Serotonin depression is a mood disorder due to the imbalance in the hormone, serotonin. The symptoms can affect bipolar, anxiety and depressive eating disorders.
Serotonin is what is called a monoamine transporter. It carries important messages along the neural pathway in the brain. It's a bit like the postman who will use the pathways in the brain to carry the letter you posted.
In Serotonin depression it's as if the letter writer ran out of paper to write on or didn't mail it properly and the receptors pick it up too quickly and it gets scrambled up somehow. This causes an imbalance of mood, energy or understanding and can lead to depression. It has also been discovered that the release of serotonin is somehow tied in with the sleep cycle and the body's natural circadian rhythms.
There are two major types of serotonin depression. It can be due to a genetic defect in the brain's serotonin receptors (mailboxes), called 5HTT receptor sites. These are too short making them too quick to absorb the serotonin and then to release it back into the neural pathway properly causing a shortage.
Many antidepressant medications are designed to block these receptor sites (5HTT) from absorbing serotonin too quickly. That is why they are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's) and are used for depression but recent tests are now questioning whether they are as effective as it was first believed. They have also found that it has an impact on the teenage suicide rate.
SSRI's may not be effective in many cases because of the brain's inability to produce enough serotonin to begin with. If levels of serotonin are too low the SSRI's won't work. This is the second type of serotonin depression - the brain's inability to produce enough serotonin. The problem is that one cannot just take a serotonin supplement. The brain's defence mechanism called the brain barrier protects it from outside chemicals which are why the supplements don't work well.
Sometimes the brain can temporarily get the extra serotonin it needs from carbohydrates in sugars and starches as these cause the pancreas to release insulin to break down sugars. This insulin gets the brain barrier to open and absorb the serotonin compounds giving the person a 'high' for a while until they run out of serotonin again. Then they crave more carbohydrates, put on weight and create a cycle which is why this is not a good way to get serotonin into the body.
Research shows that the body needs different hormones at different times of day such as melatonin to help us sleep and serotonin during the day. The control centre that regulates these hormones is called the Suprachaismatic Nucleus, or body clock, and is in a part called the hypothalamus in the back of the brain. This body clock uses light as a signal to know when to produce the right hormones and uses darkness to produce night time hormones. As people age or suffer from stress it can malfunction causing many a sleepless night. Light produces serotonin and light therapy has been found to help with mood disorders especially in winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
In terms of natural supplements studies show St. John's Wort (Hypericum) can sometimes be as effective as Prozac in treating depression because it affects all three neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine). There is no other pharmacological medication that does this and it works by causing these neurotransmitters to stay in the synaptic system longer and stopping absorption too quickly. These neurotransmitters are the messengers, carrying the brain's commands to where they need to go. Since they stay in the system longer, the brain's cells communicate better with each other and this is why many depressed people respond so well to St. John's Wort. It is important though that if you are on medication you tell your doctor you want to start taking St John's Wort as it accelerates the liver's ability to break down and can inter-act with other medications.
A vitamin B deficiency is also usually in play when one is depressed due to low folic acid levels. That is how depression usually starts. Medications also work better if folic acid is taken. Vitamin B also helps with mood swings associated with low self esteem, menopause and PMT. It is important to buy the highest B complex that you can find.
Fish oils such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA and EPA) are also anti-depressants and studies show they can help in stabilising bipolar depression. These may work by nourishing the nerve cells in the brain which are mostly made of DHE fatty acids. Depressed people have low DHE levels so the fish oil will raise these as well as lowering the risk of heart attacks, strokes and help build better bones. It is important to take vitamin C and E and other natural anti oxidants with these as they can produce free radicals if you take too much of them. Goji Juice is one of the best antioxidants. Also fish oils can sometimes interfere with anti-clotting medications.
DHEA is also a natural anti depressant which helps with moods but it may also affect hormone levels as DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands and converted into oestrogen, testosterone and other hormones in the body. Too much may cause oily skin, some facial hair which is rare and a lowering of the voice. Chromium Picolinate is helpful in cases of dysthymia and selenium helps with concentration and energy whilst Zinc can also lift one's mood.
The old remedy of L-Tryptophan, 5-HTP used in the past does not work that well though. Although L-Tryptophan is the basic building block of serotonin and 5-HTP is a synthesized intermediate compound close to serotonin and the combining of these doesn't necessarily produce more serotonin.
Serotonin is a difficult substance to produce artificially and therefore it makes serotonin depression a difficult disorder to treat.