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Alcohol and Serotonin: The Correlation to Anxiety

female sitting on the floor at the end of the bed with axiety

Consuming alcohol disrupts many of the natural processes in the body. The neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, are just one of the system imbalances caused by chronic alcohol use. Once the imbalance occurs, a person can get caught in a cycle of depression, anxiety, and increased alcohol or drug use. The good news is that serotonin levels can be restored, and you are not bound forever to the negative effects of alcohol and serotonin. Balance can be restored, and it can even be achieved naturally, during, and after detox. Alcohol upsets the balance of serotonin, resulting in increased anxiety and, for some, depression. However, restoring the proper amount and balance of serotonin can help reduce or alleviate anxiety and other effects of imbalanced serotonin.

What is Serotonin, and What Does it Do?

Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter that carries messages between your central nervous system and nerve cells in the body. It’s manufactured by nerve cells, and it forms during a chemical reaction involving tryptophan, an amino acid that is essential for creating serotonin. Nerve cells in the spinal cord and nerve cells produce serotonin.  

Serotonin has multiple roles in the body and is found in the intestines, the brain, and the blood. About 90% of the body’s serotonin is found in the lining of the GI tract. Only 10% is produced in the brain. It helps you move and control your muscles. Serotonin plays a role in keeping your bones healthy, helps blood clot, and heals wounds. But it also influences your appetite and how well the bowels work. Serotonin is also important to the brain since it helps control moods and happiness. This chemical regulates your sleep and wake cycles, controls sexual desire, and helps you maintain your mood and thinking. It is an essential chemical that plays many roles in the body, including regulating attention, the body’s temperature, and behaviors.

Alcohol and Serotonin; The Effects

How are alcohol and serotonin connected, and does alcohol affect serotonin? Alcohol disrupts serotonin’s ability to transmit signals in the brain. Even one serving of alcohol can alter the neurotransmitter’s natural synaptic function. Consuming alcohol affects serotonin and how it is released into the nervous system. Alcohol also interferes with the way serotonin receptors function. Both long and short-term exposure to alcohol can affect serotonin receptors’ ability to produce functional changes in signal-receiving cells effectively. 

Short Term Effects of alcohol on Serotonin

Neurotransmitters like serotonin are the workhorses behind communication between brain cells. When you consume an alcoholic beverage, it temporarily boosts serotonin levels. This makes you feel happier and gives many people a feeling of euphoria. However, these feelings are short-lived. Even though you initially feel calmer after one or two drinks, your body shifts into overdrive to process the alcohol. The physiological effect often triggers anxiety. Drinking alcohol can lower sugar levels and impair the body’s natural hormonal response needed to regulate blood sugar levels. This can trigger other feelings, including:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Impaired memory
  • Slurred speech
  • Blacking out
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of coordination

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Serotonin

People who constantly deal with anxiety are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol or substance abuse than those who do not have anxiety issues. Because it takes increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect, it can lead to alcohol dependence. Long-term consumption of alcohol stresses the body. When there is stress, the body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol is beneficial in short-term stressful situations because it improves focus, attention, and alertness. However, cortisol also suppresses some of the natural bodily functions like wound repair, reproduction, bone growth, and digestion. These are the very processes in which serotonin plays an essential role. Serotonin is a chemical that is necessary for memory, learning, and general feelings of well-being. While a single drink may boost serotonin levels for a short time, the long-term effect of alcohol lowers serotonin levels. This can initiate depression or make it worse.

How Long Does it Take for Serotonin Levels to Return to Normal After Detox?

Alcohol consumption upsets the delicate balance in the brain, including its healthy production and function of neurotransmitters like serotonin. You may have wondered, “will my serotonin ever recover from alcohol use? The short answer is yes. The brain has a remarkable ability to heal itself. But it does take time. The time it takes for serotonin levels to return to normal after detox can vary between individuals. One factor includes how much damage alcohol abuse may have caused. More damage will take longer to heal. The more intense the misuse of alcohol, the longer it will take for serotonin levels to become normal. Most people will begin to feel better after two weeks as the brain’s chemistry begins to normalize and serotonin levels return to normal. However, for some, it can take up to six months for neurotransmitters like serotonin to go back to normal levels.

There are a few ways to adjust serotonin levels naturally. More exposure to sunlight and regular exercise can help restore serotonin levels. Eating foods that contain tryptophan can be beneficial too. For some individuals, meditation or counseling can help improve their mood and possibly boost serotonin levels. Supplementing with amino acids can be beneficial for supporting and improving proper brain function and reducing stress and cravings often associated with the detoxing process. 

Consuming alcohol affects serotonin, and serotonin levels influence a wide variety of functions in the body. When these levels become imbalanced, it can cause many problems. Many people use alcohol for short-term emotional fixes and end up with more anxiety and worries. During detox from alcohol, serotonin levels begin to balance out. There are a few ways to help encourage a natural rebalancing of serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels.

Detoxing is difficult, and relapses are common when trying to cleanse the body of alcohol. Get the support your body needs from BioRebalance supplements. The proprietary blend helps repair nutrient deficiencies and is formulated to restore neurotransmitter balance so you can feel better faster.

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Dr. Rebeca Eriksen, PhD MSc BSc (Hons) RD, is the Co-Founder at BioRebalance. She has a PhD in Nutritional Genetics from Imperial College London, and over ten years of clinical experience designing custom nutritional repair regimens for patients recovering from alcohol addiction and other disorders.

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