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Serotonin Levels in the Brain

Serotonin Levels in the Brain

Serotonin is one of the most important neurochemicals in our body, such that any change in its levels automatically reflects on our psychological and physical health.
Abhijit Naik
Neurotransmitters facilitate the transfer of a particular piece of information from the central nervous system to the other cells in the body. Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter, designed to carry out various functions, including regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, muscle contraction, etc.

More importantly, studies have revealed that it also plays a vital role in cognitive functions of the human brain, such as memory and learning. It is also referred to as a 'mood neurotransmitter', as it is responsible for several different human moods. In fact, it is a vital component of certain body processes including sleep, libido, and body temperature.

Effects of Low Serotonin

Serotonin levels may fall because of numerous factors, including stress, lack of proper sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc. As the levels drop below the required amount, the person starts experiencing problems with concentration. Indirectly, this affects his planning and organization skills. This is also accompanied by stress and boredom, and as the levels drop further, the individual goes into depression. Other health conditions associated with low serotonin in the brain include irritability, anxiety, fatigue, chronic pain, restlessness, etc. If necessary precautions are not taken, these conditions can worsen with time and eventually lead to disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, hypomania, and bipolar depression. At times, the person may also depict signs of unnecessary aggression and mood swings.

How to Increase Serotonin Levels in the Brain?

As low serotonin can trigger a series of ill-effects on the body, one has to ensure that optimum levels of this neurochemical are maintained at all times. Methods to increase the levels of serotonin range from consumption of foods high in amino acids to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • It is produced from an amino acid known as tryptophan, which is present in several foods. So the simplest measure to increase its levels in the brain is to consume foods rich in amino acids, especially tryptophan.
  • Studies reveal that protein-rich foods, such as meat and nuts, also help in boosting serotonin levels in our brain.
  • Bright light tends to increase levels of serotonin as well. Although, this hasn't been proven scientifically, spending more time in the sun provides the body with elements necessary for producing this neurochemical.
  • Several studies stress on the fact that exercising regularly leaves an increased amount of tryptophan in the brain, which eventually helps in producing serotonin.
  • Carbohydrates are also helpful in raising the levels of this neurochemical in the body. Foods rich in carbohydrates, such as eggs, bananas, walnuts, etc., are known to help in increasing it.
  • In extreme cases, you can take the help of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in order to retain the required amount of this neurochemical in the brain.
While serotonin deficiency does have adverse effects on the body, that doesn't mean excess of this neurochemical is helpful for our body. In excess, it is known to trigger the Serotonin Syndrome, a life-threatening condition characterized by insomnia, shivering, agitation, profuse sweating, etc. Too much or too little, in either case it is harmful for the body and therefore, it's important to strike the right balance when it comes to its levels in the body.