Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has an impact on both the brain and the gut. It comes from the amino acid tryptophan and can be released as a result of vagal stimulation.
Most people have heard of Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression. SSRIs are given to people to help flood their brains with serotonin. That’s one of the reasons most people think of mood problems when they hear the word serotonin.
SSRIs prolong the life of serotonin in the body by preventing it from breaking down in synaptic junctions.
However, serotonin does more than regulate the mood.
Serotonin also impacts the libido. It affects the heart by increasing vasodilatation and vasoconstriction via certain biochemical pathways.
Serotonin impacts bone, uterine contractions, and the digestive system.
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The GI system contains 5-HT receptors. These receptors uptake serotonin. We all need to have a good supply of serotonin to maintain optimal gut function.
Serotonin has a particularly beneficial impact on the migrating motor complex (MMC). The MMC is responsible for moving food through the digestive system, which helps regulate appetite and digestive control. Having a sufficient supply of serotonin will help maintain a healthy weight and reduce cravings.
The MMC also has an impact on bowel function. It ensures that stool is not too firm or too loose. This is why people with terrible problems with constipation or diarrhea often also have a serotonin imbalance.
Serotonin also helps ensure that the amount of stomach acid you have isn’t too little or too much. Serotonin is even helpful when it comes to nausea and vomiting because it helps regulate the relevant pathways.
And, don’t forget, serotonin is important for the prevention of leaky gut.
Clearly, serotonin is a chemical that plays a pivotal role in human health.