What Does Serotonin Do?
Serotonin is a chemical manufactured in the brain and is usually found in the pineal glands, the blood platelets and the body’s digestive tract. It has several functions but its main work is to facilitate the communication between the brain and other parts through transmission of nerve messages to the nerve cells. Just about 90 percent of the human body’s entire serotonin is to be found in the enterochromaffin cells located in the gut, where it is used to normalize movements of the intestines. The remainder is manufactured in serotonergic neurons found in the CNS where it has a range of functions. These include the regulation of appetite, sleep and mood. Serotonin also performs some cognitive functions, which include learning and memory. Inflection of serotonin at synapses is considered to be a key action of several kinds of pharmacological antidepressants.
Being a neurotransmitter enables serotonin to play an intricate role in the way we sleep, eat and conduct ourselves. When there is even a slight change in the level of serotonin in the body, our behavior is altered significantly. Normal levels of serotonin in the body will promote feelings of peace and happiness. When the one is under a lot of pressure or stress, serotonin levels in the body will increase to compensate the body for being overwhelmed. When the body undergoes great stress, more serotonin is used up and the body’s production of the chemical is unable to march the rate at which it’s being used. Consequently the body suffers a recession which in turn leads to cases of depression. The lower the level of serotonin in the body the deeper the depression gets. Symptoms of low serotonin levels in the brain are:
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Low or no self-esteem
- Even the smallest of tasks can seem like a huge workload
- Low libido
- Chronic fatigue
- Appetite/sleep trouble
Apart from animals, serotonin is also found in plants and fungi. Serotonin’s presence in plant spines and insect venoms function is to cause pain, which is a consequence of serotonin injection. Pathogenic amoebas and its reaction on the gut results to diarrhea form serotonin. Its widespread existence in numerous fruits and seeds may function to stimulate the digestive tract into driving out the seeds.
Serotonin syndrome is a condition that occurs when the brain has high levels of serotonin. While most individuals might reason that this is a good thing since high levels of serotonin keep the body in a “happy state”, such is not the case. This is because this condition alters one’s state of mind, causes unreasonableness, confusion and in worst case scenario death. In any given year, over twenty million individuals will suffer from depression and statistics indicate that one out of four Americans suffers depression at some point in their life. One of the first issues to be tackled when searching for the source of depression is the levels serotonin. Mild cases of depression are treated with antidepressants while severe cases require stronger actions.