercise are excellent allies for the general well-being of our body, also for our mood, acting as a natural antidepressant. Studies have shown that continued and well-performed physical exercise helps us increase serotonin to levels that cannot benefit much.
The tryptophan is related to a better mood, also helping to improve our cognition, and raise serotonin levels. Some of the foods that contain high levels of tryptophan are the following: fish, tofu, eggs, nuts, turkey, etc.
Sunlight is known to be a good resource to increase the levels of this substance in a natural and healthy way. Studies indicate that it could even be used as one of the treatment factors for the symptoms of depression
Our state of mind can also be involved in our cognition. In psychological treatments, the thoughts that are causing us significant discomfort are induced to change. When we change our way of thinking according to what benefits us, serotonin levels also increase as has been proven.
In conclusion, as we have seen, serotonin, either as a neurotransmitter or as a hormone, has a fundamental role in our body, performing functions that are of vital importance for our survival and our development as healthy and happy individuals.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.