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Serotonin – What Is It and Why Do We Need It?

Serotonin – What Is It and Why Do We Need It?

Serotonin. You’ve heard of it and probably know that it has something to do with happiness and feeling good. But did you know that serotonin has a HUGE impact on your mood and overall health? In today’s Glomission, we are going to take a deep dive into serotonin – what it is, why it’s super important and how we can keep those serotonin levels in check.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that plays a vital role in transmitting signals in the brain. It's often called the "feel-good" chemical because it's closely linked to our mood and emotional well-being - higher levels of serotonin are associated with feelings of happiness. Beyond just influencing our mood, serotonin affects various bodily functions including sleep, digestion and even bone health.


Serotonin is found in many parts of the body. Interestingly enough, 90% of it is actually found in the digestive tract but it’s also found in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan – yes, the tryptophan we all talk about at Thanksgiving! This amino acid can only enter the body through our diet and is commonly found in foods such as meat (turkey!), dairy products, eggs and nuts.


Why is serotonin important? Serotonin impacts every part of us, from our emotions to our body and motor skills. In addition to helping with sleeping, healing and digestion, it is thought to be a natural mood stabilizer.


One of serotonin’s primary roles is to stabilize our mood. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression and anxiety. When our serotonin levels are balanced, we tend to feel more emotionally stable, happy and calm.


Serotonin is important to sleep. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. So, if our serotonin levels are off, our sleep can be affected, leading to insomnia or irregular sleep patterns. It’s also key to the quality of sleep as it is involved in the switching between REM sleep and non-REM sleep.


Serotonin is important to digestion. It helps control bowel movements and function. And that is why stress and anxiety can sometimes lead to digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The serotonin in the stomach and intestines is also what helps your body initiate nausea in response to illness, foods and other conditions.


Recent studies suggest that serotonin may also play a role in bone density. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. Serotonin also plays a role in healing. Platelets in the blood store serotonin and when the body needs to repair damage, the platelets release serotonin to help stop bleeding and heal wounds.


Maintaining optimal serotonin levels is crucial for our mental and physical health. And there are easy ways to help boost and maintain those levels. Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to increase serotonin production. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days – things like running, biking, yoga or even a brisk walk. Maintain a balanced diet and incorporate foods rich in tryptophan like turkey, eggs, cheese and salmon. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains also supports overall health and well-being.


Sunlight also boosts serotonin levels naturally. Bright sunlight may help our mood and is why light therapy is recommended for treating seasonal depression. Try to spend at least 15-20 minutes outside each day (but make sure to protect your skin!) If you live in a place with long winters or little sunlight, consider using a SAD lamp or light therapy box.


Serotonin is another reason to prioritize sleep! Good sleep hygiene is essential for maintaining serotonin levels. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, keep your bedroom cool and dark and avoid screens before bed to improve sleep quality.


Mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing exercises can also help reduce stress and increase serotonin levels. These practices help calm the mind and promote a sense of well-being.


Here's an easy one – stay connected! Social interactions can boost serotonin so make time to connect with friends and family. Whether it’s going out, a phone call or just a quick text to check in, you’ll find your mood lifted.


Sometimes, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough and that’s ok. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and probiotics can support serotonin production.


Serotonin plays a crucial role in our mood and overall health, influencing everything from our emotional stability to our sleep patterns and digestive health. By incorporating some simple habits into our daily routine, we can help keep our serotonin levels balanced and enjoy a happier, healthier life. Remember, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health! Here’s to a happier, healthier you.

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