If you slept through high school chemistry then you will have never heard of serotonin. To most others, the name is obvious but you may not know what role it plays in the body. Actually scientists didn’t know the exact role it played for many years. Now their understanding is increasing steadily as they come to a full understanding of the chemical. Serotonin plays an incredibly important role.
Your body has two reserves of serotonin. Serotonin exists in your body and in your brain. In both places, it plays a vital role but the two reserves never swap serotonin. Their roles are very separate. In the stomach, serotonin helps keeps things moving. It helps to process food throughout the digestive process. If there is any serotonin in your gut that is not required it escapes into the bloodstream. Platelets then use the serotonin to help form blood clots when you have a cut.
The most important role of serotonin is in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter as it helps the neurons communicate. Basically it acts as the bridge between your thoughts and feelings. People lacking in serotonin can struggle in adapting their emotional behavior or can be poor at perceiving the right emotion at the right time. In the days when we still lived in caves, serotonin helped us to understand when we were safe and when were in danger. These thoughts of safety or danger would then lead us to behave in an anxious or relaxed manner.
People with mental health issues can often have low levels of serotonin. People who are always anxious, sad, or display erratic behavior likely have their serotonin path disrupted. Serotonin comes from an amino acid called tryptophan and while you would think that a tryptophan supplement could solve mental health issues it is rarely so straightforward.
Tryptophan is an amino that is widely available. We get it from bananas, eggs, cheese, and many others. The problem is rarely a lack of tryptophan but often the ability to process that into serotonin. Doctors have found three things that are helpful in boosting serotonin levels.
Sunlight, exercise, and massages all appear to help boost your serotonin. Exercise has been shown to increase the firing rates of neurons that use serotonin and to increase the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain. The role of sunlight is unclear but it may help keep the brain using serotonin at an efficient level. Finally, a massage may help too. It is unclear why a massage is a boost but it may have something to do with decreasing stress levels and allowing serotonin to do its job if there was a block.
Clearly serotonin is incredibly important as it helps keep your body regulated and your mind in working balance. Ensure you are getting outside and exercising to keep your mood and gut in check.