Amino acid serotonin both working together: how do they function in fighting against depression? In this article, learn more about serotonin and how it works as a chemical precursor or aid in dealing with depression. Depression is a mental disorder that 300 million people in the world are affected by. It is a primary cause of disability and brings about many suicide cases. More women are affected by the disorder than men are. Currently, pharmaceutical drugs can help treat depression and are being prescribed by registered physicians. This includes chemicals such as serotonin.
Serotonin is a chemical and neurotransmitter in the brain that sends happy signals. Amino acids are organic molecules that build up proteins and perform biological processes. How are the two connected? Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that aids in nitrogen balance (among adults) and development/growth (among children). Tryptophan is also an essential amino acid serotonin needs to be produced more copiously in the body. With lesser serotonin production, tryptophan becomes less produced as well. Sending various signals to the brain, especially happy moods, serotonin is responsible for a range of other psychological processes as well: sleep, appetite, sexual desire to memory. Serotonin is naturally produced in the brain. In fact, 90 percent of the neurotransmitter is found in the digestive tract and blood platelets. Learn more about both amino acids serotonin and how they function to help beat depression in this article.
Amino Acid Serotonin
Serotonin is often referred to as the happy hormone/chemical because it takes part in significantly controlling one’s mood. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin sends messages to your brain between nerve cells. This makes it a very important molecule influencing mental health and brain and bodily functions: 40 million cells, in fact, interact with serotonin.
Low levels of serotonin in the brain, based on some studies, can be linked to depression. Theories suggest this is because serotonin may affect the creation and death of brain cells. Stress can prohibit new brain cell production, marking it a precipitator for tendencies in depression. More than depression, low serotonin levels may also affect other mental health issues like panic attacks, anxiety, phobias, OCD, PTSD, fits of anger, as well as epilepsy. Based on a 2016 published health journal, low and even high levels of serotonin are also linked to diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The precursor to tryptophan amino acid serotonin is also a building block to the chemical melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for regulating your body’s cycle of wake and sleep.
SSRI and its Role on Imbalanced Serotonin Levels
SSRI, short for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. They are an antidepressant which aid in serotonin levels increase for your brain. The imbalance of chemicals happens like this: once a signal inside the brain’s neuron is passed, it will reach an edge and proceed to the next one. It’s then time for the neuron to pass the signal for another neurotransmitter release. In this particular case, it is the chemical serotonin as soon as the signal arrives in the location.
What’s left of the serotonin will be picked up then broken down for component reuse. The glitch happens when this less than split-second process gets processed too quickly. It won’t have enough room to help reach the sensor threshold for adequate amounts of serotonin to receive the neuron and proceed its way properly to the next signal. This then causes an imbalance.
SSRI antidepressants play their role by inhibiting or blocking the reuptake cycle. This leaves more serotonin in your brain waiting for the proceeding signal available. Recent studies have already revealed how SSRI is implemental to proper serotonin production, ultimately helping reduce depression bouts.
Depression and Serotonin
In the past few decades, hormone and neurotransmitter imbalance are linked to the fault of depression based on studies. However, more studies are still needed to iron this theory. However, the Food and Drug Administration has now approved a handful of SSRIs to help treat this mental disorder in the form of antidepressants.
SSRI antidepressants elevate serotonin levels through the prevention of reabsorption of serotonin neurotransmitters. As such, they heighten the patient’s mood.
SSRI FDA-approved antidepressants include:
- Citalopram (Celexa, Prozac)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Vilazodone (Viibryd)
Depression is heightened by stress levels, and more recently, studies have linked it to genetics. Those that have a higher risk for the mental disorder are patients who have family members that have gone through depression, have experienced depression in the past. Sometimes, the disorder also comes up without an apparent root cause.
Did you know? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, having a depressed person will also experience other physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, stomach problems, headaches, physical tension as well as other more major health concerns like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or multiple sclerosis.
To help cope, physicians also advise depressed patients to perform more exercise. Exercise increases happy hormones in the brain and fires up amino acid serotonin as well. It heightens the mood, boosting the natural compounds of the body, and generally making you be in a better state of mind. Having a healthy diet management plan as well as sleeping a proper 7 – 8 hours a day also maintains a better state of the brain.
Medical experts and doctors diagnose depression in its major form, also named Significant Depressive Disorder based on the DSM-V from the American Psychiatric Association or the Mental Disorders Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria (5th edition). Its diagnosis is given when the patient experiences five of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
- Energy loss
- Depressed state
- Suicidal tendencies
- Sleep pattern shifts
- Activity shifts
- Drastic weight change
- Drastic appetite change
- Poorer concentration levels
- Worthlessness or guilt feelings
- Loss of desire in many small to major daily activities
Based on more recent statistics, nearly 18 million adults in the USA have encountered a depressive episode. That’s almost 8 percent of the adults living in the United States. Moreover, 3.3 million teenagers ages 12 – 17 are reported to have experienced at least one episode of depression in their adolescent state. For this reason, amino acid serotonin and antidepressants which are properly prescribed by a physician are implemental in boosting happiness states: consult with a medical expert always.