Serotonin is a neurotransmitter(brain chemical) that helps you feel happy, relaxed, and helps you go to sleep. It’s one of your happy chemicals, i.e. it keeps you from being moody. It is broken down from tryptophan, an amino acid we do not produce within our bodies. We have to get it from an outside source-beef, turkey, cashews, lamb, spinach, chicken, and other sources.
There are popular drugs our there that help mood, such as celexa, Zoloft, lexapro, Prozac, etc. They are referred to as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, SSRI’s. The pharmaceutical companies promote this drug to keep serotonin within the synaptic clefts of your nerves. The medication is designed to keep serotonin from being reabsorbed into the body. The theory: if you keep firing serotonin signals by keeping serotonin around, then you will continue to fire happy signals. The medications continuously stimulate the serotonin chemical receptors by keeping serotonin present between your nerve junctions.
However, in biochemistry this idea may not work as we thought it would. If you repeatedly stimulate a chemical receptor, you make the receptor less sensitive to the chemical. Which means the body will actually need more serotonin to try and get the same effect. But here is the problem, high amounts of serotonin lead to anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD tendencies. The pharmaceutical that is believed to alleviate these symptoms can actually add to them.
It comes down to many factors, but two of them we will talk about is genetics and diet.
GENETICS: The gene responsible for breaking down serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline to keep them in healthy levels is called MAO-A(monoamine oxidase A). We will talk primarily of serotonin today. This gene has been associated with severe psychiatric disorders such sever anxiety, anti-social behavior, and major depressive disorders. Common symptoms of this gene mutation is high serotonin levels, irritability, aggressiveness, insomnia, bi-polar tendencies, gout, schizophrenia, addictions(alcohol and tobacco). If you have a heterozygous or homozygous recessive gene for this enzyme, it is only working at 30-50% of the time. Which means your serotonin does not break down fully, and can lead to these types of symptoms. The vitamins and minerals that help you break serotonin down properly and RE-USE it are vitamin B6, B2(riboflavin), B complex, magnesium, and zinc. You don’t have to use these all at the same time, this is where a healthcare professional can help you find the right ratios to take. It can start with a simple gene test and blood/saliva nutrient test.
DIET: Since serotonin is made primarily in the digestive tract, any damage to your gut can and will lead to altered serotonin levels. What damages the lining, good bacteria, and the enzyme production in your digestion? Inflammation…which comes from sugar. A healthy gut lining is a protective wall against inflammation. If we eat too much sugar, we hinder the proper operation of serotonin production for our brains, which leads to unhappiness and depression. Working towards more happiness starts with cutting out sugars and refined carbs!
You can get your genes tested. Hopefully I will have a link on my website in a couple months that works with a private lab(that doesn’t sell your info) where you can get genes tested and blood levels checked for genetic mutations. It can give proper recommendations on what to take to help your genetic mutations In the meantime, I have seen many patients use ancestrydna.com and take their raw data and put it into programs such as www.MTHFRsupport.com or www.promethease.com.. Also start an anti-inflammatory diet, cut out excess sugars, and even look into a Mediterranean type diet. You can also check out my videos on body types to get an idea of the foods suitable for you.
The next post we will go a bit deeper into depression and serotonin, talking more of high inflammation and inflammatory markers.