Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the human brain that helps in transmitting signals from one area of the brain to another. This chemical is also known as 5-hydoxytryptamine (5-HT) and is produced through a biochemical process using protein blocks such as tryptophan and tryptophan hydroxylase. Though manufactured in the brain, it is mostly found in the digestive tract, pineal gland, and blood platelets. Its lack is known as Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome, that can disturb your daily routine by affecting the sleeping pattern, sexual desires, appetite, and emotional stability.
Studies show that almost 40 million brain cells are affected directly or indirectly by the level of serotonin in the body. So, you can well imagine how gravely this deficiency can affect us. Constant stress, lack of sleep, improper diet, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, or some forms of recreational drugs, are the common causes behind this condition. These can adversely affect a person's social behavior and make the person feel more depressed and isolated from others. In fact, experts believe that antidepressants boost up the serotonin levels in the human body, to help lift up the mood of the person. Though it is very difficult to determine the lack of 5-HT, there are some symptoms and signs that can intimate you of it. These are mentioned as follows.
Mood Disorders: People with depressive disorders are known to have lower levels of serotonin in the brain. On the contrary, its adequate amounts make one feel more relaxed, thereby reducing mood disorders. The following emotional problems may be observed.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling worthless
- Dislike towards dark weather
- Feeling guilty
- Lack of interest towards daily activities or socializing
- Violent behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
Eating Disorders: Lack of this chemical makes the body crave for sugar, which is used to absorb tryptophan, which helps in producing serotonin. It is also said that one of the main functions of 5-HT is to give signals to the brain which helps the person realize when the stomach is full and when to stop eating. The deficiency therefore, will lead to a feeling of constant hunger and the body will crave for more food. Mentioned below are the associated eating disorders.
- Binge eating
- Anorexia nervosa
- Obesity (due to excessive intake of food)
Sleep Disorders: A healthy person needs adequate amount of sleep in order to have a healthy body and an alert mind. However, in this case, a person may suffer from various sleep disorders which can further affect the functioning of the mind and brain. The related symptoms are listed as follows.
- Sleep apnea
- Disrupted sleep
- Lack of concentration
- Inability to make decisions
- Impaired cognitive function
- Repetitive thoughts
- Constant muscle ache
- Stomach upset
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Phobias and fears
- Post menstrual syndrome
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which results in death of the infant in the first year after birth
- Indulgence in recreational drugs
- Lack of sexual desire
Although research and studies are still in progress, it is learned that the serotonin levels are different in men and women. This can actually be associated with the explanation as to why women are considered to be more moody and emotional than men. Nevertheless, if you can identify with these signs, then it is advisable to get in touch with a trusted health care specialist as soon as possible before the condition worsens.
The treatment for the same would depend upon the exact cause behind it. Doctors believe that sunlight can actually help trigger the levels of 5-HT in the body along with vitamin D. Therefore, spending at least 10 minutes daily under the UVB rays of the sun can help. As far as medication is concerned, certain antidepressants―SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) and Prozac―are used to bring emotional stability.
Also, following a proper diet including foods that increase serotonin levels in the body, such as chicken, turkey, tuna, soybeans, etc., can also help. Though the solutions are many, it is only through consulting a doctor that your individual case can be treated depending upon the cause. Have a healthy and safe tomorrow. Take care.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice.