The depression-serotonin link is repeated by thousands of doctors daily as they diagnose patients as suffering from depression. The “chemical imbalance in the brain” and “neurotransmitters” are regular mantras of the believers. This has been a controversial subject for over 30 years.
There are a few problems with these oversimplified studies. Serotonin is more than a molecule looking for a few synapses to bounce between in the brain. It is a part of a system. The body uses serotonin for more than keeping depression at bay. only 5% of serotonin is in the brain. The rest, 95%, is busy doing what serotonins do, in other organs of the body. Serotonin is not alone in depression, there are other neurotransmitters working in intricate ways. Ways science has still to unravel. Most serotonin is in our digestive system and in our blood.
Most important to consider when told of the serotonin hypothesis, as if it were a scientific fact, is that there is no scientifically established correct “chemical balance” of serotonin or other neurotransmitters.
In the real world serotonin is interlinked with other neurotransmitters. The links are complex. Science has not unravelled the complex relationships between these important chemicals.
Research results are each parts of an intricate puzzle. Each puzzle piece can be well studied and understood to some degree, but how they fit together is still unknown.
Hidden away in these research articles on serotonin are phrases showing that the authors are making generalised assumptions. These assumptions have their roots in believing serotonin to be the cause of various depressions and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While this is true, it is only part of the truth.
Serotonin is a critical component of the regulation of the growth and maturation of key areas of the brain. Serotonin does play a role on its own, but is tightly bound in a co-relationship with dopamine and norepinephrine, two other neurotransmitters.
When we talk about dopamine and norepinephrine, we are also here not referring to a single molecule, but to systems. These are three complex systems that are related to and dependent on each other. Too much of each of these chemicals can be as bad as too little. Also there must be a balance between the serotonin and dopamine systems. The effects of the dopamine and serotonin systems are complex processes involving other neurotransmitter systems.
Many of our complex behaviour patterns are the results of interactions between the serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter systems. The norepinephrine system also plays a central role in the development and treatment of major depression.
The interactions between norepinephrine neurons and serotonin neurons have implications for the treatment of both depression and anxiety disorders.
Serotonin neurons may decrease the activity of the norepinephrine neurons, which means that the modern SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) also affect the norepinephrine system. The mechanisms of action of the various drugs are still unknown.
Nobody, and that includes doctors, know how they work. Our “knowledge” of the mechanisms by which antidepressants work consists of hypotheses and speculation. No research has been published with a proven mechanism for antidepressants. There is nothing wrong with not knowing somthing. However thinking something unknown to be a fact, is ignorance.
This is particularly important when we hear the “chemical imbalance in the brain” mantras repeated. The major imbalance is in reasoning. How can one have an imbalance without some form of balance to calibrate it? Our brains do not have a naturally defined balance.
One way to help our body balance neurotransmitters naturally is through diet and health supplements. There are many natural alternatives to medication, which can for some, be a cure, and for others make the depression less severe. There are supplements for major depression as well as for bipolar disorder.
Research has shown that food intake is clearly tied to the release of dopamine and serotonin in the hypothalamus.
Serotonin is important in depression treatment, but as a natural balance with products such as 5-HTP and not through distorting the body’s biochemistry.
But since the dopamine and serotonin systems are so inimately intertwined that they can be considered one complex system, a natural dopamine supplement must be taken together with the 5-HTP. This is the essential amino acid L-tyrosine. This is the natural dietary supplement which is converted in our body to levodopa, the precursor for the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine as well as epinephrine or adrenaline.or levodopa.