What Is Serotonin and Why Does It Matter?
When looking into improving your mental health you have likely come across the word Serotonin when doing your research. However, you may have a hard time understanding what serotonin is, what it affects, and why it is important for mental health. This is especially true if you are also seeing the names of other important hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Here is what serotonin is and why it matters.
What is Serotonin
Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter that can be found in both the central nervous system and the digestive tract. Serotonin can also be found in blood platelets. The functions of serotonin include stabilizing mood, healing wounds through aiding in the creation of blood clots, maintaining bone health, and stimulating nausea. In addition to this, serotonin also plays a role in healthy bowel movements, sleep, and sexual function.
What Does Low Serotonin Affect?
Due to the number of functions that serotonin has throughout the body, there are many symptoms involved in having low serotonin levels. In fact, it involves such a wide variety that many people may not recognize these symptoms as being related. These symptoms include:
- Low self esteem
- Insomnia or abnormal sleep cycles
- A decreased appetite
- Memory problems
- Impulsive behaviors
- Weight gain
- Symptoms of IBS
It is important to note that individuals experiencing low serotonin levels may experience all or only some items mentioned on this list. Low serotonin levels typically go hand in hand with conditions like PTSD, OCD, anxiety and panic disorders, eating disorders, and even Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Why Having the Proper Amount of Serotonin is Important
It is crucial that your body maintains the proper amount of serotonin levels. If this level gets too low then you can experience the uncomfortable and potentially life altering symptoms associated with low serotonin levels. However, it is also important that your serotonin isn’t naturally held too high either, because this can cause some serious health problems. The healthy amount of Serotonin can vary from person to person, so you should be evaluated by a doctor if you are wishing to find out how much Serotonin is healthy for you. This is especially important if you have recently been put on serotonin increasing medication, are exhibiting symptoms associated with high or low serotonin levels, or have recently gone through an alcohol or drug detox center.
Could You Have Too Much Serotonin?
There are two diseases associated with serotonin levels that are too high. These include Carcinoid Syndrome and Serotonin Syndrome. Carcinoid Syndrome typically occurs naturally. This disease involves the growth of tumors in the appendix, small intestine, colon, and bronchial tubes. As a result, you would likely experience Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea. It is crucial to note that some of these digestional issues associated with Carcinoid syndrome can be very similar to those of IBS, so it is crucial to visit a qualified doctor if you are suspecting that you have either. Some other common symptoms of Carcinoid syndrome include:
- Joint/Muscle pains
- Low blood pressure, irregular heart beats, or other heart problems
Serotonin syndrome occurs when serotonin levels increase rapidly, which causes serotonin levels to suddenly be too high. This typically only occurs when you have started a serotonin raising medication. Symptoms of Serotonin syndrome can be mild or severe, and they can include:
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle twitches or stiffness
- A loss of agility
- Heart problems such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and/or an irregular heart beat
If you think you may be experiencing Serotonin syndrome then it is crucial that you visit a doctor, especially if you have just started or increased the dosage of serotonin raising medication.
How You Can Increase Serotonin Naturally
If you are noticing mild symptoms of low serotonin levels then you may be interested in trying to raise your serotonin naturally. These tips are also great when paired with serotonin raising medications to provide a more well rounded treatment.
Exercise: Exercise has been proven to raise serotonin levels. In fact, this is one of the reasons behind why you feel so good after a workout. Having a regular exercise schedule will give you the best results from working out possible.
Eat a Balanced Diet: Low serotonin levels can sometimes simply be a result of a poor diet. This is because an unbalanced diet can make processing serotonin difficult for the body. It is suggested that eating the recommended amount of zinc, magnesium, fish oils, folic acid, and vitamins C and B6. In addition to this, you should focus on maintaining good gut health. You can improve gut health by eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and taking a probiotic.
Serotonin supplements: Serotonin supplements combine essential vitamins such as vitamin C, B6, and B12 with saffron. All of these things have been associated with healthy serotonin levels. However, it is important to still consult with a healthcare professional before starting these supplements to ensure that you are receiving the best care possible.
When to See a Doctor
It is crucial to see a doctor if you are experiencing serious or life altering symptoms associated with serotonin levels that are either too low or too high. This includes both serious physical and mental symptoms. Seeing a doctor can prevent a serious physical or mental health condition from progressing further, and this will likely also improve your overall quality of life. In addition to this, you may want to see a doctor about your serotonin levels if you have tried to naturally raise your serotonin levels and have either experienced no changes or a worsening of symptoms. It is also a good idea to check with a medical professional about your serotonin levels if you are new to a sober living home.
What Medications Boost Serotonin
Your doctor may suggest that you go on SSRIs. This is a medication that increases serotonin levels. Some common examples of SSRIs include but are not limited to medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro.
Having a healthy amount of serotonin is crucial for good health, and having serotonin levels that are either too low or too high can have some serious negative health effects. However, there are treatments available for both. Therefore, if you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms associated with low or high serotonin levels then you should make an appointment with a qualified medical professional.