Do You Have Low Serotonin Levels?
It is all too common in our society to deal with a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps us to feel good. It has been called by many the “happy molecule” for its role in helping to create a positive mood. This article will help you discover if you have lower serotonin levels and natural strategies to boost your serotonin levels naturally.
Serotonin is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps us with impulse control and pain relief. It also is a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin and plays a very important role in good sleep (1). Although serotonin plays a very important role in the brain, 95% of the serotonin in the body is produced in the intestines, which are called the second brain (2).
Many experts consider serotonin more of a hormone than a neurotransmitter because its effects impact the entire body. Low serotonin levels have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia (3, 4).
In addition, low serotonin can increase the severity of other health problems such as migraine headaches, asthma and fibromyalgia (5, 6, 7). When its production in the gut drops, it can be a major contributor to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (8). Do you have any of the following symptoms of low serotonin levels?
Which Neurotransmitter is to Blame?
Both serotonin and the neurotransmitter dopamine as well as endorphins play a role in mood and overall sense of well-being. When dopamine is low, the individual will have slower movements and low overall drive toward goals. They can also develop Parkinson’s like symptoms.
When individuals are not producing endorphins, they will have chronic pain and lack of pleasure in anything they do. Individuals with low endorphins will also have trouble controlling their emotions and will tear up very quickly.
When an individual is deficient in both dopamine and serotonin they will often experience a combination of depression, slowness of movement, lack of drive, compulsive behaviors and cravings. These individuals will commonly turn to sugar, smoking, drugs, sex and other vice’s in order to cope with stress.
Individuals with fibromyalgia are often marked by a deficiency in dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Although poor serotonin signaling symptoms are wide ranging with lots of cross over between sexes, they are twice as likely to impact males and females in the following ways.
Men who are low in serotonin are more likely to experience problems with ADHD, addictions (such as alcoholism, sex and pornography, smoking, or food addictions) and trouble with impulse control that can express itself with uncontrollable anger, rudeness or other socially unacceptable behaviors.
Response to Anti-Depressants:
The response to anti-depressants is often good as most of these are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which act to increase serotonin activity in the brain. This NEVER gets to the cause of the low serotonin, but can improve symptoms for a period of time.
When clients tell me they started on an SSRI and saw improvement in their symptoms, I begin to consider low serotonin production and utilization efficiency as a major factor in their health condition.
Individuals who struggle with low serotonin and normalized levels of other major neurotransmitters should respond favorably when trying SSRI’s. Individuals who don’t respond to SSRI’s typically have issues with low dopamine and endorphins.
I do want to strongly caution against using SSRI’s as a long-term health strategy as these have tremendous side effects and can be addictive and hard to wean off of.
Response to Melatonin:
Serotonin is the precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. Individuals who struggle with insomnia but see improvement when they take melatonin are most likely deficient in serotonin (10).
Taking a melatonin supplement can be extremely helpful, but the long-term solution is to improve natural serotonin production as described further in this article.
What Reduces Serotonin Levels:
Here are the biggest lifestyle factors involved in reducing serotonin levels in both the gut and the brain. In order to optimize your serotonin levels, you want to address these major issues.
Testing For Serotonin Deficiency
The way that I and many functional health practitioners look at serotonin levels is through symptom questionnaire’s and an organic acid test. If a client is demonstrating many of the symptoms listed above that are associated with low serotonin than the organic acid test would be warranted.
The organic acid test is a urine test that will look at a biomarker called 5-HIAA (5-Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid). This is the metabolite of the neurotransmitter serotonin. High levels can result with serotonin supplements (5-HTP) and low levels can indicate a need for more serotonin production.
Natural Strategies to Boost Serotonin Levels
- Healthy Sun Exposure: The sunlight stimulates serotonin production. The best time for this is in the morning and around the middle of the day. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is due to a lack of sunlight exposure that dramatically lowers serotonin production (12).
- Get in the Dirt: Microbes in the soil have been shown to increase serotonin levels. This is why gardening is one of the best hobbies for your mood. Going to the beach and getting in the sand works great too! (13)
- Regular Exercise: Get moving! Walking, running and resistance training all help to boost up serotonin levels. Exercise beats anti-depressant medications in every clinical trial.
- Cultivate Gratitude: Focusing on positive thoughts has been shown to increase the brain’s serotonin levels. Decide to stay upbeat in spite of your circumstances.
- Prayer and Meditation: Focused breathing, empathy and the ability to control your thoughts through meditation and prayer will help you make life so much more enjoyable.
Best Serotonin Boosting Foods
There is a lot of information on the web about foods that boost serotonin, however, we want to avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates that throw off our blood sugar. The best foods for optimizing serotonin levels include:
Best Supplements For Boosting Serotonin
There are many herbs that naturally boost serotonin, but these compounds are the some of the most effective and well-researched.
- 5-HTP: This is the best molecule for boosting serotonin levels naturally. It is easy for the body to convert 5-HTP into serotonin.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids: These are anti-inflammatory and have a positive effect on brain health The best choice is a purified fish oil that is high in the fatty acids EPA and DHA.
- Magnesium: This helps to modulate stress hormone levels in the brain, which can have a direct impact on neurotransmitter levels. The best choice is a magnesium that crosses the blood barrier. The best is magnesium malate, glycinate and threonate. We recommend brain calm magnesium
- B Complex: Getting a pre-activated form of B vitamins can be extremely effective. We recommend B Strong.
- L-Theanine: L-Theanine is a naturally occurring, biologically active, free-form amino acid that provides relaxation support by supporting neurotransmitter levels.
- Rhodiola: This adaptogenic herb acts as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor in that it blocks the enzymes in the body that break down serotonin. This keeps more serotonin acting in the brain and body. Begin with 100 mg – 1x per day and if you feel good than go up to 100-200 mg – 2x per day.
- SAM-e: The supplement (S-adenosyl methionine) is commonly purchased at health food stores as a means to treat depression. This can be dangerous! Before taking SAM-e, you should know whether you have unique single nucleotide polymorphisms leading to under or overmethylation. Undermethylators will have lower SAM-e levels and will benefit from supplementing while overmethylators can cause more harm. Be sure you are working with a physician trained in proper SAM-e supplementation if you plan on using.
- St Johns Wort: St John’s wort acts to block the reuptake of serotonin and increases the amount of receptors. Proper dosage: 300 mg – 3x daily
Dr Jockers Supplement Recommendations:
The most common neurotransmitter deficiency I find is a lack of serotonin production. I see this on organic acid tests all the time. I think this has to do with the level of stress we are under and the epidemic of leaky gut syndrome.
I recommend following a number of the strategies, including healing the gut, balancing blood sugar and reducing stress. My main supplement I use to improve Serotonin levels is Mood Protect, however, I will usually combine it with a blend of other supplements including the following.
Brain Calm Magnesium:
This is a specific form of magnesium is the only form of magnesium proven in animal studies to cross the blood-brain barrier. Boosting the brain’s magnesium level is vital to healthy cognition, which includes long- and short-term memory, learning, stress management and sleep.
Normal Dosage: 1 scoop – 1x daily
Advanced Dosage: 2 scoop – 2-3x daily
This formula provides clinical dosages of vitamin B6, rhodiola and cordyceps. This formula provides useful support for both hyper and hypofunction of the adrenals. Hyperfunction is when the adrenals are overproducing hormones, such as cortisol, and hypofunction is the opposite, when the adrenals are under producing.
Normal Dosage: Take 1 cap – 2x daily
Advanced Dosage: Take 2 caps – 2x daily
Combination of herbs, nutrients and compounds that promote serotonin and GABA production to ease anxiety and improve overall mood and sleep. This product has clinical dosages of GABA, taurine, L-theanine and 5-HTP. This also contains small amounts of zinc, B6 and magnesium to improve natural production.
Normal Dosage: Take 1 cap – 2 times daily (away from meals)
Advanced Dosage: Take 2 caps – 2 times daily (away from meals)
Anxiety Summit: Gut-Brain Axis:
ANXIETY has become the defining mental health issue of our decade — with or without a diagnosis — women are affected at twice the rate of men, and more children and young adults are now stressed and anxious more than ever before. Join us to learn nutritional solutions!
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to a threat. However, more people than ever before find themselves far-too-frequently in a state of chronic stress and anxiety. To make it worse, most have no idea there are options other than drugs to address it.
They’re NEVER told that poor gut-health could be a root cause, instead they continue thinking their anxiety is much TOO SEVERE for nutrition to be the solution — this potential root cause MUST be explored, join me to learn why!
I encourage you to register for this health event, especially if you have:
● Anxiety and feel overwhelmed and stressed by little things
● Panic attacks and/or obsessive thoughts or behaviors
● Social anxiety/pyroluria
● Phobias or fears (flying, spiders or even driving on a highway)
● Food sensitivities, IBS/SIBO, parasites or gallbladder issues
● Constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, pain and other digestive issues
● Leaky gut, a leaky blood-brain barrier or vagus nerve issues
● Loved ones or clients/patients with any of the above issues
It’s time to learn all the ways poor gut health could trigger anxiety. With research-based solutions and practical steps, you can determine your root causes, ease your anxiety and prevent it from coming back so you can feel on top of the world again!
You will also want to hear my presentation on Fasting for Anxiety and Gut Health. —>>Click here to join me at The Anxiety Summit (free & online)!
Your host is Food Mood Expert and certified nutritionist Trudy Scott. She is the author of The Antianxiety Food Solution and she educates anxious individuals about nutritional solutions for anxiety. This is her fifth Anxiety Summit, featuring all new topics and the latest research related to the gut-brain axis.
You’ll often hear that “all disease begins in the gut,” and it’s true that gut issues are often a root cause of anxiety. In fact, addressing gut health is part of the growing field of nutritional psychiatry. Trudy has interviewed amazing practitioners, who will share their gut-brain solutions, such as:
+ The magic of the microbiome
+ Importance of bile quality
+ Vagus nerve activation for gut/brain health, methylation and B12 polymorphisms
+ The role of GABA and tryptophan
+ How collagen can actually increase anxiety in some individuals
+ And so much more!
At The Anxiety Summit, you’ll hear from experts on parasites, mitochondrial health, a compound called PQQ and much more. One of the fabulous things about Trudy is that she’s a research geek, so she will always discuss the research as well as the practical aspects, like how to use a castor oil pack and how to make delicious herbal teas to improve your digestion.
When you balance your brain chemistry, not only will you alleviate symptoms of anxiety, you’ll also have a great mood, eliminate cravings, sleep well and have good energy and mental focus.
Learn to balance brain chemistry with targeted individual amino acid supplements and quickly alleviate anxiety, fear, worry, panic attacks and feeling stressed or overwhelmed, when you…