|Mesolimbic dopaminergic and serotonergic pathways.|
If Serotonin is your Yin then Dopamine is your Yang – you simply cannot have one without the other. Deficiency or overcompensation in either affects the other and almost always results in adverse effects. While Serotonin is usually tagged with social behavior and impulsiveness, Dopamine produces the sensation of pleasure and motivation. Together, both neurotransmitters play a massive role in the way people behave and interact with each other.
General Information On Serotonin And Dopamine
Out of the 100 or so neurotransmitters that have been identified, sixteen of them are categorized as ‘highly significant’ with respect to major functions and processes in human beings. Serotonin and dopamine happen to be two such neurotransmitters that impact the brain functioning and biological pathways in humans and other animals alike. Both are described in detail below:
Serotonin: Also referred to as 5-HT, Serotonin is generally found in large blood vessels, intestinal walls and central nervous systems of most vertebrates (animals with back bones). As such, serotonin systems are primarily concerned with controlling sleep and feeding related behaviors in animals ranging from underwater slugs to chimps and even humans. Serotonin can also be found in snake venom, nuts, some herbs like nettle, men's seminal fluid(semen), sperm and certain types of fruits.
In the body, serotonin is produced from tryptophan, which in turn is derived from the food we eat. This chemical tends to influence a number of aspects such as sleep, appetite, learning, memory, smooth muscle contraction, hormonal gland regulation, movement in the gastrointestinal tract, migraine headaches and so on. Psychologically, serotonin plays a role in certain human behaviors that are hallucinatory or sexual in nature. In animals, low serotonin levels have been seen to produce extreme violent behaviors.
Dopamine: In humans, dopamine regulates voluntary movement, behavior, reward, motivation, learning, attention, and certain mood states. Dopamine is produced from amino acids like L-DOPA, Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine within specific neurons (nerve cells) in the nervous system as well as in the adrenal glands situated on top of the kidneys.
Dopamine produces the risk and reward assessment and therefore mobilizes a living creature towards the reward and away from the risks. As a result, social interactions as well as the addictive tendencies seen in most of us can be attributed to dopamine given that both phenomena are heavily influenced by a reward mechanism.
Co-Relation Between The Two Hormones
The relation between serotonin and dopamine can be observed in their manner of synthesis, metabolism and uptake mechanism. So, an imbalance in one will naturally affect the other. Take for instance the enzyme MAO (monoamine oxidase). This enzyme is associated with metabolism of both dopamine and serotonin and as such both neurotransmitters look to vie for MAO attention. Furthermore, since both serotonin and dopamine affect mood states, a balanced state between the two becomes extremely crucial.
Serotonin And Dopamine Deficiencies
Low serotonin levels are almost always responsible for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety and certain physical conditions like migraine and obesity. Similarly, a reduced production of dopamine gives rise to addictions, compulsions, cravings, low sex drive, loss of satisfaction etc. While medications are necessary to counteract extreme cases, normal individuals can ensure a healthy balance between the two neurotransmitters by changing their lifestyle and general diet.
Natural Remedies, Enhancers and Stimulators of Serotonin and Dopamine Production In The Body
Foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, cereal and potatoes are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which is synthesized into serotonin in the body. Similarly, nuts, meat, dairy and poultry products are rich in tyrosine – the amino acid required by the body to produce dopamine. Finally, foods rich in folate and omega-3 fats should be consumed in good quantities to ensure that an optimal level of the respective neurotransmitters is maintained.