Serotonin or hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is an essential neurotransmitter found in the pineal gland, blood platelets, digestive tract and brain. It was found about 50 years ago and is strongly related to emotional behavior and general well-being in humans. The main function of serotonin is to control sleep pattern, stress and the overall emotional balance of an individual. Serotonin is a chemical messenger between the nerve cells as it transmits the chemical messages between the nerves. When the normal level of serotonin in the body depletes, it results in several disorders, which are of mild to severe consequences.
Signs and Symptoms of Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome
How do you know if you have a serotonin deficiency? The best way to detect this is by examining your sleeping pattern. Most of the sleeping disorders can be attributed to serotonin deficiency. The amount of serotonin is proportional to the amount of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When it gets dark, your brain changes serotonin to melatonin. Thus, if your body produces less serotonin, then you'll develop several symptoms which include:
- Panic attacks, fear and phobias.
- A tense state of mind accompanied by irritation and impatience.
- Suicidal tendency.
- Repetitive thoughts.
- Low self esteem.
- Emotional behavior like anger and aggression.
- Craving for sugar.
- Post menstrual syndrome.
- Chronic pain.
- Dislike for dark weather.
- Pessimism and depression.
- Inability to control impulses.
- Impaired cognitive function.
Serotonin is produced by the body during the digestion of foods that are rich in amino acid L-Tryptophan. Poor diet often results in low production of serotonin in the body. Besides there are other acquired reasons as well, such as:
- Over exposure to plastics and chemicals.
- Lack of exposure to sunlight.
- Deficiency of serotonin precursors like tryptophan.
- Niacin deficiency as well as deficiency of other vitamins, minerals, and calcium.
- Insulin resistance.
- Progesterone deficiency.
- Diminished flow of blood to the brain.
- Excessive use of depression medications.
How to Raise Serotonin Levels
Prozac, which belongs to the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) class antidepressants is supposedly effective in lowering the symptoms of serotonin deficiency. It is a widely prescribed antidepressant all over the world. However, it does not produce serotonin in the body, as against the common belief, but only collects the existing serotonin, so that it can be used more effectively. Long term use of SSRI class antidepressants actually decreases the levels of serotonin in the body.
It has been proven that nutritional supplementation often works better than medications. Incorporating foods rich in tryptophan such as turkey, chicken, fish, brown rice etc., is a great way of boosting the levels of serotonin in the body. Also, take tryptophan and serotonin supplements, as the body cannot produce tryptophan on its own.
Meditation and sitting in the sun, early in the morning, helps to raise the levels of serotonin in the body. Find a quiet spot and try to meditate. Play soothing music and concentrate on positive aspects of life. Optimism helps a great deal in raising serotonin levels in the body.
Serotonin is an invaluable hormone for our body and its deficiency can play havoc with the body. If serotonin levels during pregnancy are not normal it can lead to 'Sudden Infant Death Syndrome' (SIDS). Interestingly, many serial killers or maniacs often exhibit low levels of serotonin. This fact is sufficient to demonstrate what effects serotonin deficiency syndrome can have on our body.