Do you think that you take control of your life by yourself? We have news: chemicals in our brain are those guys who regulate all the processes in the body, the behavior, mood, and decisions. Today’s post is about neurotransmitters, in particular about the serotonin- it is known as “the happy chemical” because serotonin is responsible for satisfaction and happiness. 1. What is serotonin? serotonin (the scientific name is 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)) is a molecule with a broad variety of functions in our bodies. It consists of a combination of tryptophan (a component of proteins, amino acid) with tryptophan hydroxylase (a chemical reactor). serotonin is mainly found in bowels, blood platelets, the brain (serotonin has a direct and indirect influence at nearly 40 million brain cells). 2. What processes does serotonin control in our body? This chemical helps to regulate the body's mood, appetite, sleep-wake cycles, sexual desire, temperature, memory, even social behavior. As a translator between nerve cells, it relays signals from one brain area to another. As the precursor for melatonin, the molecule of serotonin plays a role in regulating your internal clock. Moreover, it plays a key role in maintaining motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions. serotonin has an impact on your cardiovascular, digestive systems, muscle contractions, and endocrine regulations. 3. Is there a connection between serotonin and depression? Yes. "Well-being" sense is associated with the normal range of serotonin, and low serotonin levels can lead to depression. As a result, depression treatment involves drugs that alter serotonin levels (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)- fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft). They prevent the reabsorption of serotonin and normalize levels of serotonin in the synapses). Also, there is another group of meds for treating depression - serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), they increase levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine. Besides, there is a connection between low levels of serotonin and anxiety, suicidal behavior, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 4. What is a link between serotonin and sexual function? Low serotonin levels can increase libido. However, patients that take meds that produce a higher level of serotonin, can suffer from decreased sexual function. 5. How does alcohol intoxication alter serotonin levels? The level of serotonin in the brain is involved in the development of alcohol abuse. A single drink of alcohol can increase the level of this molecule in the brain. On the other hand, there is a proven correlation between alcohol use disorder (AUD) and the low level of serotonin metabolites in urine and cerebrospinal fluid. 6. What is “serotonin syndrome”? This is a combination of symptoms that can occur when the patient takes medications that increase serotonin levels. It accumulates in the body and causes different symptoms, such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, loss of muscle coordination, headache, shivering, heavy sweating, diarrhea, goosebumps, etc. Severe symptoms (high fever, seizures) can be life-threatening. 7. Does serotonin play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? There is no shred of evidence about that increased levels of serotonin will prevent Alzheimer's disease or delay the onset or progress of dementia. Nonetheless, the research into this area continues, this could also change. 8. Can the diet increase body serotonin levels? Yes. There are no particular foods that can directly increase your body's supply of serotonin. However, there are some products and nutrients that can increase levels of tryptophan. Meat or chicken, dairy products and nuts contain high levels of tryptophans, but after eating a high-protein meal, levels of both tryptophan and serotonin drop. That is because tryptophan doesn’t absorb into the brain from the blood flow. One the other side, eating a carbohydrate-rich meal causes absorption of any amino acids, except tryptophan, from the blood into the body, but not the brain. In this case, tryptophan can freely enter the brain and cause increasing of serotonin levels. That means the diet should be balanced.