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  • Writer's pictureWendy@wendysfitness4life

Serotonin - The Happy Hormone

Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.

The scientific name for serotonin is 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT. It is mainly found in the brain, bowels, and blood platelets.





Serotonin is used to transmit messages between nerve cells, it is thought to be active in constricting smooth muscles, and it contributes to wellbeing and happiness, among other things. As the precursor for melatonin, it helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the internal clock.


It is thought to play a role in appetite, the emotions, and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions. However, it is not known exactly if serotonin affects these directly, or if it has an overall role in co-ordinating the nervous system.

It appears to play a key role in maintaining mood balance. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression.


Function: As a neurotransmitter, serotonin relays signals between nerve cells, or neurons, regulating their intensity. It is believed to play a key role in the central nervous system (CNS) and in the general functioning of the body, and especially the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Studies have found links between serotonin and bone metabolism, breast milk production, liver regeneration, and cell division.

Serotonin influences most brain cells both directly and indirectly.


Bowel function: Most of the body’s serotonin is found in the GI tract, where it regulates bowel function and movements. It also plays a part in reducing the appetite while eating.



Mood: In the brain, serotonin impacts levels of mood, anxiety, and happiness. Illicit mood-altering drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD cause a significant rise in serotonin levels.


Clotting: Serotonin contributes to the formation of blood clots. It is released by platelets when there is a wound. The resulting vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels, reduces blood flow and helps blood clots to form.

Nausea: If you eat something that is toxic or irritating, the gut produces more serotonin to increase transit time and expel the irritant in diarrhoea. This also stimulates the nausea area in the brain, resulting in nausea.

Serotonin Deficiency Symptoms

Low levels of serotonin have been linked with:

  • poor memory

  • low mood


They may also lead to the following symptoms:

  • craving for sweet or starchy foods

  • difficulty sleeping

  • low self-esteem

  • anxiety

  • aggression

 

 

Boosting Serotonin Levels

There may be other ways of increasing serotonin levels in the body.

 

Mood induction: Alter your thought process. Use positive affirmation, do things that make you feel happy, practice gratitude, these things could increase levels of serotonin as interaction between serotonin synthesis and mood is a two-way relationship.

 

Light: Already used as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a few studies have suggested that it can be used to treat depression as well.

 

Exercise: Exercise has an antidepressant effect, and some research has suggested that it can increase brain serotonin function.

 

Diet: Foods that have higher levels of tryptophans could be linked to improved mood and cognition, possibly due to increased serotonin levels.

 

Foods: Tryptophan’s are an amino acid that can be found in food. Some research has linked a higher intake of dietary tryptophan with more positive mood scores, possibly because tryptophan boosts serotonin levels.

High-protein foods: Some foods, such as turkey, eggs, and cheese, are believed to contain tryptophan and to increase tryptophan levels in the blood.





Bananas: These contain serotonin, and they have been recommended for lifting mood. But they can only improve a person’s mood if the serotonin they contain will reach the brain.

 

 

Tryptophan is a main ingredient that the body needs to make serotonin. Eating foods high in this essential chemical doesn’t mean that the body will absorb and use it. But making tryptophan available when needed will improve serotonin production.

There is a growing interest in the idea that gut microbiota might influence the CNS and cognition through a link known as the gut-brain access. In this case, serotonin in the digestive system may be able to influence mood.


The following foods are said to contain tryptophan:

  • cheese

  • turkey

  • eggs

  • soya products

  • salmon

  • Talbina, a dish made from barley

But remember following a healthy and varied diet has been found to produce a range of health benefits which boost overall wellbeing.

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