What are the effects of low serotonin?

Low serotonin levels can lead to anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, tension headaches, and overeating. Serotonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain. Serotonin, like dopamine and norepinephrine, is a neurotransmitter. Serotonin helps the body maintain a feeling of happiness, controls mood, aids sleep, and reduces anxiety. While serotonin is associated with the brain, approximately 90 percent of the serotonin in the body is found in platelets in the blood and digestive tract.

Serotonin and other neurotransmitters move signals from one part of the brain to another and influence bodily functions. Serotonin affects behavior, memory, temperature, sleep, appetite, sexual desire, and mood. Low serotonin levels can have a negative effect on the amount of milk a new mother produces and may even be a contributing factor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Serotonin has an impact on the endocrine and cardiovascular systems and the way muscles work.

Low serotonin levels can also increase an individual's risk of addiction. Cases of mild to moderate depression are often attributed to low serotonin levels, and most antidepressants target either serotonin or norepinephrine. Low-grade ailments like fatigue, insomnia, and general feelings of worthlessness can be caused by low levels of serotonin. Estrogen and progesterone can react with serotonin, affecting serotonin levels and worsening premenstrual symptoms.

There is no way to assess serotonin levels in the brain of a living person. Blood serum tests can determine blood serum levels, and those levels are often low in people with depression. Serotonin levels may be low because the brain cells responsible for producing the chemical do not produce enough of it, the individual has low levels of tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin, existing serotonin cannot reach the receptor sites where it is needed , or the body lacks sufficient receptor sites.

It is possible to increase serotonin levels through diet. Some evidence suggests that a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet can increase serotonin levels naturally. Foods rich in tryptophan, such as chicken, turkey, nuts, or dairy, provide the building blocks for serotonin. Vitamin B-6 can help the body convert tryptophan to serotonin.

It is also possible to have too much serotonin in the body. Combining serotonin-increasing antidepressants with 5-HTP or St Johns Wort can lead to serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include uncontrollable muscle spasms, confusion, sweating, and restlessness. Serotonin syndrome requires immediate medical attention.

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