learning for a younger life

Is Serotonin all we need to be Happy?

Is Serotonin all we need to be Happy | Younger for Longer ,Y4L, younger for life, cal20, bone fortification, calcium supplement

Serotonin – The Happy Hormone

An excerpt from the book Younger for Longer by Dr Duncan Carmichael

I remember one Christmas Day asking my young niece Kirsty how she was enjoying herself. She looked up with her bright, sparkling eyes and, with all her soul, replied: “It’s just perfect!” 

I was feeling a bit low at the time, and the sheer positivity emanating from this six-year-old made me take notice. I wondered: what happens that we gradually lose the ability to experience such boundless joy? It made me determined to rediscover my joie de vivre.

We have long believed serotonin is at the heart of that. For 50 years, it has been regarded as the brain’s primary ‘happy hormone’ or, to put it more accurately, neurotransmitter. In addition, treatment for depression has commonly been spearheaded by drugs like Prozac, which increase serotonin’s availability in the brain. This type of medication, known as SSRI drugs (which stands for selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), works by preventing serotonin from leaving the synapses in the brain. The more serotonin, the better the mood.

That is what the medical world has long thought. So is it true? 

SSRIs have been proven to improve mood and reduce anxiety. However the belief that depression is a simply a lack of serotonin, and that SSRI’s perform their function by damming up the brain’s serotonin, is considered too simplistic by some. If treatment merely required the damming of our serotonin levels, then why do SSRIs take two months to improve our mood? Surely if it relied only on higher serotonin levels, SSRIs should take no more than a few days?

There are arguments on both sides, and we will start with those in support of serotonin being our primary happy hormone.

  • Depression is associated with poor serotonin-functioning in the brain. In other words, people who are depressed tend to have low serotonin levels.
  • Tryptophan is an amino acid (which is found in bananas and turkey, among other sources) that the brain uses to make serotonin. If we cut out all tryptophans from the diet, we starve the brain of the food needed to make serotonin. And people who are susceptible to depression do indeed relapse into low moods when tryptophan is removed from their diet.

In other words, people susceptible to depression have low levels of serotonin, and removing the nutrients that help the body to make serotonin worsens their situation. The logical conclusion is that serotonin plays some role in elevating our mood.

When it comes to arguments against, it is worth considering the following: 

  • The work that SSRIs do is much more complex than simply firing the serotonin button. As we saw in the previous chapter, there is evidence that drugs like Prozac help to improve brain plasticity, that stress breaks down brain tissue, and that SSRIs rebuild brain tissue in people who are depressed. A study on rats explained how that happens: anti-depressants increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which in turns stimulates the formation of new brain cells. In other words, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that at least part of how SSRIs work is by rebuilding brain tissue, not simply by stimulating serotonin receptors. 
  • Inflammation is the scourge of the body, and there is every reason to believe that its negative effects also harm the brain. Indeed, many brain conditions are now viewed in terms of inflammation including depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. All have shown some association with brain inflammation. Take depression, for instance: if we are physically ill – with cancer, arthritis, a heart condition, diabetes or HIV, for example – then that illness can contribute both to inflammation of the brain and to depression. Even if we are not ill and are simply getting older, inflammation (which is easily measured by looking for markers in the blood) can also lead to depression. Later in the section on Alzheimer’s we will assess the links to inflammation and see how reducing that could prove important in treating and even reversing many brain conditions.

It looks to me, then, that rediscovering one’s joie de vivre is about a lot more than simply pouring serotonin into the brain. A good place to look more closely at happiness is to examine what happens when we are unhappy. To do that, we will start with cravings: what is going on in our brain when we crave something? Our next blog posts will discuss cravings and addiction.

More insights
Younger for life (4)
Bones

The Revolutionary Power of Cal20: A New Era in Osteoporosis Treatment

A New Era in Osteoporosis Treatment. Cal20 stands out in the crowded market of bone health supplements due to its origin and composition. Unlike conventional calcium supplements sourced from limestone—a form akin to ingesting chalk—Cal20 is derived directly from milk and has added vitamin D3 and probiotics which aid absorption. 

Read More
Bones

The Revolutionary Cal20 formula: A Leap Beyond Traditional Calcium Supplements

In the realm of health and wellness, the battle against osteoporosis and bone density loss has long been a significant challenge, especially for the aging population. Traditional calcium supplements, predominantly derived from limestone (calcium carbonate and calcium citrate), have been the go-to solution for years. Unfortunately studies show that they simply do not work.

Read More
Bones

Embracing Healthy Aging: Healthy Habits and The Magic of Cal20

Aging is an inevitable journey that everyone embarks on, and it’s characterized by a series of natural changes and challenges that affect our physical, mental, and social wellbeing. With advancements in healthcare, people are now enjoying longer lifespans than ever before. However, this increase in years often brings with it a greater risk of various health issues, including heart problems, an array of chronic diseases, and conditions that affect bone health, such as osteoporosis.

Read More
Bones

Unlocking Bone Health After 50: The Revolutionary Impact of Cal20

It’s a well-known fact that our bones play a critical structural role, but their significance as the body’s main calcium storage means they are indispensable in regulating various physiological processes. This is where Cal20, a novel milk calcium mineral complex, enters the scene, offering a ground-breaking solution for those over the age of 50, aiming to revolutionize how we approach calcium supplementation and dietary intake.

Read More