The Happy Hormones- Serotonin and Melatonin

happy hormonesThe two happy hormones circulating in your system are Serotonin, which is produced during the day and Melatonin, which is produced at night. If you are happy during the day and sleep sound at night, then these two happy hormones are in synche or balanced. Serotonin – often coined our happy hormone because of its unique quality to regulate moods – also plays a critical and perhaps lesser known role in everything from the formation of blood clots to enhancing our bone density in addition to having an effect on appetite, learning, memory, mood, social behavior, sexual desire and function, and temperature regulation.

Yet despite its significance in the human body, researchers do not fully understand how serotonin is released into the bloodstream.

Serotonin

serotoninSerotonin is most reference with its association to the brain and regulating mood although most of it (90 %) of the body’s serotonin is actually made outside of the brain itself, in specialized endocrine cells in the lining of the walls of our gut!

There are some interesting aspects of serotonin’s mechanism of action- from helping with the clotting mechanisms of our blood when we cut our self, to regulating blood glucose (sugar) which is directly linked to diabetes. Serotonin also has bone strengthening role as it affects bone density which is relevant in onset of osteoporosis in menopausal women. Interestingly enough, while serotonin can strengthen bone, .too much serotonin can decrease bone density.  So if we know how the cells release it then we could potentially create a therapy to limit the amount of serotonin in the bloodstream.

Low Levels of Serotonin Cause:

  • serotonin2Depression
  • Addictions
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Violence
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping Long Hours
  • Feeling Worthless
  • Lack of interest

High carbohydrates raise insulin, which lowers serotonin. Have you ever noticed that you crave more hardy carbohydrate and sugar rich foods in the winter? Winter weight gain is actually influenced as a result of the production of serotonin by your body. The production of serotonin is promoted with heat and sunlight. Without these components, your body tries to compensate by using starch to stimulate this production.

Multitasking and chronic stress depletes serotonin. Ongoing stress can deplete serotonin reserves leading to intense food cravings, compulsive eating, low energy, depression, worry and difficulty with making decisions.

People rarely have high levels of serotonin without antidepressant medication.

Methods of boosting natural serotonin levels:

  • Tryptophan- a protein building block that the body uses to make serotonin. The best food sources are turkey, brown rice, cottage cheese, meat, peanuts and sesame seeds.
  • Complex carbohydrates- skip white breads and pastries that will only give you a short burst of energy and instead choose slow-release complex carbohydrates make from whole grains.
  • vitaminsVitamin D3- this nutrient should be taken daily with food in order to optimize the brains use of serotonin.
  • Vitamin B6- supplementing with B6 will help support the body’s production and use of serotonin effectively.
  • Seek Sunshine: Even during the winter months, it’s important to prioritize get outside in the sunlight whenever possible.

Melatonin

Melatonin benefits:

  • Antioxidant & Protects Essential Fatty Acids
  • Increase Life Span by approximately 2O%
  • Increases Testosterone & HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
  • Natural Killer Cells (CD4)- disease and cancer fighters

sleepSerotonin makes melatonin from an amino acid called- tryptophan found in turkey and milk. Tryptophan is controlled by the Circadian Rhythms. So if you don’t sleep soundly, you are on a vicious cycle of hormone imbalance. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Very small amounts of it are found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. You can also buy it as a supplement.

What does natural melatonin do in the body?

Your body has its own internal clock that controls your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. In part, your body clock controls how much melatonin your body makes. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours.

Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This change can lead to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression.

Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age. Some older adults make very small amounts of it or none at all.

Dosing of Melatonin for Sleep disorders:

  • Difficulty falling asleep: Melatonin 3-5 mg 3 to 4 hours before an imposed sleep period over 4 weeks.
  • Difficulty maintaining sleep :
    • A high dose 3-5 mg nightly
    • Repeated low doses 1-2 mg nightly then every 4 hours upon awakening.