Today’s article is brought to you by a new AG contributor named CJ.
— Paul Dooley
Effects of Serotonin
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating several important bodily functions, but its popular implications today are its effects on mood and anxiety. Modern day antidepressants of the class SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) cause serotonin to be removed from the bloodstream and brain more slowly, allowing more to be available for the brain to use.
This excess of serotonin boosts mood, induces relaxation, and can also boost confidence. Unfortunately, SSRIs have many negative side effects, and require a doctor’s prescription to use. SSRIs can cause sexual dysfunction, mania, paradoxical anxiety, hallucinations, and other mental problems. Luckily for the general population, you don’t need to take SSRIs to boost your serotonin levels.
Vitamins for anxiety are widely available in health food stores and pharmacies. It is important to differentiate, however, vitamins from inducers. Anti-anxiety vitamins contain the amino acids required to build more serotonin in a person’s body, allowing the body to naturally form the serotonin.
Many products are available to relieve anxiety that are not vitamins but rather inducers, that is, natural drugs. St. John’s Wort is an herb available for purchase in health food stores that inhibits the breakdown of serotonin almost exactly like an SSRI. L-theanine (also called levotheanine or theanine) is becoming very popular as an anti-anxiety chemical, but it does not act on the serotonin system at all, rather acting on dopamine and GABA channels.
Because of its action on these pathways, l-theanine is addictive and should be avoided for long term use. The same goes for Valerian root, which acts exclusively on the GABA complex and is also addictive (its action is much like that of diazepam). How will you know if you should be taking serotonin-boosting remedies?
Stress symptoms vary widely, but can manifest as insomnia, irritability, and lack of focus, depression, chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased cortisol levels, and an overall dysphoria. If you experience any of these problems it is important that you talk to a doctor, and if the doctor determines you do not need any more serious medical help, then perhaps you should consider taking some vitamins for anxiety reduction.
Reduce your level of stress
If used properly these should reduce your level of stress overall in life. The best way to use these supplements to their greatest effect is to know your anxiety. Is it caused by previously existing trauma? Or do you get too little sleep every night? Do you have stressful relationships with family, friends, or co-workers? Do you spend too much time at a stressful job? Do you have a family history of psychiatric problems?
Depending on the answers to these questions, a doctor can adequately tell you whether supplements will help solve your problem, help deal with it, or be of no benefit at all. If your anxiety has a root in reality, supplements may not be your best option, although they may help day to day. In this case, you need to also be seeing a therapist to help you deal with your anxiety. Another important thing to consider when discussing stress, anxiety, and supplemental vitamins used to alleviate them is whether conventional pharmaceuticals are a better or worse choice.
The aforementioned selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs are in use for a reason. In general, if compared to something like St. John’s Wort which has a similar effect, an SSRI like the potent paroxetine has a significantly larger ability to increase serotonin levels. This allows it to act faster and more powerfully than a supplement might. Use of supplements requires patience, a careful balance of diet and exercise, self-meditation, and the advice of a doctor.
SSRIs are all in one, and require only the recommendation of a doctor to use. It is also important to note that SSRIs are not addictive, as some believe. They are often confused with another drug type used to reduce stress levels, the benzodiazepines. “Benzos” act on the GABA complex within the brain, causing a slow-down of impulse firing.
This produces a number of calming effects, but is also highly addictive. This should be avoided unless you are dealing with extremely severe anxiety and a doctor recommends this course of treatment. It is best to just go to the drug store and pick up a supplement, like 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). This substance is the basis for the serotonin molecule and unlike 5-HT, it can pass from the blood to the brain.
Vitamins and drugs
This is the primary concern with anxiety vitamins and drugs alike; serotonin can not simply be ingested or injected because the body will not let it access the brain. In today’s society, people have become acutely aware of their stress and anxiety levels, as well as simpler, or more complex ways to treat them. This is likely because of the level of comfort that has been afforded us by technology.
We are so used to things being done for us, and exercise not being necessary that we become anxious. This is one of the keys to relaxation: exercise. When you exercise, your body releases natural dopamine and endorphin, reward and pleasure chemicals. Dopamine relieves stress and provides energy, while endorphin, a chemical similar to the painkiller morphine, provides pleasure as well as slowing activity in the GABA complex. All of this is natural, so it is only addictive in the context that food or sleep is addictive. All this, and it’s free and easy.
Exercise can be done anywhere, at any time. Combining exercise with supplements can help reduce anxiety and stress levels and make you a significantly healthier person for very little money. It requires some effort to maintain exercise and continue taking supplements, but if you do, you will soon find you have a significantly improved quality of life.
The best way to boost the happiness and relaxation chemicals in your mind is to generate them naturally. All of the previously mentioned things are important to consider in your life to determine whether vitamins, exercise, better eating, and mental wellness would improve your quality of life. Take time to consider them.
Have you tried any of these supplements?