Serotonin is a naturally ocurring chemical in the brain, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating brain function such as mood, appetite, sleep and memory. It does by balancing any excitatory firing of the brain so is therefore known as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
When I talk "emotional health" with clients I often say that emotional/psycological problems can come from a biochemical imbalance or a psychological one or even both. By balancing their biochemistry a person can improve a lot. Our job as naturopaths is to try and balance biochemistry as naturally as we can and educate people on how to achieve this. We also refer clients to professional counsellors/ psychologists/psychotherapists as I am a huge fan of the right psychological guidance and support to help us cope with the many stresses of daily life. Everyone can benefit from learning strategies to cope with issues life presents to us at times.
LOW SEROTONIN SYMPTOMS
- negative depression - pessimistic, gloomy distrustful and cynical
- sugar cravings
- waking at night not able to go back to sleep
- low self esteem
- false fear- worried, apprehensive, panic, phobia
- aggression - violent behaviours
- suicidal thoughts
- impulsive behaviours - over eating, alcohol abuse
- fibromyalgia, TMJ issues, migraines, obesity, asthma
HIGH SEROTONIN OR SEROTONIN SYNDROME
- aggitation or restlessness
- dilated pupils
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of muscle coordination or twitching muscles
- heavy sweating
- shivering or goose bumps
- changes in blood pressure
MEDICATIONS THAT INCREASE SEROTONIN AND TO BE WEARY OF WITH TOO MUCH SEROTONIN
* Serotonin syndrome usually occurs when a person is given an antidepressant used specifically to increase the Serotonin. Here are a list of medications( orthodox and natural) that increase Serotonin:
- SSRI like Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft
- SNRI like Cymbalta, Effexor, Pristiq and Fetzima
- MAOI like Parnate, Marplan, Nardil and Emsam
- Antibiotic called Linezolid( Zyvox)
- St Johns Wart
- Cough Medicines - Benadryl and Dimetapp
- Migraine Medications like Sumatriptan( Imigran, Sumagran, Sumatab, Suvalan)
Rizatriptan - Maxalt
Naratriptan - Naramig
Eletriptan - Relpax
Zolmitriptan - Zomig
- Mood Stabilizers - Lithium - Liticarb, Quilonum
- Parkinson' Medications - Selegiline - Eldepryl, Selgene
Rasagiline - Azilect
- Strong Pain Medications - Fentanyl - Actiq lozenge, Denpax patched, Durogesic patches
Tramadol - Lodam, Durotram, Tramal, Tramedo, Zydol
- Weight Loss Medications - Phentermine - Duromine, Metermine
Sibutrmine - Ectiva, Reductil
- Amino Acid - Tryptophan - 5HTP, Proxam, SAD
OTHER WAYS TO NATURALLY INCREASE SEROTONIN
Scientists have discovered other ways to increase Serotonin, for example exposure to bright light. This is why you see more flat moods or seasonal effective disorders in the winter months.
Exercise increases brain Serotonin levels in the human brain. It has been seen to increase the Serotonin precurser Tryptophan.
Diet -Purified Tryptophan can increase brain Serotonin but Tryptophan in foods does NOT increase brain Serotonin according to research. It used to be rumoured that eating turkey could increase brain Serotonin but this has since proved false.
How Is Serotonin connected to your Stomach?
Serotonin is important for the brain but it is also important for the gut. The gut has an independent enteric nervous system. One hundred million nerve cells are distributed throughout the intestines. This is why you can get nervy in the stomach or butterflys. Serotonin is one of the important neurotransmitters in the lining of the gut. It is said that your gut creates 95 percent of your Serotonin. In the gut Serotonin can change how fast food moves thru, how much fluid is secreted and how sesitive the gut is to pain and fullness. For instance a person with constipation, or IBS can often have a lower Serotonin level. But people with diarrhea and IBS are more likely to have high Serotonin levels. It has been found that people with fibromyalgia often have lower Serotonin levels, so this shows that Serotonin is important in gut function and not just associated with moods.
This is an example of the more we know the more we do not know. Does the mind affect the gut or does the gut affect the mind. It makes you look more at the effect of the microbiome on Serotonin levels. I believe it to be a two way street and that they both affect each other.
If you feel you have concerns about your Serotonin levels please discuss this with your practitioner.