Can you increase serotonin levels without taking an antidepressant? Before we answer this, we might ask, why would I want to increase serotonin? Well, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has to do with many things. One of them related to the brain is about slowing down our thinking. Most serotonin is found in the the gut, about 80%. We tend to think simplistically about these matters, but it is really quite complicated when you delve into it.
We hear a lot today about neurotranmitters: Serotonin, Noripinephrine, Dopmine, and GABA (gamma-amino-butryric-acid). But there are alot more. It is estimated that there are 100-200 different neurotransmitters. We only know about 60 of them and of those 60, we only deal with about 4. So, the picture is much bigger than we are seeing.
Serotonin being inhibitory slows thoughts (neurocircuits) down. The serotonergic system is activated when we are stressed out. With less serotonin, you will become overly anxious, or burned out. What affects serotonin?
How does this affect recovery? Well, a lot of people have self medicated because they have this serotonin deficiency. They look for ways to calm down. They look for ways of calming down thoughts, worrys and resentments.
What helps Serotonin increase. A couple of things we know that help are sleep and nutrition.
Sleeping in delta sleep (deepest, hard, dreamless sleep) might help us reabsorb serotonin. Brain neurogenesis (growing brain cells) might be happening as well. We don’t absolutely know, but we suspect this.
Supplements: L-Tryptophan – amino acid that is the nutritional building block of serotonin. This is the metabolic chain that occurs.
L-Tryptophan converts to 5HTP, which then converts to Serotonin. This eventual helps the process of Melatonin (affects sleep). Vitamin B6 is needed for this whole process. Vitamin B6 hits the same receptor sites that Valium and other anti-anxiety drugs effect.
I am not a physician, nor is this intended to be medical treatment, but this information can be helpful to you to help you with a lack of serotonin in your life.
Lack of serotonin can be associated with worry, obsessive thinking, stress, anxiety and depression. Supplementing with L-Tryptophan or 5HTP can be helpful. There was a scare with L-Tryptophan a long time ago. It was taken off the market. The gist of it was that a company in Japan was manufacturing it and a batch got tainted with something that caused eosinophilia-myalgia. Some deaths were reported, the FDA took it off the market. Some feel that Prozac coming out the very next day had some influence. Most say that it was not the L-Tryptophan itself, but it got tainted. The FDA later put it back on the market. Supporters of L-Tryptophan say that the same logic would have taken beef, orange juice, spinach off the market because it was tainted and caused some problems. Now people feel that L-Tryptophan is really safe because of the scandal. There is some research that would indicated that it might be a genetic link with the Tryptophan itself. Anyway, you can sort through the information. The thing is that many deaths are caused by prescription medication every year. We live with this understanding and take reasonable risk. Very few if any deaths have been reported by taking supplements. Yet, we are so nervous about them, mostly because doctors might not be aware of them and their use.
Here is an except from a book, I recommend, The UntraMind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman:
There is more to say, but this is a good start for now.
Have a great day in recovery and stay safe.
Erik Bohlin, M.A.