If you are feeling depressed, having trouble sleeping, or feeling tired in the afternoons, it could be because the serotonin levels in your body have become low. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is found in the central nervous system, at the gastrointestinal tract, and in the platelets. It plays an important part in controlling various processes of the human body such as mood, sleep, learning, and vasoconstriction. That is why, it is important that healthy levels of serotonin are maintained in the body at all times.
Uses of Serotonin in the Body
To better understand the importance of serotonin to the body, here are the roles it plays.
-Serotonin affects the mood, behavior, learning capability, sleep, appetite, and memory functions of an individual. This brain chemical can make a person feel good. A drop in its levels normally results to irritability, mood changes, and even depression. This is why some antidepressants contain ingredients that help prevent the breakdown of serotonin in the body.
-Serotonin aids in digestion and protects the gut. When a person accidentally eats a harmful substance, the enterochromaffin cells in the GI tract becomes irritated, causing it to release serotonin, which hastens the digestive process in able to remove the harmful substance from the body.
-It regulates aging and prevents early memory loss, as supported by studies that showed an increase of serotonin levels at the early phase of aging to help delay the degenerative process.
How Serotonin Levels Drop
They do not know the exact cause why serotonin level gets lower in the body. Some researchers believe that it could be caused by genetics or improper development in the brain or chemical imbalances in the nervous system. Stress is also seen as a culprit. You may have noticed that when a person becomes stressed, a host of other problems starts to arise, like moodiness and loss of appetite, and these are said to be due to the decreasing levels of serotonin in the brain. An unhealthy diet could also cause the serotonin levels to drop, as seen on people who indulge on a low carbohydrate/high protein diet. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking some medications could also affect serotonin levels and result to depression, fatigue, and sleep disorders.
There are ways to increase the serotonin levels in the body such as eating a high carbohydrate and low protein meal. Serotonin can also be taken orally. However, it will not be able to reach the brain because of the blood-brain barrier. This means that taking serotonin orally will only increase its levels in the GI tract and in the blood, but its levels in the brain will not be affected, so you can still experience symptoms of depression. The best way to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain is to take in a metabolite that synthesizes serotonin, like 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).
5-HTP is an amino acid that is produced commercially from Griffonia simplicifolia. This metabolite is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Compared to L-tryptophan, which is another amino acid that could elevate serotonin levels, 5-HTP has been found safer to use. This is mainly because its production does not undergo a bacterial fermentation process, which is how L-tryptophan is manufactured. Studies have also shown that 5-HTP contains no toxic contaminants that could cause harmful side effects. Taking in oral 5-HTP, therefore, can help maintain healthy levels of serotonin in the brain safely.