Why do chocolate eat and play sports happily? Both increase serotonin production in the brain. The messenger serotonin plays an important role in our mood: a serotonin deficiency is noticeable as depression. Serotonin is an important messenger of the body, which plays a prominent role in the transmission of signals in the brain, but also crucial in the cardiovascular system or in the intestinal nervous system. Serotonin is also referred to as 5-hydroxytryptamine, abbreviated as 5-HT. Less familiar is the name enteramine, which is also used synonymously for serotonin.
Serotonin: effect of this happiness hormone
Serotonin, like most messenger substances, works by binding to specific receptors in the body. There are at least 14 different serotonin receptors called 5-HT receptors. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of different body processes.
In the cardiovascular system, for example, it influences the contraction of the blood vessels and in the intestinal nervous system it is involved in the control of intestinal peristalsis. Its most well-known effect unfolds the serotonin but probably in the brain. It is one of the messenger substances that play an important role in the development and treatment of mental illnesses. Serotonin is also commonly referred to as happiness hormone, in addition to dopamine and norepinephrine.
Serotonin is also known as a "feel-good hormone" because it not only enhances mood, but also dampens the body's stress response. It works among other things
- painkilling and
Serotonin deficiency: depression as a result?
Serotonin is said to have a crucial influence on mood. Serotonin deficiency is therefore also associated with the onset of depression. A serotonin deficiency in the brain manifests itself in symptoms such as
- depressive mood
- increased appetite
The sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, sexual behavior, pain sensation and the emergence of migraine are also regulated by serotonin and are easily disturbed in cases of serotonin deficiency, often in the context of depression.
SSRI: Treat with depression of serotonin
For the treatment of depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) are administered. These SSRIs cause the serotonin, which is released in the brain to communicate between nerve cells, to work over a longer period of time. This indirectly compensates for serotonin deficiency and increases serotonin levels in the brain.
SSRIs are also commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Antidepressants from the group of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are for example:
- Citalopram (Cipramil®)
- Escitalopram (Cipralex®)
- Fluoxetine (Fluctin®)
- Fluvoxamine (Fevarin®)
- Paroxetine (Serotax®)
- Sertraline (Zoloft®)
Serotonin syndrome: excess of serotonin
Not only a serotonin deficiency, but also an excess of serotonin, can have a negative impact on health and well-being. If there is an excess of serotonin, often as a result of drug interactions, this is called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome are:
- Increased muscle tension
- muscle twitching
To avoid serotonin syndrome, antidepressants should always be dosed in consultation with the attending physician.
To balance serotonin deficiency with chocolate?
Serotonin is not only produced by the human body, but also occurs in various foods. In certain varieties of fruits and vegetables, such as kiwis, bananas, pineapples or tomatoes, but also in walnuts or cocoa, serotonin is contained in larger quantities. Cocoa-containing chocolate also contains serotonin.
However, the mood-enhancing effect of chocolate is less due to the serotonin contained therein than to the high carbohydrate content. Serotonin can not cross the blood-brain barrier. However, carbohydrate-rich foods stimulate serotonin formation in the brain through a series of intermediate steps. Less consumption of serotonin-containing foods makes you happy, it depends more on the carbohydrate content.
Increase serotonin levels with sports
A less calorie-happy way to happiness is the driving of sports: studies on humans and animals have shown that endurance training can raise the level of serotonin. Because physical activity increases the availability of the amino acid tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan makes the body again serotonin. And that ultimately has positive effects on mood and mental well-being.
Exercising regularly can thus increase serotonin levels permanently. Thus, serotonin can indirectly contribute not only to physical, but also to mental health.