Guide To Understanding Serotonin

An individual's nerve cells produce a special chemical called serotonin. It is responsible for sending signals from one nerve cell to the next. Individuals have serotonin in their digestive system, central nervous system, and platelets. Serotonin is a significant part of processes that control depression, bone health, anxiety, wound healing, nausea stimulation, sleep, appetite, and digestion. Amino acids are essential in making protein, and it is worth noting that serotonin is produced from an amino acid called tryptophan. A serotonin deficiency can develop if individuals do not consume enough of this amino acid. 

When individuals have issues with their serotonin, they need treatment. Many patients take serotonin medication, particularly for issues such as a deficiency in serotonin. Serotonin pills for depression are quite common. Of course, there is also natural serotonin medicine out there. Of course, patients must understand how serotonin works first.

Function In The Body


Serotonin is necessary for several functions in an individual's body. The highest concentration of serotonin is within an individual's stomach and intestines. Serotonin allows nerves to communicate in these organs and the muscles around them that help control bowel movements. This chemical is also found in an individual's brain, where it has a great influence over their mood. Serotonin is also a critical part of the system that causes an individual to feel nauseated. Serotonin levels in the blood that rise rapidly stimulate the part of an individual's brain that controls this feeling. 

This chemical is important in how an individual sleeps and wakes up. The reason is that it controls parts of the brain that manage these processes. Serotonin also helps an individual's body heal wounds by causing arterial constriction. This makes it easier for the body to form blood clots. Serotonin is also influential over an individual's bone health because high levels of this chemical can cause an imbalance in the bone recycling process that leads to osteoporosis.

Symptoms Of A Serotonin Deficiency


An individual needs to have a healthy amount of serotonin in their blood. This should be between 101 and 283 nanograms per milliliter. Serotonin levels that are too high are often a symptom of a condition known as carcinoid syndrome. In contrast, lower than normal levels are referred to as a serotonin deficiency. A deficiency causes several physical symptoms, including insomnia, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, nausea, and weight gain. Other symptoms of a deficiency are anxiety, aggression, irritability, poor appetite, depressed mood, impulsive behavior, low self-esteem, and poor memory. 

The exact causes of a deficiency and its pattern among the population are not understood. However, several factors are thought to influence it. An individual with fewer serotonin receptors, defective serotonin receptors, overabsorption of serotonin, and L-tryptophan deficiency are at risk of a deficiency in serotonin. Other risk groups include patients with deficiencies in vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, or vitamin D.

Serotonin Syndrome


Serotonin syndrome is a dangerous condition where an individual experiences an inappropriate elevation of serotonin in their body. Serotonergic drugs cause serotonin syndrome. These are medications that change the level of serotonin in an individual's body. Patients who take one or more of these medications can develop this syndrome when their dose is increased. Serotonin syndrome can also occur when patients overdose on the medication, whether it is intentional or unintentional. An individual may develop this syndrome when they take two of these medications simultaneously. 

Several medications have been implicated in serotonin syndrome. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine, have been known to induce this condition. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, including duloxetine, have as well. Other medications that can cause this syndrome include phenelzine, nortriptyline, and bupropion.

Serotonin And Depression


Many experts believe that an individual who does not have enough receptor sites to receive serotonin can develop depression. This thought also applies to those who have a malfunction that causes serotonin to be unable to reach these sites. Other experts have concluded depression has more association with a lack of new brain cell regeneration because serotonin helps stimulate brain cell production. Despite numerous theories about how serotonin levels in an individual's brain can result in depression, there is no method to measure the amount of it inside a living brain. 

Blood levels of serotonin, however, are measurable. They are thought to correlate with serotonin levels in an individual's brain, though this has not been proven. Researchers have conducted studies that revealed individuals who have depression also tend to have lower blood serotonin levels.

Uses For Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a common type of antidepressant. They can help an individual's body use serotonin with better efficiency. This type of medication meets this goal by making more serotonin available. These medications work by stopping serotonin uptake by the presynaptic receptors, which allows the serotonin present in the individual to bind to postsynaptic receptors. This allows serotonin to be better concentrated in the area between the end of the individual's neurons or synapses. 

Medications in this class cannot create more serotonin. They help a patient's body use it in the most optimal way possible. Numerous selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be used to treat an individual's serotonin deficiency. However, the most common include citalopram, fluoxetine, and paroxetine.

Uses For Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors


As the name suggests, monoamine oxidase inhibitors inhibit a natural chemical found in the brain: monoamine oxidase. This chemical removes dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Many experts claim that low levels of these neurotransmitters are associated with depression. Thus, the primary use of this medication is to treat patients dealing with depression. They are an older antidepressant and are quite effective. However, they come with more side effects than newer medications, so they are used less often. Side effects include dry mouth, insomnia, nausea, constipation, tingling sensations, and weight gain. 

It is worth noting that these antidepressants also have serotonin syndrome as a significant side effect. Thankfully, it is quite rare for this condition to occur. It often only appears when patients are taking this medication along with another that raises their serotonin. Other antidepressants are included in this, of course, as are St. John's wort and some pain medications.

Medications For Serotonin Syndrome


Some patients may receive prescription medications for serotonin syndrome. There are several options. The patient's doctor will conduct a thorough assessment of each patient and their symptoms and prescribe the medication that will best treat their condition. One of the options is a prescription muscle relaxant to manage muscle stiffness and seizures. This can be a benzodiazepine such as lorazepam. 

Some patients may need a serotonin-production blocking agent, such as cyproheptadine, for their condition if other treatments have not worked. Finally, some individuals dealing with serotonin syndrome need to have medications that control their blood pressure or heart rate. This, of course, depends on their symptoms.

Other Treatments For Serotonin Syndrome


As discussed, patients can take medication for this condition. However, this is not the only treatment option available. Other treatments for serotonin syndrome include additional oxygen and intravenous fluids. The supplemental oxygen helps individuals maintain healthy oxygen levels in their blood. The intravenous fluids can help bring their fever down and keep them hydrated. 

Of course, the most common treatment for this syndrome is stopping any medication that could be responsible for it. In many cases, patients will need to spend some time in the hospital to manage withdrawal symptoms effectively and safely. Patients must follow their doctor's directions when withdrawing from their medication, even if they are not in the hospital.

Exercise And Serotonin


Many individuals need to increase their serotonin levels. However, some of them may not be able to take medications or may prefer to avoid them. Thankfully, there are natural ways to increase serotonin. One of the most common and effective methods is through regular exercise. Evidence indicates that when an individual's muscles are activated during exercise, more tryptophan is released into their blood. Thus, more tryptophan can reach their brain, which is where it is converted into serotonin. The increase in serotonin from exercise is a significant reason why many psychologists promote exercise as a natural treatment for depression. Another is the increase in dopamine.

Light Therapy And Serotonin


Research suggests that light therapy can increase the amount of serotonin in an individual's body. This is connected to the theory that serotonin tends to lower during the winter and rise in the summer. Lower serotonin in the winter is considered to be a risk factor for seasonal affective disorder, which is a temporary type of depression. Some light lamps are specifically designed to mimic the intensity of the sun. Evidence indicates that the light from these lamps helps individuals produce more serotonin and boost their overall mood as a result. However, patients should talk to their doctor first and research the appropriate light therapy box or lamp for their needs. They also need to follow the directions given to avoid any unintended side effects.


    Whitney Alexandra