What Are The Risks Of Serotonin Deficiency
Low levels of serotonin are often associated with many behavioral and emotional disorders. Therefore, research studies confirm that low serotonin levels can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal behavior, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Since serotonin helps regulate the bodys internal clock, a serotonin deficiency may impact the ability to feel sleepy, remain asleep, have insomnia, and wake up refreshed in the morning.
Its role in how muscles behave means that low serotonin can cause chronic pain. In addition, low levels are strongly correlated with fibromyalgia, and people with the condition may get relief from antidepressants that raise serotonin levels.
Likewise, some studies have linked serotonin to the proper functioning of memory and learning, so any difficulties in these areas could indicate a serotonin issue.
Anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive forms, that occur suddenly and appears unrelated to any trigger may indicate an issue with low serotonin levels.
Research has shown that people with low serotonin have appetite issues or eating disorders, given the apparent correlation between the hormone and the digestive tract. This may include not eating enough, overeating, or alternating between the two.
One of the ways to increase serotonin levels naturally is possible by changing the diet, including foods containing dietary tryptophan.
What Other Systems Rely On Serotonin
A whole host of systems depend on serotonin. In fact, it touches just about every part of us. Here are some of the biggest ways it keeps our bodies running.
- Digestion and appetite:With such a large percentage of serotonin made and found in the gut, it makes sense that it plays a role in controlling our bowel movements. If we eat something thats upsetting to our GI tract, extra serotonin is produced to help move the food along more quickly. And if serotonin blood levels rise enough, it stimulates the part of the brain that flags nausea. But it doesnt stop there: serotonin in the brain also acts as a neurotransmitter to tell us when to quit eating.
- Blood clotting: The next time you accidentally slice your finger cutting an avocado and it stops bleeding, you have serotonin to thank. When theyre alerted to tissue damage, your blood platelets release serotonin, which causes tiny blood vessels to constrict and form blood clots.
- Sexual function: Less is known about the link between serotonin and sexual function, but it appears that high levels of serotonin actually inhibit sexual desire and function. This is why one of the side effects of SSRIs can be sexual dysfunction, says Jonen.
- Bone health: A few studies have linked very high levels of serotonin in the gut to weaker bones, increased risk of fracture, and osteoporosis.
What Medications Target Serotonin
SSRIs block serotonin from being reabsorbed by the nerve cells. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors make sure the serotonin you have is available in your brain for longer. Even though this class of drugs doesn’t directly increase the amount of serotonin you have, the effect is similar.
- Common SSRIs include fluoxetine , paroxetine , and sertraline .
- This class of drug is the most widely prescribed antidepressant. Doctors also prescribe SSRIs to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder , obsessive-compulsive disorder , and other conditions that involve low levels of serotonin.
SNRIs target serotonin and norepinephrine to increase the effectiveness of serotonin. This class of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors blocks or delays the reabsorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine works along with serotonin and dopamine to regulate emotions and thought processes.
- Common SNRIs are venlafaxine , desvenlafaxine , and duloxetine .
- SNRIs are prescribed to treat symptoms of low mood, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety in conditions such as major depressive disorder , bipolar depression, Fibromyalgia, panic and anxiety disorders, and social phobias.
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How Does Serotonin Impact Mental Health
Apart from its contribution to physiological functions, what is serotonins role in mental health?
Many experts believe that an imbalance in serotonin levels may affect an individuals mood and lead to depression. Its unclear exactly what causes depression, but there are certain factors that may contribute to it, such as low production of serotonin or an inability of serotonin receptors to receive the serotonin that is made.
Low serotonin levels alone may not cause depression but can lead to other conditions related to mood and sleep. A deficiency of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin D have been linked to low serotonin levels, which affects the production of tryptophan, an essential amino acid involved in the production of serotonin. This shortage in tryptophan can contribute to depression, as well as other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and anxiety.
Despite the widespread belief that a serotonin deficiency contributes to depression, there is still not enough evidence to prove that serotonin levels are directly correlated with depression or that a deficiency may lead to other mental health conditions. It also remains unclear whether the decrease in serotonin levels is responsible for depression, or if depression causes the serotonin deficiency.
What Is Serotonin Functions And Effects In The Brain
The happy hormone that influences your health and well-being.
Written by Steven Roberts, PhD Medically reviewedLast update on February 10, 2022
Every time you feel a burst of joy, excitement, or satisfaction, you can acknowledge serotonin for it.
Serotonin is best known for regulating mood and feelings of happiness, and because of that, it has the nickname the happy chemical.
Most people recognize this hormone because the deficiency is associated with depression and anxiety.
But serotonin is much more than that. It is one of the most extensively researched neurotransmitters exhibiting a range of functions both in the brain and the body.
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How To Increase Serotonin
Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression. The most commonly used antidepressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors , work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
Its also possible to increase serotonin levels without taking medicine. One natural way to increase serotonin is by working out. When you pedal your bicycle or lift weights, your body releases more tryptophan, the amino acid your brain uses to make serotonin. This boost in serotonin is why many people get that feeling of euphoria known as a “runners high” after an intense workout.
Exposure to either the sun or to the bright light meant to replicate it is another way to naturally increase serotonin levels. Light therapy is one of the main treatments for seasonal affective disorder , the winter blues that may be triggered by a drop in serotonin levels.
Getting extra serotonin from foods is a bit trickier. Protein-rich foods such as turkey are high in tryptophan, but our bodies dont convert it to serotonin very efficiently. And when you eat turkey together with other high-protein foods, the protein breaks down into amino acids, which compete with tryptophan to get across your blood-brain barrier . As a result, less tryptophan gets in.
Serotonin is just one of the four feel-good hormones. To learn more about the others and how they work, head to the beginning of this series.
Know Your Serotonin: An Interview With Gut
During the Harvard Probiotics Symposium, Elaine Hsiao, researcher at University of California, Los Angeles , showed the key points relating to serotonin and how molecule and cell activities link gut microbiota to the brain.
Right now, nerve cells in your body are passing a certain neurotransmitterserotoninback and forth like a chemical basketball. Well-known for its mood-modulating capacity, this chemical is made both in the digestive tract and the brain. And many researchers believe we still havent unlocked all its secrets.
Elaine Hsiao, a researcher at University of California, Los Angeles , studies serotonin in the context of the gut-brain axisin particular, how molecule and cell activities link the gut microbiota to the brain. GMFH editors caught up with Hsiao at the Harvard Probiotics Symposium to get the latest on serotonin, the brain, and the microbes in your gut.
Whats the difference between serotonin made in the gut and serotonin made in the brain?
The serotonin made in the gut is the same structurally as the serotonin in the braintheyre the same molecules that are made, but theyre just localized in different places and made by different cells.
Our work has shown that particular species from the gut microbiome stimulate gut endocrine cells to produce serotonin, said Hsiao
How do microbes help make gut serotonin?
Is more serotonin always good?
How does the gut-based serotonin affect brain development and behaviour?
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What Is The Link Between Serotonin And Depression
There are many researchers who believe that an imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression. Possible problems include low brain cell production of serotonin, a lack of receptor sites able to receive the serotonin that is made, inability of serotonin to reach the receptor sites, or a shortage in tryptophan, the chemical from which serotonin is made. If any of these biochemical glitches occur, researchers believe it can lead to depression, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, panic, and even excess anger.
One theory about how depression develops centers on the regeneration of brain cells — a process that some believe is mediated by serotonin, and ongoing throughout our lives. According to Princeton neuroscientist Barry Jacobs, PhD, depression may occur when there is a suppression of new brain cells and that stress is the most important precipitator of depression. He believes that common antidepressantmedications known as SSRIs, which are designed to boost serotonin levels, help kick off the production of new brain cells, which in turn allows the depression to lift.
Also, researchers don’t know whether the dip in serotonin causes the depression, or the depression causes serotonin levels to drop.
What Happens If I Have Too Little Serotonin
If you dont have enough serotonin, you are more likely to develop depression and anxiety. You need the right amount of serotonin to feel happy, calm and emotionally stable.
The symptoms of low serotonin levels include:
- feeling bad about yourself
- increased libido
Recreational drugs such as MDMA cause large amounts of serotonin to be released. This can mean your serotonin levels end up low, leading you to feel depressed and confused for a few days. Over time, its thought that drug use can damage the nerves that produce serotonin.
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Can Exercise Boost Serotonin Levels
Exercise can do a lot to improve your mood — and across the board, studies have shown that regular exercise can be as effective a treatment for depression as antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. In the past, it was believed that several weeks of working out was necessary to see the effects on depression, but new research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin found that just a single 40-minute period of exercise can have an immediate effect on mood.
That said, it remains unclear of the exact mechanism by which exercise accomplishes this. While some believe it affects serotonin levels, to date there are no definitive studies showing that this is the case.
Gut Bacteria And Serotonin
Your gut is home to the bacteria that helps it produce serotonin. Studies have found that several species of gut bacteria are missing in people with depression, and that imbalances in gut flora can lead to mood imbalances.12
This is why I recommend everyone take a probiotic to ensure a healthy balance of the good bacteria in their gut. In fact, probiotics are one of the four essential supplements that I recommend everyone take every day.
However, not all probiotics are created equal. Probiotic strength is measured in colony-forming units . The CFU tells you how much bacteria is present in that probiotic. Unfortunately, many probiotics have a short shelf-life and require refrigeration, as CFUs can die off quickly.
Thats why I formulated Probiotic 30 Billion and Probiotic 100 Billion to include 14 of the most important strains, and made absolutely sure that there were enough viable CFUs in each capsule to support digestive health and immune function for those looking for the perfect level of daily probiotic maintenance.
Gut serotonin is crucial for balancing your mood and supporting healthy digestion. Taking a probiotic with 30 billion or 100 billion CFUs, getting regular sunshine and exercise, and eating plenty of tryptophan-rich foods are all powerful ways to boost your serotonin levels and support your gut health.
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How To Naturally Boost Serotonin Levels
Conventional medicine uses antidepressants to boost serotonin. However, as I mentioned, these medications have harmful side effects such as dizziness, insomnia, constipation, and increased feelings of anxiety.8 They are also very difficult to stop taking and can cause really awful withdrawal symptoms.9
The good news is that you can boost your serotonin levels without the use of medications through diet and lifestyle changes. Here are four ways you can naturally boost serotonin levels:
Soexplain How Does Serotonin Impact Mood And How Is That Related To Mental Health
The unsatisfying answer is researchers arent sure. While they can measure serotonin levels in the bloodstream, its impossible to measure them in the brain of a living person.
We cant say that serotonin impacts mood in a particular way, says Jonen. A lot of what we know is by inference and observation. Weve noticed that when serotonin levels are high, mood improves. But there are lots of other chemical processes happening in the bodyit might not be a one-to-one relationship. We dont know if people who are depressed stop making serotonin, if low levels of serotonin lead to depression, or if there are other factors that cause both depression and low serotonin.
Other potential causes include faulty serotonin receptors on cells or a lack of tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is made.
Despite these lingering question marks, it is clear from research that balanced serotonin levels often lead to calm, focused, happy, and stable moods. When levels dip too far, well lets just say, its a different story. Low serotonin levels are mostly commonly associated with depression, as well as anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and excessive anger.
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What Problems Are Associated With High Serotonin Levels
Serotonin syndrome is a condition that happens when serotonin levels are increased too much. It usually happens if you increase the dose of a medication known to increase serotonin levels or take another drug known to increase serotonin.
Mild symptoms include shivering, heavy sweating, confusion, restlessness, high blood pressure, muscle twitches and diarrhea. Severe symptoms include high fever, seizures, fainting and abnormal heartbeat.
Serotonin syndrome can be fatal if its severe and not caught early and treated quickly.
What Are The Serotonin Functions And Benefits
Serotonin plays multifaceted roles by carrying signals between different parts of the brain.
For instance, it plays a part in consciousness, cognition, emotion, attention, and it can also modulate a host of other bodily systems.
While its usually classified as a neurotransmitter, it also works as a hormone that gets released into the bloodstream to send messages to different body parts, including blood platelets and the gut.
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Serotonin And Genitourinary Function
Serotonin plays a variety of roles in the central and peripheral control of genitourinary function within both the brain and the spinal cord . Serotonin increases ejaculatory latency and delays orgasm through 5-HT2C and 5-HT1B receptors but also decreases ejaculatory latency through the 5-HT1A receptor . The net effect of serotonin is to prolong ejaculatory latency and to delay orgasm, and thus SSRIs are often prescribed off-label to treat premature ejaculation . Although all SSRIs prolong ejaculatory latency to some degree, this effect is most pronounced with paroxetine, and there is no direct correlation between antidepressant efficacy and antiejaculatory latency.
Serotonin modulates micturition in a similar fashion as it does ejaculation. It controls urinary function via actions in the brain and spinal cord, and it regulates parasympathetic neural input to the bladder and somatic input to the external urinary sphincter. 5-HT2C receptors prevent urination whereas 5-HT1A receptors promote urination . The net effect of serotonin on urination is likely inhibitory, since combined serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are used clinically to treat stress incontinence .
Get 15 Minutes Of Sunlight
Enjoying a few minutes outside on a sunny day works double-duty to boost serotonin levels: Bright light is known to promote serotonin output by stimulating the body’s circadian rhythm .
Plus, when the skin is exposed to sunlight, skin cells convert the sun’s ultraviolet B rays into vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in the production and activation of serotonin, which can help with mood. One study found that increased sun exposure was associated with reduced depression symptoms in elderly women.
Experts say getting just 1015 minutes of sun a day is enough to make adequate vitamin D in most people. If this is not possible, supplements are also available. The body can still produce vitamin D even when you’re wearing sunscreen, so be sure to use adequate protection, especially if you have pale or sensitive skin.
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Symptoms Of Serotonin Syndrome
Serotonin syndrome can cause a wide range of symptoms, which usually occur within several hours of using the new medication or increasing the dosage of one youre using.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include confusion, restlessness, dilated pupils, heavy sweating, headache, diarrhea, shivering, goosebumps, and loss of muscle coordination. In severe cases, one may experience high fever, an irregular heartbeat, seizures, or unconsciousness.
If you suspect that you might have serotonin syndrome after starting a new medication or increasing your dosage, contact your doctor or seek emergency treatment. Usually, youll be required to discontinue any medicine that increases serotonin levels.
Its important to inform your provider of any medication youre using before adding any new ones, to avoid complications. Recreational drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, and cocaine should also be avoided to prevent serotonin syndrome.