Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. In other words, It is responsible for carrying electrical signals between the cells. The bright spots between the two nerve cells in the picture below represent neurotransmitters such as serotonin. They play a vital role in brain functioning by transmitting the electrical signal they receive from one nerve cell to another.
Serotonin is excreted in the brain and is produced at various points in the body. It is usually found in the central nervous system and in the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin in the central nervous system helps to regulate mood, sleep, appetite, learning, memory, sexual and social behaviors. Serotonin in the gastrointestinal tract is responsible for regulating the digestion.
Many of the commonly used antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs affect serotonin levels. These drugs increase the level of serotonin by preventing the secretion of serotonin by the cells.
Serotonin and Depression
Many researchers believe that imbalances at the serotonin level affect the mood and cause depression. Serotonin deficiency can occur for three reasons: low production in brain cells, inadequate receptor sites, or lack of tryptophan in the production of serotonin. When one of these three biochemical disorders occurs, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder , panic and even extreme aggression may occur.
Although it is generally accepted that serotonin deficiency plays an important role in depression, it is not possible to measure serotonin levels in a living brain. Therefore, there is no evidence to prove that depression or a mental disorder is a deficiency of serotonin or other neurotransmitters. However, the level of serotonin in the blood can be measured, and when this ratio is measured in depressed patients, the level of serotonin is found to be less than that of other people (of course, serotonin levels may be different).
It is also not known whether serotonin deficiency leads to depression or depression leads to lack of serotonin. However, many of the drugs used to treat depression and other mental disorders are based on elevating serotonin levels in their brains.
Serotonin and Sleep
Though the 21st century has come, sleep is still not fully understood. But the hormone serotonin definitely plays an important role in the sleep cycle. High levels of serotonin are associated with wakefulness, low levels of sleep. Along with melatonin, serotonin controls the circadian clock and is affected by daylight. Daylight and serotonin levels increase while melatonin decreases.
Serotonin level is lowest during REM sleep (dream phase). Neurons with serotonin receptors are active throughout sleep, up to the REM stage. Mostly they function as inhibitors of REM sleep. When serotonin levels fall, the level of neurotransmitter acetylcholine starts to rise. For this reason most of the antidepressants are less dreamy. The increase in serotonin levels decreases the production of acetylcholine, which makes it difficult to dream.
Serotonin in Women and Men
Studies have shown that men have more serotonin than women, but this difference is so small that it can be neglected. But there is a huge difference in the response to serotonin decline between men and women. In a study published in the journal “Biological Psychiatry”, serotonin levels were tried to be lowered using the “tryptophan reduction” technique. As a result, the men began to move more freely but did not enter the depression. Women have experienced a serious negative change in their mood. They have begun to act more carefully, which is thought to be closely related to depression. Although the serotonin processing system is the same for males and females, researchers now think that serotonin is used in different ways by men and women.
How can we increase Serotonin naturally?
Serotonin plays an important role in stabilizing the mental state, in the sleep cycle and in the focusing of the mind. Low levels of serotonin may cause depression, abruptness, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and insomnia. Care should therefore be taken to keep the serotonin level high. Insufficient and unbalanced feeding, non-exercise, caffeine use, alcohol use, artificial sweeteners, dieting and stress produce the body’s serotonin production. But there are a few things you can do to increase the level of serotonin:
1. Eat rich foods in tryptophan
One of the basic amino acids, tryptophan, is the only food ingredient used to make serotonin. Foods rich in tryptophan such as turkey meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, red meat, eggs, soybeans, almonds and dry nuts.
2. Be Sure to Take Vitamins B6, B9 and B12
B6 vitamins are used in the production of serotonin and in the production of other amino acid neurotransmitters. The foods rich in B6 vitamini are whole grain products, sunflower seeds, walnuts, peas, potatoes, brussel sprouts, brown rice, bananas and avocados.
B12 vitamins and B9 vitamins (folic acid) work together in the production of serotonin. The richest foods in terms of B12 are liver and red meat. They are also found in eggs, cheese and flaxseeds. Folic acid-rich foods include: green leafy vegetables, whole grain products, peas, broccoli and cabbage.
Daily exercise increases the amount of serotonin, reduces stress and helps digestion. Many studies have shown that exercise increases serotonin production and secretion. Especially aerobic exercises such as running and cycling will increase the serotonin.
Make exercise a basic part of your daily routine. The biggest problem is that when people do not want to exercise, they do not. However, sometimes the reason for not exercising is that the level of serotonin is low. As such, most people prefer to have a snack on television. So, it is important that you go to the spore despite the feeling that you are. Remind yourself what is important to you.
4. Spend Time in the Sunlight
People spent most of their time outside until a few centuries ago. Today’s people are trapped in offices. It is well known that the sunlight increases the production of vitamin D. But the unknown vitamin D takes part in the production of serotonin. From this point of view, it seems logical that depression is a modern time disease.
5. Get Some Massage
Many studies have shown that massage increases the production of serotonin. It is not known whether the massage itself or the physical human interaction increases the serotonin.
6. Try to Reduce Stress
Identify what causes the stress in your life and find ways to reduce them. Because stress hinders the production of serotonin.