If you have low levels of serotonin, you could experience a variety of symptoms ranging from the "blues" to serious emotional disorders, including:
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Problems in thinking, concentrating and decision making
- Low self esteem
- Needless feelings of unworthiness and guilt
- Loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities
- Sleep and appetite disturbances
- Chronic depressive disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Violent temper and poor impulse control
- Panic /agoraphobia syndrome
Nutritional supplementation may work better than Prozac
Until recently, powerful and potentially risky drugs such as Prozac and other drugs known as SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) were prescribed to correct low serotonin levels. Now there is solid scientific evidence that nutritional approaches may actually work as well—or even better. Proper nutritional supplementation may also help with aggressive and violent behavior (including suicide), migraine headaches, and even heart disease related to stress and depression.
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But you wouldn't know this if you only followed mainstream information. And here's why…
The Prozac Landscape
With about 35 million people worldwide having taken Prozac, it's no wonder that it has become one of the most widely prescribed medications on the market. In fact, the drug produced a profit of about $2.5 billion dollars for Eli Lilly in 1999. But the news isn't all good.
According to one article, Prozac has been implicated in more than 200 lawsuits. It has also been specifically implicated in suicidal behavior. Internal memos from Lilly were obtained that made numerous references to suicide and depression, even urging Lilly scientists to change mentions of suicide attempts to "overdose" and suicidal thoughts to "depression."
Prozac can cause side effects including low libido, anxiety, trouble sleeping, chills or fever, joint or muscle pain, breast enlargement or pain, overactive reflexes, mood or behavior changes, vomiting, hair loss, trouble in breathing, and convulsions. To complicate matters, when Prozac is taken in conjunction with a number of other medications, drug interactions may occur that can result in confusion, poor coordination, restlessness, shivering, diarrhea, fever, sweating, trembling or shaking, stomach or intestinal problems, extremely high blood pressure, or severe convulsions.
What the Pharmaceutical Giants Don't Want You to Know…
Fortunately, there are alternatives to these drugs. Researchers have found that certain supplements work on depression, anxiety, and the broader problem of serotonin deficiency syndrome, which also manifests in sleeplessness, aggressiveness, agitation, obsessive-compulsive traits, migraines, and other common behavioral disorders — in other words, the host of illnesses that SSRIs are used to treat. Studies have even found some of these supplements to be superior to SSRIs in treating depression.
Toward Emotional Wellness
Nobody disputes the fact that SSRIs and other antidepressants have a place in the world. And we don't suggest that you stop taking your medication and try alternative treatments without consulting your physician.
But we do believe, and studies have proven, that there is a place for nutritionally-based supplements in the fight against depression, anxiety, all the related illnesses, and even just for those of us who often "just don't feel good." Supplements that act on serotonin levels have been proven effective in a variety of treatments including:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Preventing Migraine Headaches
- Fibromyalgia Relief
And besides being alternatives for the more serious illnesses we've discussed, these supplements are blessings for the tens of millions of people who are not clinically depressed or anxious, but who simply don't feel well emotionally. Of course, these nutritional supplements can't be patented, so they'll never receive the marketing and press the giant pharmaceuticals invest in their proprietary products.
Let's take a look at how some of these alternative therapies work to improve serotonin production and maintain optimal levels…
1) 5-HTP is an amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin. A growing base of scientific evidence suggests that 5-HTP does everything that SSRIs do, but without the side effects. Unlike drugs like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, which cause serotonin depletion by interfering with serotonin recycling, 5-HTP raises serotonin levels by enhancing a natural process—the synthesis of new serotonin molecules.
How does serotonin work in the body?
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptomine (5-HT), was first identified about 50 years ago. Since then, scientists have found that it is responsible for a wide variety of central nervous system effects, including emotional equanimity, restful sleep, the regulation and perception of pain, sexual behavior, appetite control, and our general level of satisfaction and happiness with the world around us.
Serotonin —a key player in aggressive behavior.
Studies have also confirmed that serotonin levels in humans can be linked to both inward and outward directed violence. One study consisted of men convicted of homicide, men who attempted suicide, and healthy males. The lowest levels of 5-HT were found in those who had killed someone or attempted suicide. Another study of "self-mutilators" found that not only did they have lower 5-HT levels, but also had more severe character pathology and had greater lifetime aggression, as well as being more antisocial, with greater impulsivity, chronic anger and anxiety.
2) St. John's Wort, is another nutritional supplement that's been shown to combat mild depression and anxiety without the side effects commonly associated with anti-depressants. Hypericin, one of its constituents, increases the concentration of serotonin in the central nervous system, and inhibits two enzymes responsible for the breakdown of serotonin.
3) Methyl donors and Cofactors
Methyl donors are involved in the regulation of normal brain cell metabolism as well as neurotransmitter production and function. When people are methyl deficient, they are at much greater risk of developing depression and a variety of neurological and other disorders. Methyl deficiency is characterized by too little SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine), too much homocysteine or a loss of DNA methylation.
SAMe, a methyl donor that's been heavily studied in the past 10 years, is involved in the synthesis of various neurotransmitters in the brain. Derived from the amino acid L-methionine, SAMe has been shown to have antidepressant properties.
Cofactors including vitamin B6, magnesium chelates, and calcium are also necessary for the conversion of 5 HTP to serotonin and its uptake in the brain.
It is imperative that we get enough methyl donors and methyl cofactors to support normal serotonin synthesis and methylation. This is especially important as we age since DNA methylation levels generally decrease and homocysteine levels increase.
These methyl donors help insure normal methylation and SAMe levels:
- Trimethylglycine—is made from the amino acid glycine and helps raise SAMe levels.
- Choline— an important precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
- Methionine—is the essential amino acid from which SAMe (the chief donor of methyl groups) is made
- Folic acid (folate) and cobalamin (B12)— support methylation and helps lower DNA damage and homocysteine levels(widely recognized by scientists to be a major biochemical risk factor for heart disease).
- N-acetylcysteine—is an amazing amino acid with dozens of proven health benefits and powerful antioxidant protection that also enhances the bioavailability of methionine.
By combining all these nutritional supplements, you can improve your serotonin levels and get a powerful mood enhancing effect.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.