Serotonin Smiley Luftballon

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Dr. Adrian Weingart


DON´T WORRY, BE HAPPY - the happiness hormone serotonin

Attention - now it's getting philosophical: Aren't we all actually looking for happiness and joy? Throughout our lives we only want one thing, and that is to be happy. Whether we will ever reach the state of perfect happiness is of course very questionable and depends on a wide variety of factors in life. Unfortunately, the majority of this is not in our hands. Well, but somehow we can influence our mood and our satisfaction. As the saying goes, “Everyone is the architect of their own happiness.“There is a substance in the human body that is responsible for joy and that we can influence very well. May we introduce - the happiness hormone serotonin.

Serotonin brings us into balance

What exactly is this little "lucky charm" in our body and where does it work? Serotonin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that regulates numerous bodily processes. The best known is the effect of serotonin in the brain, because in the human control center serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter. It therefore acts like a messenger substance that travels through our nervous system and passes on information from one nerve cell to the next. To a certain extent, serotonin actually ensures that all information processes in the brain - and there are quite a lot of them - run correctly. If there is too little of the hormone in the body, these information processes can get out of balance and thus affect the whole organism and affect our mood.
Serotonin is not only found in the brain and nervous system, but also in the blood platelets - thrombocytes - and in large quantities in special cells in our gastrointestinal tract.

The happiness hormone

The serotonin level has an important role in one's own well-being and influences both physical and psychological mood. Serotonin is also known as the "feel-good hormone" and not only has a mood-enhancing effect, but can also dampen the body's stress response. Serotonin is a true all-rounder when it comes to mood, because it can also have a relaxing, antidepressant, sleep-inducing, pain-relieving and motivational effect.
Most of the serotonin is produced in the so-called enterochrome-affin cells in the intestine. These cells are located in the epithelial tissue of the digestive tract, i.e. in the layer that lines the inside of the small intestine. However, the happiness hormone does not appear out of nowhere - it is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Special enzymes ensure that a hydroxyl group is attached to the tryptophan and a carboxyl group is removed, releasing carbon dioxide - hence the biochemically precise name 5-hydroxy-tryptamine. The finished serotonin is then stored in small storage chambers, the vesicles, and released from there when needed. Once the happiness hormone has been released, it is taken up again via a 5-HT transporter and partially supplied to the storage vesicles or partially broken down. This is done with the help of various enzymes, such as monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A). The end product of the breakdown of serotonin is the so-called 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, which is then excreted with the urine.
The happiness hormone works like most other messenger substances in the body by binding to certain receptors. In fact, there are more than 14 different receptors that serotonin can bind to. They are also called 5-HT receptors.

The role of the gut

It is known that well-regulated serotonin levels can not only be of great importance for the brain and mood, but also influence other areas of well-being. Since serotonin is not only produced in the brain, but also the intestinal bacteria are capable of synthesizing the neurotransmitter GABA (GABA receptors play an important role in the development of neuronal structures in the brain) and the serotonin precursor L-tryptophan, there is a lower Colonization of the gut by good bacteria may not allow for adequate L-tryptophan and GABA synthesis. However, if there are enough "good" bacteria (in this context, good, tryptophan-producing bacteria) are present, more L-tryptophan and thus more serotonin can be produced. This results in positive effects, such as better general well-being.

The effect of serotonin

As already explained, serotonin can dock to different receptors on the surface of different cells. The fact is that each serotonin receptor triggers a different reaction in the body. Serotonin therefore controls many different processes in the body. If you look at the influence of the happiness hormone on the central nervous system, the messenger influences, for example, body temperature, appetite, various emotions and the central reward system. That was not all. Serotonin has an impact on your mood and drive, your level of consciousness and the sleep-wake cycle, as well as the pain rating in the body.
Since the happy hormone is not only found in the brain, serotonin also affects other areas of our body. For example, it can change the size of blood vessels, bronchi and intestines. The neurotransmitter also stimulates blood platelets (thrombocytes) and thus plays an important role in blood clotting.

Burn up serotonin levels

Serotonin makes you feel good - this raises the question of how to influence the production of the lucky charm. The messenger substance is produced in the body itself and there are a number of ways to ensure that serotonin is released. Whether amino acids, minerals or vitamins, there are numerous ways to positively influence serotonin levels in a natural way. Since approximately 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut, it is logically important that it is healthy in order to be able to produce the hormone. That's why there are many nutrition-conscious people who turn to pre- and probiotics - also known as synbiotics, to ensure that the intestinal microbiome is intact. Fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut also contain probiotics and are therefore very healthy for the intestines. In addition, various vitamins and minerals can affect the production of serotonin. This is because they are additional components that the body needs to synthesize the hormone. They are also partly involved in the formation of serotonin themselves. Since serotonin is formed from certain amino acids, these should be supplied in sufficient quantities through a good diet. This includes in particular the amino acid tryptophan, which is contained in foods such as nuts or fish. The amino acid tryptophan is first converted into intermediate 5-HTP in the body and later into serotonin in the brain.

Measure the serotonin level

As you have just learned, the happiness hormone has its fingers in play in some areas of the body. Therefore, a lack of serotonin can have a negative effect on the entire organism and lead to unpleasant symptoms. It is therefore sometimes advisable to track the whole thing down.
Are you often sad for no reason? Do you have depressive moods, anxiety disorders or are you listless? Then it might be time to measure your serotonin levels. Don't worry, it's very simple and super uncomplicated. Nowadays, the test can even be taken from home. All you have to do is order a test kit, provide a urine sample, and then send it to a lab. A few days later you should have your result. Then at the latest it will become clear whether your current mood is related to a serotonin deficiency. If not, you should definitely seek further medical attention.
Of course you can get advice on this from your family doctor right from the start if you feel more comfortable with it. Most often, they will check your serotonin levels with a blood test. Unfortunately, these tests cannot yet provide 100% certainty about the level of your serotonin levels, as they cannot measure the value in the brain.
A serotonin deficiency can also manifest itself elsewhere, because it can affect the entire body. A lack of this happy hormone can result in headaches or muscle pain, a reduced feeling of satiety, difficulty concentrating or sleep disorders. Other symptoms are irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and various cardiovascular diseases.

summary serotonin

Serotonin functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter in the human body. It is formed from the amino acid L-tryptophan. The good news is that this amino acid can be obtained from a variety of foods and supplements. Serotonin is a real "lucky charm" and can have a positive effect on mood and well-being. It also has a calming effect and can reduce the feeling of stress! But that's not all, as it can increase memory and promote good sleep. If you have too little of the happiness hormone in your body, this can lead to a bad mood, anxiety and aggressiveness.
Ultimately, if your serotonin level is okay, you are doing well and you feel good!
You can also find out more about serotonin and intestines in episode 59 of the podcast from Matcha Mornings, where our co- founder dr Adrian Weingart was a guest.


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