By Adrienne Dellwo
We hear a lot about low serotonin in fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS), and it’s usually related to its function as a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger in the brain). However, serotonin is also occupied all over the world. rest of your body like a hormone. Body-wide deregulation of serotonin is thought to be one of these conditions as well, and it could contribute to many of our overlapping symptoms and conditions.
The name serotonin is related to serum, which is a component of blood. This is because its first known function was to narrow blood vessels. Researchers noted irregularities in blood flow under these two conditions:
- In FMS, research shows abnormal blood flow patterns in the brain, with more than normal in some areas and less than normal in others. We don’t know the specific effects, but researchers do know that blood flow has a significant impact on brain function.
- Also in fibromyalgia syndrome, some researchers theorize that the horrible burning pains we experience are due to ischemia (impaired blood flow), which basically means the area ‘falls asleep’ and then receives those painful pins and needles. when the blood, and therefore the sensation, returns. .
- In ME / CFS and to a lesser extent in FMS, some research has shown low blood volume, which results in cells lacking in oxygen and nutrients. Imagine being at a high altitude and having a hard time catching your breath. Now imagine that you haven’t eaten all day either. This is what every cell in your body can go through.
At this point, we don’t have any research on the possible relationship between serotonin dysfunction and these specific irregularities, but it’s certainly a connection that seems logical.
The relationship between serotonin and fibromyalgia is not fully understood but seems fairly straightforward. This is not the case for ME / CFS. This is an area where we have to look at the conditions separately.
Fibromyalgia and serotonin
One of the most consistent findings in FMS is low serotonin. It is possible that our bodies are not producing enough, that they are not using it properly, or both. Many of us are helped by the supplement 5-HTP (tryptophan), which our bodies use to create serotonin. Some of us are helped by foods that increase serotonin. Most of the drugs used to treat us change the way our brains use serotonin to make it more available.
Low serotonin levels are also linked to migraine, which is considered a related condition. In migraines, a low level of serotonin causes the blood vessels to dilate (open wide), which causes inflammation of the surrounding tissues. This creates a lot of pressure and results in a throbbing pain. FMS pain is not exactly the same as migraine pain, but it is theorized that similar mechanisms may be involved.
Then consider this: We all have a secondary set of nerves on our blood vessels and sweat glands that primarily deal with blood volume and sweat. Research published in late 2009 found that, at least in some people, these nerves also seem to transmit information about temperature.
Researchers hypothesize that these often overlooked nerves may play a role in pain conditions, including fibromyalgia syndrome and migraine. This makes a lot of sense, as we have problems with blood circulation and excessive sweating in addition to temperature sensitivity and increased pain response. The hypersensitivity of these nerves could also help explain why ischemia could lead to such severe pain.
Chronic fatigue syndrome and serotonin
Then there is ME / CFS. The common belief is that, like FMS, it involves a low level of serotonin. The symptoms are consistent. It also supports the fact that treatments that impact serotonin work for some people with this condition.
However, it is not that simple. In fact, trying to understand the role of serotonin in this condition is enough to bypass each of your brain cells.
We have some evidence showing that the serotonin creation system is overdrive, and some show two serotonin-based subgroups – one with high levels, the other with normal levels. You would think that would mean that, at least for the first subgroup, we would need to reduce serotonin levels. As usual, ME / CFS is determined to defy logic.
This is because we also have evidence showing poor transmission of the signal related to serotonin in the central nervous system. The condition appears to exhibit overactive production but poor function .
Does the body make a supplement to compensate for an impairment in its use, like a type 2 diabetic who needs extra insulin to continue to function normally? If so, are some areas inundated with too much serotonin while others are deprived? Does too much serotonin constrict blood vessels so blood cannot flow properly?
We don’t have answers yet, and the research may well be clouded by the lack of appropriate and cohesive subgroups, despite research suggesting that several subgroups exist and are very different from each other. This could certainly explain the differences in how people with ME / CFS respond to treatments that affect serotonin, which makes identifying subgroups all the more important.