Recently, I read an article in HealthKeepers Magazine on Serotonin. Low levels of Serotonin may be causing you to feel depressed or lose sleep for no apparent reason.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a substance designed to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. It relays signals to the brain to regulate how a person feels. Serotonin levels determine whether a person feels happy or sad, satiated or hungry, cold or comfortable.
Health issues such as depression and obesity have been linked to an imbalance in serotonin levels. Low levels can lead to depression, sleep disorders and various forms of addiction. Serotonin affects and controls mental and emotional processes, motor functions thermoregulation, regulation of blood pressure and hormonal functions.
Few people think of serotonin as a digestive aid, but up to 95% of this monoamine neurotransmitter is found in the gastrointestinal system, where it regulates the movement and fluid content of the stool. Serotonin also affects cell growth, metabolism, sex drive and moods. Physicians treating patients with depression or anxiety often prescribe medications that modulate the release or reuse of serotonin.
A reduced level of serotonin signals to the brain that the body “is hungry”. Several studies have shown a direct link between obesity caused by overeating and low levels of serotonin feel the need to eat constantly. The moment when blood glucose levels normalize, serotonin levels return to normal and they feel better again.
While the overall goal for good health should be to maintain effective levels of serotonin, rather than to have too much or too little of it, there are ways to naturally boost serotonin levels to curb these health concerns.
Natural Sources of Serotonin
Too much stress can throw a person’s serotonin levels completely out of whack. Techniques to de-stress and increase your serotonin levels include getting a massage, taking a warm bath, drinking a cup of tea, listening to music or reading a book. A little pampering can go a long way toward increasing serotonin levels.
Research has shown that as your heart rate increases so do your levels of serotonin. In the winter, some people suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder (or SAD). One way that doctors help to combat SAD is by prescribing a challenging exercise routine. Exercise is known to increase serotonin levels year-round, so if you are feeling a little blue in the summer, perhaps it is time to amp up your exercise regimen.
People who are sleep deprived find that they have higher stress levels and lower serotonin levels. In addition, consistent sleep deprivation can lead to increased risk for diabetes and other health problems. For the sake of your body and mind, getting a sufficient amount of sleep is critical.
HealthKeepers Magazine December 2011