The Role of Serotonin in Health and Recovery

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serotonin in the brain

Some believe serotonin to be a hormone, but it’s usually classified as a neurotransmitter, which is very different. Neurotransmitters carry signals along and between nerve cells, aka brain cells, thus determining our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. This makes the role of Serotonin very important in health and addiction recovery.

 

Where Does Serotonin Come From?

Serotonin is created in the brain and bodily system through a biochemical conversion process in which protein components, called tryptophans, combine with chemical reactors, called hydroxylase. Together they form 5-hydroxytryptamine—what we call serotonin. Most of this manufacturing process takes place in the intestines. 80 to 90 percent of serotonin can be found in the gastrointestinal tract, in fact. The rest can be found in the bowels, the blood platelets, and in the brain (the central nervous system, specifically).

 

How Does Serotonin Affect Mood?

Serotonin has lots of different functions: constricting muscles, transmitting impulses between nerve cells, regulating cyclic body processes, and contributing to a sense of wellbeing and pleasure. Most famous, though, is its role in maintaining mood—not just happy mood, but mood balance. Serotonin shortages and imbalances have been linked to depression by countless medical professionals.

However, because serotonin levels cannot actually be measured within the brain (at least not with current technology), nobody knows for certain whether depression is an effect of serotonin shortage or a cause. Clearly, serotonin is involved in mood regulation. Whether serotonin shortages cause depression is a mystery.

 

How Is Serotonin Affected by Antidepressants?

SSRIs like Zoloft block serotonin, as well as norepinephrine, from re-absorbing after transmitting their neural impulse within the CNS. At the very least, it appears that these selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors can relieve depression symptoms. Again, though, the reasons are for this are largely unknown. Other serotonin-increase methods do not appear to improve mood, which indicates that antidepressants likely work for other, indirect reasons.

 

Can You Produce Too Much Serotonin?

Yes, over-stimulation of the central nervous system and peripheral serotonin receptors can cause a condition known as serotonin syndrome. This is what causes many drug withdrawals, leading to addictions.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

-agitation

-confusion

-headaches

-shivering

-sweating

-muscle rigidity

-increased blood pressure

It’s life-threatening, too, if the addiction is severe enough. Fortunately, it’s not a hard condition to detect in the brain. Serotonin syndrome can be diagnosed with a single test and then be alleviated simply by abstaining from the drug responsible for a few days—long enough for the acute withdrawal to subside.

Submit yourself to a medical detox center, and you’ll get through it. Severe cases of serotonin syndrome may require hospitalization and/or medication for calming the muscles, stabilizing the heart, and blocking the production of any more serotonin.

 

Can You Increase Serotonin Naturally?

Of course, there are countless ways to boost serotonin without drugs. Nutritious food is full of mood-boosting properties. Exercise causes endorphin release. Just spending more time in the sun is likely to help. Further, certain forms of formal addiction treatment, like psychotherapies, have been found to increase levels of serotonin just by improving the addict’s thought processes and outlooks.

 

Drug withdrawals — like serotonin-syndrome — will be your biggest hurdle in getting sober. To endure and defeat it, you’ll need help. Call Hired Power today to get yourself detoxed and on the road to a happier, sober life: 800-910-9299