Serotonin is a popular buzz word but do you really know how important this neurotransmitter is? Sure, it’s the “happy” neurotransmitter but it’s also linked to more than just your mood and depression. It’s estimated that 86% of Americans have sub-optimal neurotransmitter levels. Stress, poor diet, trauma, toxins, genetic predisposition, drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol and caffeine can cause these levels to be out of optimal range. Serotonin is one of the key neurotransmitters that needs to be balanced in order for your brain and body to run optimally.
If Your Serotonin is Low You May Suffer From:
• Agitation and irritability
• Anxiety and excessive worry
• Apathy (lack of concern and sincerity)
• Fatigue and exhaustion
• Focus and memory issues
• Intense PMS cycles
• Mood swings
• Sleep Disruption
• Weight gain
5 Things You Need to Know About Serotonin
- Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Which means that it does not stimulate the brain, it calms it. Adequate amounts of serotonin are necessary for a stable mood and to balance the stimulating neurotransmitter firing in the brain. Stimulant medications or caffeine can cause a depletion of serotonin over time. Serotonin also regulates many other processes such as carbohydrate cravings, sleep cycle, pain control and appropriate digestion.
- 80-90% of Serotonin is made in your stomach. In fact every class of brain neurotransmitter has been found in the gut. So before you receive the benefits in your brain, it has to be absorbed through your gastrointestinal tract (GI). If you have any GI distress, food allergies, loose bowels, or constipation, this hinders the absorption, which means you make less serotonin.
- Serotonin contributes to weight loss and weight gain. People with balanced serotonin levels don’t crave carbohydrates or sugary foods as often, they have more control over their diets. They are less lethargic, and studies have shown that adding in an amino acid to boost serotonin levels helped people lose weight without an extensive workout regimen.
- Stress is serotonin’s nemesis. If Serotonin was Batman, stress and chronic multitasking would be the Joker. High levels of stress signal cortisol levels (a stress hormone) in our bodies to spike which causes serotonin to work harder in managing the stress. Over time stress will rob our serotonin levels. Vitamin B6 and B12, along with amino acids such as 5HTP and Tryptophan aid in assisting serotonin during times of stress or chronic cortisol depletion.
- Serotonin plays a role in migraines and headaches. There have been many studies that shows people who suffer from migraines and from chronic headaches have lower levels of serotonin. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and many headache sufferers do not have enough inhibitory support. Research shows increasing the quantity of inhibitory neurotransmitters to balance the inevitable excitatory stimuli is extremely helpful in reducing the severity and duration of migraines and headaches.
While certain foods, supplements, and medications have been said to aid in improving ones serotonin. It’s necessary to make changes to your lifestyle. Since your brain chemistry is as unique as you are, testing your neurotransmitter levels will give you insight into all your neurotransmitter levels including serotonin. Keep in mind, diet and a healthy GI tract are incredibly important and supplementation can be the missing link that your brain and body desperately need in order to make optimal amounts of serotonin.
Take Good Care,
Emily Roberts MA, LPC
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