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Taking medication requires balance

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why they ask, “You take your meds?”


People always ask about the side effects of the continual intake of medication and as well, I’ve often had conversations with relatives of individuals who refuse to take medications for fear of the alleged or real consequences.


In response to the injury that long-term ingestion can have on the body, I analogise simply by saying something like, “You do know the water you drink can kill you, right?”


As I slid into despair the past few weeks, at the first opportunity, my sister asked (by text, of course, since I really do not care to speak in those times), “You’re eating? You taking your meds?” That’s the perennial inquiry in my life from those who know and care.


Sometimes I feel I can cope without medication, but the last time I attempted that, without advice, it resulted in almost a year of nonbeing. I’ve not since felt inclined to try and my doctors agree with me, so I’m good. I will deal with whatever may come later, but for now, I’m “on drugs” and here’s why.


I was introduced to serotonin in 1999. Actually, I walked up to him and said hello because I wanted to know the character of he who would storm into my life and inhabit my body—masculinity was attributed after I saw and felt the effect it has on my mind and being.


I’d been given a prescription for the anti-depressant Zoloft, and with some concerned opinions about its side effects, including an Oprah interview, which was not complimentary to the drug, I decided to form my judgment.


Initially, the abundance of acronyms as MAOI, SSRI, PMDD, and then some, bemused me. 


The reading, while enlightening, was scarifying, so I became more determined to be au courant with the subject. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), all will appear in my writings in the course of time since they are interrelated. Today, serotonin leads the way of recovery.


From research, I’ve learned that serotonin is a hormone and also a neurotransmitter, the latter being a chemical substance in the central nervous system that transmits nerve impulses across the space between nerve cells.


These synapses called “chemical messengers” are thought to modulate depression, anger, sleep, sexuality and even vomiting. They’re important for the regulation of learning and mood, provide relief from pain by constricting blood vessels in the area of injury, and are linked to anxiety, migraine, memory, and appetite.


Serotonin is also found in the pineal gland (in the brain), the digestive tract, and in blood platelets. 


Deficiencies of serotonin are associated with various medical conditions and psychiatric disorders such as obesity, anorexia, depression, and insomnia. Low levels in the brain occur from dietary insufficiency of certain nutrients, as well as psychological factors that occur in childhood, among other reasons.


“Scientists at the New York State Psychiatric Institute discovered that physical or psychological adversity in childhood abuse predisposes a person to development of serotonin abnormalities and consequent psychiatric illness such as depression in adulthood,” says


Serotonin production is sensitive to a dietary supply of tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in many protein foods. One way to raise your levels naturally is to find the appropriate balance of protein and carbohydrates in your diet. 


When you eat carbohydrates it results in a rise in insulin levels that acts to usher the amino acid tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. One-and-a-half ounces of carbohydrate (about 1/4 cup of oatmeal) will significantly boost brain levels of serotonin (


It’s important then to learn what foods are best for aiding the production of trytptophan since some foods and incorrect balance impact negatively on the body’s serotonin production. 


I’ve learned to include in my meals brown rice, chicken, corn, eggs, green leaf vegetables, meat, nuts, peas, and cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower, broccoflower, watercress, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.


Foods high in Omega 3s, a necessary fatty acid for serotonin production, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, avocado oil, and flax oil, as well as foods high in B Vitamins, work to improve levels.


Additionally, my balance comes with the medicine sertraline (Zoloft is the brand), which I’ve taken diligently for some time and which my son describes as the “happy pills.” 


Sertraline belongs to the class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).


It works the balancing act of increasing serotonin in the brain by inhibiting its uptake by neurons of the central nervous system.


Having seen the positive and negative effect of having or not having the correct balance of serotonin prompts Jovan, my sister Debra, and sister-friend Sally-Ann to always ask, “You taking your meds?”


And even though I appreciate and need their concern, and I respond civilly, that does not stop me from feeling like stuffing something in their mouth when I’m in the zone—that’s just the texture of nothingness.


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