What is Serotonin and What Does It Do For My Mood?

While many people are not familiar with serotonin, the neurotransmitter is key to many things in the body, especially the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that communicate information throughout our body.  The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.

What role does it play in our health? 

Researchers are just now discovering the power serotonin possesses. Found in various parts of the body and brain, including the GI tract (where it helps with digestion), serotonin is thought to be a major contributor to feelings of happiness and well-being.

What are the links between serotonin and mood?

Serotonin is one of the major chemicals doctors believe can control mood. The less serotonin in your system, the less happy you feel, and research shows that "serotonin dictates most of our mood and happiness." To treat mood disorders, doctors often prescribe regular medications that include serotonin – these are called Serotonin-Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro; and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Cymbalta and Effexor which are among the newer types of antidepressants that block the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine. SSRIs are often prescribed to treat a variety of things, including: obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which helps carry messages from one neuron (interconnected cells in the brain which carry these messages) to the next.  In the case of low mood, the proper amount of serotonin may be lacking, disrupting the flow of these messages and impacting our mood.  These drugs work by increasing -- at least temporarily -- the amount of serotonin between neurons.  This makes it easier for communication from one cell to the next thus strengthening the circuits in our brains that regulate our mood.

Clinically speaking, what is serotonin?

Our brains produce this naturally soothing neurotransmitter from before birth and all through life. Serotonin plays many important roles in the brain’s biochemistry and is intimately involved in facilitating sustained and deep sleep, maintaining healthy mood and self-confidence, even supporting healthy appetite and social engagement.

How is it made?

Serotonin is made via a unique biochemical conversion process. It begins with tryptophan, the same ingredient in turkey that makes you want to nap after eating Thanksgiving dinner. Tryptophan is a building block to proteins. Cells that make serotonin use tryptophan hydroxylase, a chemical reactor which, when combined with tryptophan, forms 5-hydroxytryptamine, otherwise known as serotonin.

How can I boost serotonin?

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Besides the SSRIs doctors may prescribe, other solutions are available over the counter that are believed to increase serotonin in your body. Products such as brainMD's Serotonin Mood Support contains ingredients shown to support healthy serotonin balance in the brain, lift your mood and promote feelings of calmness. Feeling blue is often accompanied by an increased appetite, which can lead to overeating. Researchers believe that increasing your serotonin levels may help minimize emotional overeating. Serotonin Mood Support contains a patented form of saffron, along with other nutrients, which help promote calmness and a positive mood, and even help you control your appetite.

Users of the product have touted its effects.

"Good product to overcome consistent down feeling, helps to keep me focused on the positive things," Jessica said. "(I) also notice it helps keep my eating under control."

"I have been struggling with mood issues since I was a teen," Kim said. "BrainMD Health's Serotonin Mood Support has given me hope. My mood has been 'online' and my ability to fight the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) is soooo much improved."