Serotonin and Melatonin
Serotonin is one the major neurotransmitters in the body. It is manufactured in the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin plays an important role in many functions including sleep, appetite, learning and pain perception. It is closely involved in determining our mood. Serotonin levels are usually very low in people with depression.
Melatonin is made from serotonin. At night, when it gets dark a certain amount of serotonin is converted into melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. In the morning serotonin is released helping us wake up feeling refreshed.
Serotonin levels are usually low in people with fibromyalgia which also makes our levels of melatonin low. This is the main reason for the disturbed sleep patterns so characteristic of fibromyalgia.
Stress lowers our serotonin levels. When a person is under emotional stress, their serotonin levels automatically drop. Having fibromyalgia is stressful because we are in pain, feel unwell and life has become limited. Stress reduces serotonin levels which creates further stress.
Dopamine and Norepinephrine
Dopamine and norepinephrine are two critical neurotransmitters that regulate your mood and behavior. Norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) is produced from dopamine.
Norepinephrine plays a central role in controlling alertness, rest cycles, attention and memory. It also plays a key role in the “fight or flight” response.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps you focus your attention. Dopamine also has a role in modulating pain perception and helps regulate movement.
People with fibromyalgia are likely to have low levels of dopamine. It is thought to be the main reason for cognitive problems such as poor memory, difficulty concentrating and word mix-ups. Low dopamine could even be the cause of our coordination and balance problems.
GABA and Glutamate
GABA and glutamate are two neurotransmitters that are supposed to work in balance. One calms the brain while the other stimulates the brain. Your brain uses glutamate to produce GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. They are the brain’s most plentiful neurotransmitters.
GABA calms the brain and is involved in sleep, relaxation, anxiety regulation and muscle function. Glutamate stimulates the brain so you learn new things and form memories.
Research suggests that people with fibromyalgia have abnormally high levels of glutamate. Excessive glutamate is believed to cause anxiety, restlessness, the inability to focus and pain amplification. High glutamate levels are linked with depression and low cognitive function.
Because of GABA and glutamate’s close relationship, symptoms of GABA deficiency overlap with those of brain glutamate excess.