365 Ways #160–Caffeine and the "feel good" hormone Serotonin
#160--Your morning cup of joe (or your afternoon or evening cup for those a bit more addicted) may do more than wake you up. The caffeine in coffee (or in sodas, etc) actually stimulates the brain to release stored levels of serotonin, a hormone that stimulates peristalsis or contraction of the intestines. One of the four main neurotransmitters, serotonin's importance can be highlighted by an addict who misses his morning dose--you don't want to be around him! Why? Well, the increase in serotonin is temporary. And when levels in the body diminish, they usually fall below baseline. So the guy who missed his dose of coffee is in desperate need of the caffeine to lift him up and trigger serotonin to be released so he can get moving (if you know what I mean). Additionally, the caffeine often inhibits the body's desire for protein--one of the building blocks essential for hormone production--so the java junkie doesn't eat protein in amounts sufficient to make more of this bathroom buddy. Thus, like a sponge being squeezed of its contents, every time the brain is forced to release serotonin due to caffeine intake, the levels available to the body decrease. Eventually, more and more stimulants (not only caffeine but sugar, as well) are necessary to release the same amount of serotonin. And this can result in what's called serotonin debt. Laxatives and SSRI's are then commonly prescribed by doctors (or requested by patients who've seen too many commercials telling them that Prozac or Lexapro is the answer) and the addiction continues....
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