Neurotransmitters can be defined as the biochemical messengers that are responsible for maintaining numerous mental functions of a human being. Mental functions control mood, memory, focus, cognition, socializing, relaxation, and motivation.
Mental function even plays a critical role in both how one treats the kitchen and the gym. In fact, the human body has limitless potential, but it is a weak mental function that usually degenerates the physique.
Nootropics are also known as smart drugs. They are essentially a class of supplements that serve to improve cognitive functions of an individual by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters. Nootropics are essentially precursors to neurochemicals that have effects in the cognitive arena that are positive.
Serotonin is a brain chemical that has the highest effect on the mood of a person. Individuals who have optimal levels of serotonin tend to be calmer, happier, and are able to easily fall asleep more easily. This potent brain chemical is predominantly found in two areas: inside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and in the brain.
Serotonin chemical has critical effects in both autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal function. Low levels of serotonin are usually related with feelings of anxiety, apathy, fatigue, insomnia, fear, and depression. Other potential areas of interest are the relation between eating disorders and low levels of serotonin.
An antidepressant called Prozac that is responsible for increasing the effects of serotonin is used in the treatment of binge-eating disorders and bulimia and has been approved by Health Canada for this type of use in patients.
There are also natural ways by which the levels of serotonin chemical can be increased. The most common ways to increase the levels of serotonin naturally are by regulating carbohydrate intake and light therapy.
Research strongly indicates that there is a decline in serotonin turnover when daylight is shortest, such as in the winter months. This is why the infamous seasonal depression is common with many individuals during the holidays.
With regard to diet, carbohydrates relatively enhance the levels of tryptophan (an amino acid) in the brain. Tryptophan is a serotonin precursor. This is the main reason why fitness competitors who consume low quantities of carbohydrates experience anxiety, sleep disturbance, and a low mood as the contest day closes in.
The sleep inducing effect of serotonin is the main reason why individuals experience a food coma just after a huge carb binge. The levels of brain serotonin before and after supplementation cannot be measured. This is why there is doubt in the minds of many researchers and other medical professionals as to whether brain serotonin can really be increased.
However, medicine that is evidence-based has successfully established that it does not necessarily mean something cannot actually happen in the human body if it fails to make sense intuitively.
Nonetheless, it is possible to examine effects that are subjectively reported about the compounds on the health conditions which are associated with low levels of serotonin chemical, with the most notable effects being anxiety and depression.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort, which is commonly abbreviated as SJW, can be described as one of the natural products that have been extensively studied.
Most of the research regarding SJW is concerned with treating depression. However, OCD, seasonal affective disorder, PMS, menopausal symptoms, social phobia, and anxiety have also been studied. It is highly recommended for patients who are not ready to use pharmaceutical Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which are more commonly referred to as SSRIs in the medical field.
This is because St. John’s Wort has evidence of benefit to the patient. In addition, it has the same mechanism of action as that of SSRIs. It takes 4-6 weeks to enhance symptoms, just like other pharmaceuticals that are available on the market.
The biggest problem with SJW supplements, as well as other products that are non-pharmaceuticals, is that their potency and quality is not controlled as stringently as other products that need a prescription. This is why people are strongly encouraged to look for brands that have third-party quality testing as well as transparent manufacturing protocols.
300 milligrams is the standardized robust dosage of SJW that is evidence-based. It is standardized to 0.3% hypericin. It should be taken 3 times on a daily basis for a minimum period of 6 weeks. SJW is known to build-up liver enzymes that are responsible for the metabolism of drugs. This is why it is important to first check with a qualified health care professional for interactions, especially for those individuals taking other medications.
5-HTP is a potent precursor to serotonin chemical. Research done on it indicates that it is not as impressive as SJW. However, there is some preliminary evidence of its benefit on depression. In addition, it has done well in closely conducted studies against serotonin boosters of a pharmaceutical origin.
The doses of 5-HTP range between 150mg to 800mg per day. It is a sleep supplement that is widely used, and there is even some credible evidence that suggests that it reduces the time needed to fall asleep. This is why it is highly recommended that patients begin with a low dose range, and this should be taken in the evening.
L-tryptophan is a very popular product among insomniacs that is essentially a precursor of serotonin. Generally, it is not well studied with regard to disorders of serotonin deficiency. This is why it should be the last choice that one would choose in association with boosting serotonin.
It is an excellent example of therapy that makes intuitive sense but also lacks any solid evidence to back it. Taking 300 milligrams per day for depression and 1000 milligrams for insomnia 30 minutes prior to bedtime are generally the recommended doses.
The most popular side effects are associated with GI, such as diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and other symptoms. This is why it is recommended that an individual should be taking it only when there is food in the stomach.
There are formal studies that have been done for depression as well as other mood disorders related to serotonin, and these particular studies date back as early as the 1970s. SAM-e is not a precursor of serotonin like L-tryptophan and 5-HTP.
Its ability to enhance the turnover of serotonin is what facilitates its antidepressant action. The recommended dosage is 800 milligrams, taken twice on a daily basis for up to 8 weeks is the average regimen. Majority of its side effects of SAM-e are GI-related as well, and this is why it should also be administered after consumption of meals.
How To Boost Serotonin Summary
The decision to use nonprescription products should only be made after care has been sought from regulated healthcare professionals.
Such professionals should be familiar with the patient and their medical history. Nonetheless, patients should educate themselves on the same medications and health conditions using resources that are unbiased and credible.
Those using natural health supplements should seek products of high quality that have reasonable evidence to support their benefits of use. Such supplements should be used at the durations specified and dosages that have been carefully studied.
It is the only way that harmful or desirable effects associated with them can be identified. It should be noted that not all drugs that are available over the counter without a prescription are safe. Remember, anything can be a poison at high dosage.