Archive for category serotonin
If you find yourself feeling low, unhappy, depressed, or bored, and end up feeling better after a salty or a sugary treat, it is likely that you are suffering from low serotonin levels. So what is serotonin and what does it have to do with your mood? Moreover, why does eating that bar of chocolate have you feel better immediately? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the human body that is often referred to as the ‘feel good hormone’. In essence, it is a neurotransmitter, which when in appropriate levels in the body, can have you feel positive and energetic.
With low serotonin, you are likely to feel out of energy and depressed (which unleashes a lot of other emotions such as loneliness, boredom, anxiety, etc.) Then you go and grab that pastry or donut, down it and find yourself feeling better. After a couple of hours, you’re back to feeling low, and again, you eat something that will give you an instant ‘high’. This is what also commonly leads to weight gain; eating just for the sake of eating, not when you are hungry. The cause for all this is low serotonin levels in the body. Now, while that sugary treat will give you instant gratification, there are certain foods that are known to increase serotonin and keep it that way in the long run. These foods are not temporary solutions to your low mood, but permanent ones. What are these foods that raise serotonin levels the natural way? Let’s take a look.
Foods that Boost Serotonin Levels Naturally
While food is not the only way you can increase serotonin levels, it is a very important aspect that keeps you going, keeps you positive, and allows you to function by providing clarity of thought. These serotonin foods have been discussed here, under specific nutrient groups.
Group 1: Proteins
Protein rich foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan; an important amino acid that is converted to serotonin in the brain. Moreover, protein rich foods also help deal with weight problems. The list of foods rich in tryptophan and protein have been enlisted here.
Poultry (eggs, chicken, turkey, veal)
Fish (salmon, tuna)
Lean meat (pork, lamb)
Dairy (low fat milk, cheese such as cottage cheese, yogurt)
Soy products (milk, beans, nuts)
Legumes (peas, green beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, lima beans, kidney beans)
The dairy in this group also provides calcium, another important nutrient required by the body to synthesize serotonin. The vitamins in legumes are also essential in ensuring that your serotonin levels are brought back to normal.
Group 2: Carbohydrates
You might argue that the chocolate and the pastry and your favorite donut along with a dish of pasta or risotto are all carbohydrates that are necessary to boost serotonin. However, as has been mentioned earlier, all these simple carbohydrates give you a temporary result, what is popularly known as a ‘sugar rush’. Once this rush wears out, you are back to your original state of mind. As such, what you need are complex carbohydrates that digest slowly, get into the blood, and are transported to the brain to elevate the levels of serotonin.
Another important role of carbohydrates is that they enhance insulin production that enables tryptophan to reach the brain quicker. This is why it is important to first have a protein rich meal and follow it up with some carbohydrates, say about 2 hours thereafter, to allow tryptophan to reach the brain and convert into serotonin. What comprises these complex carbohydrates? Here’s a list of some foods that will help.
Whole wheat crackers
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
Vegetables (yams, sweet potatoes, squashes – a very rich source of carbohydrates)
Dark Chocolate (in limited amounts)
Air popped popcorn
Another important tip to get rid of the lethargy and increase serotonin naturally is to avoid all those high calorie foods that you used to rush for whenever unhappy. You are all aware of the effects of such foods. They only add to your misery after you have eaten them. Also stay away from caffeine as much as you can. If you can’t give it up completely, reduce the amount you consume. Avoid the sodas completely, and try to consume only your mandatory morning cup of tea or coffee. Avoid it during the rest of the day.
Other Important Measures to Raise Serotonin Levels
As mentioned earlier, the aforementioned foods are not the only way you can increase serotonin. They play an extremely important role in doing so, but without certain other measures, they may not be as effective. What else can you do to ensure that you find yourself feeling positive and ready to deal with all that life gives you everyday? Take a look.
Exercise: The most important measure apart from feeding yourself right is to get that body moving. Now if you have a negative association with exercise, you are obviously not going to enjoy it. Try performing different types of exercises in groups. Join a yoga, Zumba, aerobics, kick-boxing, aqua aerobics, or dance class to enjoy it thoroughly. Swim, cycle, trek, or simply walk if you want to enjoy it alone. But ensure you exercise at least thrice a week to get that feel good hormone flowing in your body.
Relax: Whatever your idea of relaxation is, engage in it. Whether it is listening to music, watching a light movie, going shopping, reading, painting, cooking, or meditating, give some time to only yourself. Your brain needs a break from all those thoughts you have flooded it with. It is difficult to switch off completely, but a regular diversion from the mundane is always welcome.
Sleep: Even if you have trouble falling asleep, make sure you are in bed at a fixed time. Sleep plays a very important role in serotonin production, and without it, not only your mind, but your body suffers too. Once you establish a routine you are likely to get the necessary 6-8 hours of sleep daily.
Get Enough Sunlight: Sunlight is known to increase the levels of serotonin hormone. Spending about half an hour in the sun every morning will not only give you your necessary vitamin D, it will also rejuvenate and revitalize you greatly, so that you can face your day with energy and a clear mind.
All of us tend to ignore our body and its needs in our daily rut. Just remember that the more you ignore your body, the greater trouble it is going to cause in the future. Pay attention to it, give it time. If you find yourself feeling low and worn out everyday, it is a sign that your body needs attention because the serotonin levels may have plummeted. Consume the aforementioned foods that raise serotonin levels and follow the other tips. You are bound to feel better in a few weeks. If you don’t, it is advisable that you visit your physician so that the root of the problem can be addressed.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and does not in any way attempt to replace the diagnosis of a doctor. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.
What is serotonin syndrome? I think before knowing the answer to this question, you must know what is serotonin! Serotonin is a chemical or a neurotransmitter which helps in transmitting the essential signals from one area of the brain to another. This chemical is manufactured in the brain with the help of a biochemical process which uses protein blocks like tryptophan hydroxylase and tryptophan for the production purposes. Though this chemical is produced in the brain, it is also found in blood platelets, digestive tract and the pineal gland of the human body. Also known as the 5-hydroxytryptamine, this chemical is responsible for many functions in the human body like controlling mood related disorders, sexual desires, appetite, sleeping pattern and learning abilities. The condition wherein the levels of serotonin in the body rise to abnormal levels due to consumption and/or increase in the dosage of certain medications and drugs, is known as serotonin syndrome.
A person may suffer from serotonin syndrome because of consuming certain supplements or illicit drugs as well. This may lead to improper functioning in the brain cells causing various unhealthy signs and symptoms like fever, shivering etc. The point to be noted is that if these symptoms go unnoticed, the condition can become extremely fatal and lead to death! However, with proper treatment and medication, serotonin syndrome can be treated effectively, bringing the situation under control.
Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome
Serotonin syndrome symptoms are a result of the excessive presence of serotonin in the body which can cause psychological, physiological and/or somatic illness in a person. The severity of these symptoms vary depending upon the severity of the condition. A person suffering from mild serotonin syndrome may experience mild symptoms like sweating, shivering, twitching etc. On the other hand, severe symptoms like high blood pressure, high fever and overactive reflexes may also occur. The most commonly observed symptoms of serotonin syndrome are mentioned as follows. These generally occur after several hours of consuming certain drugs and medications which either you are taking for the first time, or are taking in higher amounts than usual.
Twitching in the muscles
Loss of muscle coordination
Increased heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Serotonin Syndrome Causes
As mentioned earlier, the main cause of serotonin syndrome is the intake of overdose of certain drugs, or a combination of two different drugs, which leads to high level of serotonin in the body. A classic example for the same would be consumption of antidepressants (SSRIs) with the medication for migraine known as triptans. Many people who take the overdose of antidepressants can also suffer from this syndrome. Mentioned below is a list of medications and drugs that are associated with serotonin syndrome.
Selective Serotonin Reutake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Bupropion, is used as an antidepressant as well as an medication for tobacco addiction.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Illicit drugs like LSD, cocaine, Ecstasy etc.
Herbal supplements used for depression and anxiety like St. John’s wort, nutmeg, Syrian rue, ginseng etc.
Mood stabilizer like lithium
Medications for migraine
Medications used to treat nausea
Over the counter medications for cough and cold which contain dextromethorphan.
Consumption of opioids like pentazocine, pethidine, tramadol, buprenorphine etc.
Treatment of Serotonin Syndrome
Now that you are aware of the causes and symptoms of serotonin syndrome, it would be easier for you to figure out if you or someone else close to you may have been suffering from it! If you can relate to the aforementioned causes and symptoms, then you must get in touch with your health care specialist as soon as possible. However, there are no tests which can diagnose the condition, but your doctor will definitely be able to identify if your symptoms and the medications you consume can be the possible cause. You must be honest and tell your doctor about the drugs and medications you are consuming, along with the dosage. If your condition is mild, your doctor may simply reduce the dosage or restrict you from taking the medicine at all. On the other hand, if your symptoms are more severe, your doctor may have to admit you in the hospital and use various treatment options to bring your symptoms back to normal. Your doctor may choose from a variety of treatment options for serotonin syndrome, depending upon your condition. These include:
Withdrawal of medications that are responsible for the condition.
Usage of serotonin production blocking agents
Medications and drugs to control high heart rate and blood pressure
Usage of oxygen masks to maintain normal oxygen levels in the body, along with intravenous (IV) fluids to treat symptoms like dehydration and fever
Doctors may also use muscle relaxants to relax the twitching of muscles, control agitation, and prevent muscle stiffness.
So this was a brief information about what is serotonin syndrome, along with its causes, symptoms and possible treatment options. I am sure after understanding the condition briefly, you would be cautious when it comes to consumption of drugs like antidepressants, pain killers or other drugs listed above that can cause this syndrome. It is always best to consult with your family doctor before taking a drug so that the risk of developing this condition can be avoided. Have a safe tomorrow!