Depressed woman prior to serotonin treatmentHappy woman post serotonin treatment

What Are The Symptoms Of Low Serotonin And What Can You Do About It?

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By Johnny Bevers

Perhaps you feel lost at times, seemingly forgetting things and sometimes not being able to sleep well.  The regular stresses in your life seem to be taking a toll on you, and your moods are swinging from here to there all at once!  One good reason behind all this could be a serotonin imbalance.

Your level of serotonin, the neurotransmitter in charge of your brain cells connected to sleep, mood, appetite, memory, learning, and even social behavior, may be wearing out and probably dropping to dangerously low points. Hence, these essential functions of serotonin tend to get disrupted.

Serotonin and Depression


Sometimes, when people get burned out from work and are facing other problems in life, their serotonin levels decrease and the natural supply of serotonin in the brain is not enough to sustain their levelheadedness and psychological stability.

This is also likely to happen whenever individuals experience very disturbing trials and more-difficult-than-usual challenges that push them to their limits. In such cases, it’s very common for brain production of serotonin to be stumped or overwhelmed. Based on many studies on this phenomenon, experts have also discovered that one potential cause of very low serotonin is the body’s inability to produce enough supply to reach the serotonin receptors in the brain. There are also instances when the chemical known as tryptophan, from which serotonin is produced, actually runs out.  When this occurs, be careful because you’re most likely, extremely depressed and in need of medical attention.

example bottle of serotonin supplements

With these above-mentioned scenarios, low serotonin and depression become closely intertwined. The serotonin imbalance that occurs often leads to various cases of depression and sometimes also anxiety and panic disorders, excessive anger, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Even with the advancement of technology today, there is still no known method to actually measure the levels of serotonin in the brain. What can be quantified though are the levels of serotonin in the blood. According to research, it shows that those who are depressed do have lower serotonin levels in their bloodstream. Nevertheless, researchers cannot claim or tell for sure that this serotonin is directly connected or unswervingly affects the serotonin in the brain. One way to address this low serotonin and depression relation is through the use of antidepressant medication. Such medicines are discovered to target the selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRI) as well as the serotonin and norepinephrine re uptake inhibitors (SNRI) which make up serotonin levels in general. As a result, serotonin levels are enhanced along with the production of new brain cells . Both of these lead to the alleviation of depression symptoms.

The Differences between Serotonin and Dopamine

serotonin-and-dopamine graphic

There are many who get to interchange serotonin and dopamine because these chemicals both serve as neurotransmitters in the brain. However, you should not mix them up because serotonin receptors and dopamine receptors differ and these neurotransmitters are definitely responsible for varied functions too. Studies clearly show that they are also found in separate areas of the brain and are also associated with different disorders.

You can easily confuse serotonin with dopamine. But you need to keep in mind their difference in role. The first one, serotonin, is more related to a person’s mood, sleep, appetite, ability to think and learn, impulsiveness, emotions, social behaviors, and sensory perceptions. Furthermore, you’ll find that these functions of serotonin also include regulation of body temperature, hormonal activity, and blood pressure which are also greatly affected by this particular neurotransmitter. Meanwhile, dopamine is known to be more connected to one’s pleasure, motivation, and movement. It also affects mood like serotonin.   Oftentimes, low serotonin levels result in depression and other anxiety problems. On the contrary, decreased supply of dopamine usually leads to Parkinson’s disease. Psychological research also points out that the occurrence of schizophrenia is a common case of having dopamine and serotonin imbalance.   Furthermore, you should realize that because serotonin controls sleep and the flow of information inside your brain, low levels can cause you to become scatterbrained or unfocused. This is why when you are in deep sleep and your serotonin system is turned off, you tend to dream of wild fantasies, unrelated events, and strange situations. Dopamine, on the other hand, is more concentrated on your feeling of confidence and euphoria as well as your tendency to be hyperactive and aggressive. This is why amphetamine, cocaine, and other dopamine-inducing drugs make people feel high, self-assured, energetic, and forceful.

How to Raise Serotonin Levels Naturally

natural foods that act as serotonin-boosters

Low serotonin and depression are certainly greatly attached to one another so you ought to learn how to boost your serotonin levels to fight depression. The best way to go about this, though, is through natural methods.

One important way to raise your serotonin levels naturally is by taking a fish oil supplement. The essential fatty acids contained in such will surely do wonders for your overall brain health and mood management. This is also why you should not forget to include the good fats in your diet. Tuna, wild salmon, nuts, and seeds are great sources of these good fats.   In terms of your diet, you should watch out too on your beverage intake. If you’re a coffee, tea, or chocolate junkie, it’s now time to change this habit. Caffeine and sugar ought to be limited, as well as your alcohol intake. These short-term stimulants will surely diminish and dull important hormones in your body in the long run.

At the same time, you also need to exercise. Many researches over the years have proven time and again just how effective exercise is for improving the mood and keeping a person feeling relaxed and happy. Even if you simply incorporate around 20 minutes of exercise per day, this can already help release those hormones that are bound to make you feel cheerful and full of verve.

Since serotonin imbalance affects sleep, you have to also observe good sleeping habits. Be sure to follow a regular sleep cycle as much as possible. You should also work on a much better quality of sleep that will help your entire mind and body relax. If you feel sluggish in the middle of the day, it’s advisable to take a power nap of up to an hour.  Besides, other ways you can improve your sleep quality is by listening to soft music, reading a relaxing and positive book, dimming the lights, freshening up before going to bed, and more.

Some experts would further recommend people to go out into the sunshine. Exposing yourself to the natural light and warmth of the sun will help improve your mood and will make you feel more energetic for the rest of the day.

Have you ever heard of St. John’s Wort? This is one amazing herbaceous plant that’s been proven an effectual natural remedy for mild and moderate depression mainly because it’s able to work as a natural selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It has the ability to thwart serotonin imbalance and breakdown.

Common Medication to Increase Serotonin

serotonin_sunshine over molecules

Aside from the natural methods that you can do to increase your serotonin levels, there are also common medications recommended by doctors. These are known to lift depression by making neurotransmitters in the brain more available. Specifically, they work on increasing serotonin levels in order to help improve mood, emotion, and social behaviors. At the same time, those who take such medications get to also recuperate in terms of sleep and appetite. Here are the major types of antidepressant medications that doctors often prescribe:

1. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI)

These are the first of antidepressants that was developed a long time ago. MAOIs are effective but known to react in a negative manner when combined with certain foods. This is why those taking such medication are under stringent dietary restrictions because they might suffer from perilous high blood pressure. Nevertheless, they still do their job well by affecting the various brain chemicals that act as neurotransmitters. Specific examples of MAOIs are Nardil, Parnate, Eldepryl, and Emsam. Some other serious side effects known to these drugs include chest pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, a racing or pounding heart, and neck stiffness.  With such risks involved, some doctors and patients opt for other types of medication to treat depression.

2. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA)

These TCAs are also some of the earliest antidepressants, known to work the same way as MAOIs. They hinder the absorption of serotonin to make it more available in the brain. Examples of TCAs include Amoxapine, Doxepin, Amitriptyline, and Trimipramine. These antidepressants are also utilized for patients suffering from anxiety and other nerve-related disorders. However, this type of medication also has its share of side effects. In particular, you may suffer from drowsiness, constipation, blurry vision, decreased blood pressure, dry mouth, increased sweating, and bigger appetite among others. Moreover, some people even go to the extent of having tremors, irregular heart rates, and disorientation.

3. Selective Serotonin Re uptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

The selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors are fairly newer in the market of antidepressant medications. It works by modifying the amount of serotonin level in the brain. Thus, it is also known to be effective in treating cases of depression in various individuals. Specific examples of SSRIs are Prozac, Celexa, Sarafem, Luvox, Lexapro, and Paxil. Upon studying this type of medication, it has been discovered that their side effects include dizziness, insomnia, low sex drive, and jittery feeling.

4. Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI)

This is yet another new form of antidepressant. Just like SSRIs, it also works by increasing the availability of serotonin. In addition, it also does the same for the brain chemical called norepinephrine.   For treating depression, you can opt for the SNRIs approved by the FDA, namely duloxetine, desvenlafaxine, and venlafaxine. Patients taking this type of medication may experience side effects such as nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, excessive sweating, constipation, insomnia, loss of appetite, and difficulty in urinating. These antidepressants have all been proven already to be effective in accomplishing their purpose in patients. They are recommended based on medical histories of patients and other factors.

As much as possible, doctors do not really want individuals to be under these medications so as to avoid the accompanying risks and side effects. But then, there are some instances in which patients really need to be put on these drugs so as to have significant results in the treatment of depression.

Indeed if you are worried about low serotonin and depression, you ought to go for proper diagnosis so that a specialist can guide you accordingly on the treatment that suits you best. You should definitely watch out for the common symptoms of serotonin imbalance like having trouble sleeping, experiencing a lot of mood swings, feeling anxious and disheartened often, losing track of your activities, inability to concentrate and many more. These signs clearly exhibit the disrupted functions of serotonin. Hence, if you ignore them and do not attempt to start increasing your serotonin levels, there is a huge chance that you’ll fall into depression. For mild cases of depression and those who have not yet fallen trap completely, the natural methods of improving serotonin availability and production can really work well to bring you back on your toes. However, the diagnosis of your condition will determine if you’re already in need of antidepressant medication. Of course it will take several tests for your doctor to decide on the best treatments for you, both natural and chemical. Only then can he or she allow you to try a particular type of medication that would be of great help for your depression, anxiety, or nerve pain.

What’s much better is for you to always be on guard to avoid going over the edge. Even before you begin to notice the development of low serotonin symptoms, you should try to prevent it by taking on a more positive attitude, exercising regularly, and eating nutritious food rich in essential fatty acids. Also be sure to incorporate relaxation habits and enjoyable breaks into your routine. Don’t sweat the small stuff to keep yourself from becoming too stressed out or falling into that dangerous feeling of despair and misery.

Prevention is always a lot better than a cure. So take care of your health and overall well-being by making sure that your serotonin levels are significantly enough to keep you sane and generally happy and vibrant.

Lecturing about brain chemistry and addiction in the video below, Dr. Von Stieff explains serotonin neurotransmitters’ role in treatment for depression, alcoholism, and chemical dependency. Understanding basic neurochemistry and the science of the brain is the first step to long-term sobriety.


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