All you need to know about serotonin!
March 19, 2022

All you need to know about serotonin!

   Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that transmits messages around the body. This is a molecule that transmits messages between neurons.

   It has a wide range of roles within the body, including affects on our appetite, our sleep cycle, temperature regulation, memory, and as many people know - our mood. Serotonin is one of the most important chemicals in regulating our mood and happiness. Low levels of this chemical have been associated with depression. 

   Depression is a complex disease, and there are a number of factors including genetic and environmental factors that increase the risk of a person developing depression. Researchers have found that some people who have suffered with depression have a smaller hippocampus (a part of the brain that contains serotonin receptors) than people who have not.

   Unfortunately we have no way of measuring serotonin levels in the brain. We can measure serotonin levels in the blood but it is not known whether serotonin levels in the blood stream reflect the levels in the brain. It is also not clear whether depression causes serotonin levels to drop or whether low serotonin levels lead to depression! What came first the chicken or the egg...

   A common type of antidepressant medication is serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - i.e. they block (inhibit) the reabsorption (re-uptake) of serotonin, meaning higher levels of serotonin remain in the central nervous system. Antidepressant medications have much better outcomes when given alongside psychotherapy, and we already know that the chemical is not the only factor implicated in depression. 

 

How can I increase serotonin levels naturally?

- Regular exercise has been proven to increase mood. 

- Sunshine has also been proven to reduce depression and increase serotonin levels

- Certain foods containing tryptophan, although this is a bit trickier because our bodies don’t convert this into serotonin very efficiently!

 

 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/serotonin-the-natural-mood-booster

https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/foods-that-could-boost-your-serotonin

https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-physiology/what-are-neurotransmitters