Serotonin – Go With The Flow

What is Serotonin?

In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we often refer to serotonin and the desire to have a steady amount of this chemical in our brain.  We often talk about the ways in which we can influence the production of serotonin and sometimes reference the three P’s – positive thought, positive action and positive interaction.  But why is there this particular focus on serotonin?  The simple answer is that serotonin plays a huge part in our mental and bodily health and its importance to our health cannot be overlooked.

Serotonin is well regarded as the key hormone that regulates mood, feelings of happiness and wellbeing.  Low levels are associated with depression and anxiety.

Serotonin has an impact on our entire body from our emotions to our motions. It is responsible for:

  • Mood
  • Mental Health
  • Sleep
  • Digestion
  • Nausea
  • Blood Clotting
  • Bone Health
  • Sexual Function

How is Serotonin produced?

Serotonin is produced in the gut and in the brain.  In fact, around 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut where it can act as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone.  The bacteria in the gut participate in serotonin production where these microbial cells have the ability to stimulate the cells that make serotonin.

Both the brain and the gut produce serotonin from an organic chemical called tryptophan.  Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is acquired through our diet.  Food’s high in tryptophan include beans, oily fish, turkey, chicken, oats, nuts, seeds, fruits and bread.

“positive thought, positive action and positive interaction help maintain the flow of serotonin”

What are the functions of Serotonin?

In the brain and nervous system serotonin is used as a neurotransmitter.Neuron and synapse  At the end of our neurons (nerve cells) a gap called a synapse exists and here serotonin (and other neurotransmitters) is released to travel across this gap to a nearby neuron where the electrical signal from the nerve is regenerated.

In the gut it works as a hormone where it is released into the bloodstream and used to regulate and control other cells and organs in the body.

Mood

Often called the ‘feel good’ chemical, in the brain serotonin has an influence on regulating anxiety, happiness and makes us more sociable.  Low levels tend to make us less sociable, introverted and more sensitive to negative stimuli.

The family of anti-depressant drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to increase the serotonin levels in our body and brain.  However due to the fact that this is not limited to the brain only, they can have some unpleasant side effects and frequently for many people affect digestion.

Mental Health

A steady flow of serotonin in our brains boost our cognitive abilities, including memory and learning.  It is known that recreational drug use and alcohol cause levels of serotonin to surge and then reduce quickly.  This sudden decline impacts our mood negatively during that comedown phase.

Sleep

Serotonin in the brain helps to regulate the sleep/waking cycle although other chemicals are in play here too.  For example, the hormone melatonin is key to the proper functioning of the sleep cycle.  Our brain has certain areas that control when we sleep, when we wake and our pattern of sleep.  These areas have been found to have serotonin receptors in them.

Digestion

Serotonin is present in the digestive tract and helps to control bowel movements and function.  Serotonin has the function of speeding up the rate at which food passes through the digestive tract.

Some people who are low in serotonin levels can become constipated.  Low levels of serotonin in the gut are also linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Some IBS sufferers have lower serotonin transports in the cells lining the bowel and this has an adverse effect on motility.

Nausea

A high level of serotonin is often associated with nausea.  Whenever we consume toxic food, serotonin levels rise to make us feel nauseous and the food or substance is removed from the body as diarrhea.

A common side effect from taking SSRIs is nausea.

Blood Clotting

Serotonin has an effect on our cardiovascular system.  Blood platelets store serotonin and release this whenever we have a wound, cut, bruise etc.  Serotonin triggers tiny arteries to narrow which helps to form blood clots.

Bone Health

Research suggests that high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis which weakens bones.

Sexual Function

Serotonin plays an important role in regulating sexual desire and function, although its role is primarily inhibitory.  Low levels are associated with increased libido and high levels result in impaired sexual desire.

SSRI medication can have an effect on libido although research suggests that any negative effects are usually reversed when the medication is stopped.

Is too much Serotonin bad for you?

Serotonin Syndrome is a condition when too much serotonin exists in the body.  It occurs when you take medications that cause high levels of serotonin to accumulate in your body.  Mild symptoms include shivering and diarrhea.  Severe symptoms may include muscle rigidity, fever and seizures.

The need for a steady flow of Serotonin

Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter/hormone that plays an important role in many bodily processes and in our mental wellbeing.

When we are anxious or depressed our production of serotonin is reduced and instead, we are producing an overload of stress hormones and chemicals.

By focusing on positive thought, action and interaction we can produce patterns in the brain than can help to restore that flow of serotonin.

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