Serotonin - the happiness hormone and what important role it plays in your life
Do you know how Happiness happens? Or have you ever wondered what substance is responsible for your mood and feelings? Well, happiness is provided by the production of a certain hormone called Serotonin. Serotonin is essential in stabilising your mood and causes you to feel good and happy. It is produced in the brain and gut from the essential amino acid tryptophan.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is an organic chemical monoamine derived by hydroxylation and decarboxylation from tryptophan, a vital amino acid, synthesised both in the central nervous system by serotonergic neurons where it acts as a neurotransmitter, and in chromaffin cells in the gastrointestinal tract. In other words, when we feel strong emotions, happiness, fear, we also feel it in our stomach for this very reason.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a messenger of the brain, a binding substance that helps make connections and transmit impulses in the nervous system. Serotonin acts as a mediator, ensuring communication between neuronal cells and the transmission of nerve impulses to the body. Also called the happiness hormone, it helps to maintain a positive general mood. Few people know, for example, that women have more receptors for serotonin, which has been translated by psychologists over the years as an explanation for the fact that women are more open in their feelings and enthusiasm.
What role does serotonin play?
Serotonin is a chemical produced in the brain and plays a key role in the natural regulation of mood. When serotonin levels are normal, we can concentrate and feel more emotionally stable, less anxious, calmer and happier. Low serotonin levels play a role in depression and anxiety, while high levels can lower libido.
Serotonin is also synthesised in certain specialised cells in the stomach and gut and plays a role in controlling bowel mobility (movements) and bowel function.
Serotonin production increases to help eliminate food or other harmful substances from the body.
Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin, thus playing a role in controlling the body's internal clock and regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Thus a normal level of serotonin can help you get a restful sleep.
Serotonin is released from platelets to help heal wounds. This causes small arteries to vasoconstrict (narrow) and form blood clots.
Very high levels of serotonin in the bones can cause osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become brittle, leading to pathological fractures.
What lowers serotonin levels in the body?
In general, there are two main reasons why there may be low serotonin levels:
1. Nutritional deficiency - through inadequate diet or problems in the absorption process; impaired serotonin synthesis through lack of availability or insufficient levels of tryptophan;
2. Serotonin misuse - in some cases, serotonin is synthesised correctly but misused by the body; most often, the cause of serotonin misuse is an insufficient number of serotonin receptors or a structural or functional defect in them.
Whatever the reason for the low serotonin level, the cause should be investigated as soon as possible and the level should be restored to restore functions influenced by serotonin levels (sleep, digestion, mood, etc.).
How can I increase my serotonin levels in my body?
Certain natural remedies may increase serotonin levels:
- Exposure to bright light - sunshine or light therapy are commonly recommended remedies for treating seasonal depression.
- Physical activity - regular exercise brings about a good mood.
- Foods high in tryptophan - serotonin is synthesised from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must be brought into the body through diet and is commonly found in foods such as eggs, nuts, cheese, tofu, pineapple, turkey meat, salmon and red meat.
- Meditation - helps relieve stress and can contribute to a positive outlook on life, which can increase serotonin levels.
There is not enough scientific evidence to confirm that these methods can increase serotonin levels, but they are unlikely to be harmful. For a healthy diet and a guide to regular physical activity you can use the DWP Fitness app. It will help you cook healthy recipes more easily and exercise consistently.
Too much serotonin produces negative effects
But too much serotonin doesn't help either. Too much serotonin can lead to negative effects. This overshooting occurs when certain drugs or dietary supplements we take interact, or if a drug overdose is taken. Symptoms of too much serotonin manifest themselves in a syndrome called serotonin syndrome by specialists.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome usually begin within a few hours of taking a new drug that affects serotonin levels or increasing the dose too much that is already being taken. Symptoms may include:
- Agitation or restlessness
- Dilated pupils
- Changes in blood pressure and/or temperature
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Chills and goose bumps
- Excessive sweating
- So serotonin plays an important role in our body's health. Even though it is the hormone of happiness we notice that it is also okay to be at an optimal level in our body.
If you want to exercise to increase your serotonin levels, learn more about how you can build muscle mass without gaining weight. You can also read our other articles that offer interesting information on nutrition and fitness.