Depression and Serotonin
Depression and Serotonin: What's the Connection?
By Valerie Balandra ARNP,BC
Depression is one of the most common and treatable of all mental illnesses. One in four women and one in 10 men can expect to develop it during their lifetime. Studies have shown that people suffering from depression have imbalances of neurotransmitters, natural substances that allow brain cells to communicate with one another. Two transmitters implicated in depression are serotonin and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are powerful chemicals that regulate numerous physical and emotional processes such as mental performance, emotional states and pain response. Virtually all functions in life are controlled by neurotransmitters.
What causes or contributes to Serotonin Deficiency?
How do I know if Serotonin is deficient?
Neurotransmitter testing, Questionnaires, and blood testing can help determine if you might have a serotonin deficiency. Certain test can determine if you have normal levels of the precursors and co-factor vitamins and minerals needed for the brain to produce serotonin. Additionally, hormones such as Adrenal, Thyroid, and Estrogen levels can affect serotonin levels and may explain why some women have pre-menstrual and menopausal mood problems.
How to raise serotonin levels naturally
Prescription drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Lexapro are classified as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or (SSRI's). They help to keep more of the serotonin your brain is making in circulation. They are used for a wide variety of symptoms such as depression, panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, obsessions, and compulsions. There are serotonin/norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SNRI's) such as Effexor and Cymbalta that keep more serotonin and norepinephrine in circulation.
Nutrient therapies such as Targeted Amino Acid Therapy naturally increase the levels of neurotransmitters that a person has been found to be deficient in.5 hydroxytryptophan and Tryptophan are widely known for their ability to help depressive symptoms by raising serotonin levels in the brain.. Numerous clinical trials have studied the efficacy of 5-HTP for treating depression. One compared 5-HTP to the antidepressant drug fluvoxamine and found 5-HTP to be equally effective.
It can be used alone or in combination with medication to keep dosages low and to prevent the "poop out" many people experience with medication.
Herbal Remedies such as St. Johns Wort are available to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some work in a similar way to the SSRI antidepressants.
Things you can do to increase your serotonin levels and improve overall health.
Eat at least three meals per day. Skipping meals promotes high stress and low energy. Eat protein with every meal. Eat Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice. Avoid sugar, junk food, white pasta, white rice, white bread, cookies and cake. No Caffeine, alcohol, or NutraSweet (aspartame). NutraSweet can be toxic to your brain. Alcohol can worsen depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.
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