Category: Natural chemicals
Introduction and description
Serotonin - 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is a monoamine neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger. It is biochemically derived from tryptophan, an essential amino acid.
Serotonin regulates functions in the sense of any message. One function will trigger other functions in the systems of which it is a part, serotonin acts as the carrier of input and output between functions.
It is both a messenger in our entire digestive system, but because the digestive system is a means by which pathogens can attack us, it is also a key messenger of pathogen control. One could look on serotonin as an adjunct messenger of the immune system, due to its ability to control diarrhoea and vomiting – both key mechanisms of pathogen expulsion.
For reasons I am unable to grasp, it has acquired the reputation of being associated with happiness. But functionally it has very little to do with happiness. So where does the ‘happiness’ idea come from?
One of the main things serotonin acts as a messenger for, is reaction in relation to perceived resource availability. In response to the perceived abundance or scarcity of resources, an animal's growth, reproduction and as a consequence mood may be elevated or lowered. In the human brain as well as in the brain of many mammals, appetite, for example, and social dominance are linked functionally.
And via this argument we come to the principle and most important function that serotonin as a chemical messenger is used by – the control of the ego. Serotonin sends messages to and receives messages from the Ego - our personality.
In order for us to function as a person we need to have just enough ego to give us confidence but not so much that we lose our connection to others and the spiritual world. The key is actually balance, not too much or too little.
To help understand this better, the best way to look at this is what happens when the ego becomes over inflated – when serotonin messages become completely unbalanced.
A person whose ego has become hugely inflated – the so called alpha male - exhibits a whole range of functional behaviours that are related to this over developed sense of one’s own worth. Ego inflation is the opposite of humility and brings with it:
- Aggression and dominant behaviour – as opposed to gentleness, patience, compassion or empathy. Linked to this is the concept of sociability. An ego dominant person will be sociable only in the sense of surrounding himself with ‘admirers’, people who can be subservient to his dominance and who will feed his ego. A person who is not egotistical [in balance] will desire people’s company for who they are and love them for who they are, as such they are likely to have far more true friends. A lack of ego produces submission and hopelessness in the face of dominance and loneliness - worthlessness
- ‘Cleverness’ - reliance on memory as well as the belief that their judgement is infallible. From this the person thinks they can do no wrong, thus unethical and immoral behaviour is usually linked to this feature. Life is one hard and apparently pointless slog, driven by the belief that they can do no wrong, and a total reliance on memory. In contrast a person who is in balance is wise. They are capable of intuitive behaviour, inspiration, and sudden flashes of genius. A person low on ego cannot remember well and is indecisive.
- Over-confidence – a person whose ego is over-inflated is neither measured in their action nor fears anything. The opposite to this is of course the fearful anxious person, imbalance in this case has negative effects whether it is deficiency or overload.
- Appetite and addiction – those who have a massive ego also appear to have an insatiable appetite for everything, but it is an appetite that cannot be satisfied and often leads to addictive behaviour; the constant buying of material things and the constant need to take drugs or drink alcohol for example. Thus there is a link here with desire, ego inflation promotes insatiable desire – for all things material. There is then a link with anxiety, it will produce an anxiousness derived from lack of contentment.
- Sexual behaviour – as we saw above those who have a massive ego also appear to have an insatiable appetite, but it is an appetite that cannot be satisfied and often leads to addictive behaviour and one of those addictive behaviours is sexual. A man with a huge ego will be a lousy lover and may be on the borderline of being a rapist.
The more imbalance in serotonin, the more dominant [or submissive] the animal. This is true of animals from the lobster, which if it is injected with serotonin behaves as if it were an alpha male, to a macaque monkey or a human being. Alpha males have twice the level of serotonin released in the brain, [as measured by the levels of 5-Hydoxyindolacetic acid (5-HIAA) in the cerebro-spinal fluid], than that found in subordinate males and females. Serotonin levels are only high in dominant males not females.
Overdose and deficiency – Imbalance in serotonin messages being sent to the ego function produces an aggressive, competitive, unempathetic, dominant and often cruel individual, whose main aim in life is to fight and win, whatever the costs. In the wilds of nature, males of this type fight to the death and thereby gain the females, this is where the sexual element links in.
As we have seen an aggressive, competitive, unempathetic, dominant and often cruel individual, is not going to be terribly bright, as such this aspect is rather unsuited to the way we might wish human society to evolve – leaders who are kindly empathetic sages. Thus we do have something of a conundrum of nature here, exacerbated by all the so called psychedelic drugs and other drugs that result in serotonin imbalance.
It should not be construed that low levels of ego are better. If levels are too low, the person becomes subservient, ‘pathetic’, insecure, fearful and depressed, they lack confidence or the will to live. They may become paranoic or suicidal.
Thus it is not a case of happy or sad. Low levels indeed can cause untold misery, but high levels only produce aggression and drive not happiness, unless of course the person derives a perverted sort of joy from seeing his opponents lose.
The other functions of serotonin
Control of poo
Approximately 90% of the human body's total serotonin is located in the enterochromaffin cells in the GI tract, and there serotonin is the chemical messenger that regulates intestinal movements. If irritants or pathogens are present in the food, the enterochromaffin cells release more serotonin via the 5-HT4 receptors, in effect more serotonin makes the gut move faster, i.e., to cause diarrhoea, so the gut is emptied of the noxious substance. Tryptophan from which serotonin is derived can be found in many plants and foods; the fig for example contains a significant amount of tryptophan. But there are plants that have serotonin itself. According to Dr Duke they are
Urtica dioica L. -- European Nettle, Stinging Nettle
Juglans regia L. -- English Walnut
Musa x paradisiaca L. -- Banana, Plantain
Hull Husk NOT THE FRUIT
Ananas comosus (L.) MERR. -- Pineapple
Phoenix dactylifera L. -- Date Palm
Overdose and deficiency - Too little serotonin and we get constipation, too much and we get diarrhoea
Control of appetite
Clearly input and output to the body needs to be balanced. When we have pooed, we have more room to process food, thus the system of food input and poo output needs to be an integrated one. Serotonin is synthesized in the serotonergic neurons of the CNS, where one of its functions is to control appetite. When humans smell food, dopamine is released to increase the appetite. Serotonin does not increase anticipatory behaviour in humans; instead, the serotonin released while consuming food activates receptors on dopamine-producing cells. This halts their dopamine release, and thereby serotonin decreases appetite.
Overdose and deficiency – An imbalance may cause excessive appetite or a lack of appetite – for everything not just food. This is why drugs that block 5-HT2C receptors make the body unable to recognize when it is no longer hungry or otherwise in need of nutrients, and are associated with increased weight gain.
Serotonin secreted from the enterochromaffin cells in the intestine eventually finds its way out of tissues into the blood. There, it is actively taken up by blood platelets, which store it. If serotonin is released in the blood faster than the platelets can absorb it, because of high levels of toxins or pathogens entering the body, the level of free serotonin in the blood is increased. This activates 5HT3 receptors in the chemoreceptor trigger zone that stimulate vomiting. In effect serotonin stimulates vomiting. It is worth adding that the enterochromaffin cells not only react to bad food but are also very sensitive to radiation – all sorts of radiation including that from computers!
Overdose and deficiency – Imbalance either produces excessive nausea and vomiting – as happens in morning sickness, or motion sickness or it may prevent vomiting [when it may actually be needed].
When the platelets bind to a clot, they release serotonin, where it serves as a vasoconstrictor and helps to regulate blood clotting. In effect if we are wounded anywhere or suffer internal bleeding, serotonin is used to make sure we don’t lose a lot of blood or haemorrhage to death by regulating blood supply.
We can see, that this might also be a route by which we get high blood pressure and even strokes. If clots form in the blood vessels as a result of damage by pathogens, serotonin will be released, vasoconstriction will take place and blood pressure will go up.
Overdose and deficiency – Imbalance of serotonin is likely to cause vasoconstriction. This may be one reason why the dominant aggressive and competitive males in our society have high blood pressure and strokes.
Penile Erectile function
Whether someone can have an erection or not is dependent not only on muscles, but largely on blood flow to the penis. Vasoconstriction will decrease blood flow
Overdose and deficiency – imbalance of serotonin will produce erectile dysfunction
Serotonin appears to have a growth-promoting effect on cardiac myocytes. Cardiac muscle cells or cardiomyocytes (also known as myocardiocytes or cardiac myocytes) are the muscle cells (myocytes) that make up the cardiac muscle.
Overdose and deficiency - At balanced levels this is of course a very essential role, but I think it should be clear that at any form of overdose levels the serotonin may promote a proliferation of myocytes onto the valves and cause heart damage. An insufficiency would mean a damaged heart does not mend. In effect a person made weak by imbalance - ‘pathetic’, insecure, fearful and depressed, lacking confidence or the will to live – may well die of a broken heart.
Serotonin imbalance is an illness, thus you now need to go to this section for its effects and causes.
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