Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects most brain cells. Related to numerous functions, including emotions, moods, sleep, memory and appetite, serotonin also affects the muscles, as well as the body's endocrine and cardiovascular systems. When the body is functioning normally, tryptophan, which is an amino acid, converts to 5-hydroxytryptophan, which converts to serotonin. Your doctor can order tests to determine whether or not you have low serotonin levels and can advise you on treatments.
Symptoms and Causes of Low Serotonin
Symptoms of low serotonin levels include depression, insomnia, anxiety, negative thinking, obesity, pain and migraine headaches. Causes of low serotonin include nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, hormone imbalances, inadequate sunlight, lack of exercise, stress, digestive problems, infections, inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, smoking and alcohol use.
Ways to Boost Serotonin
Some potential ways to boost serotonin levels are to exercise at least a few times a week, be exposed to light, manage your stress effectively, indulge in relaxation, get adequate sleep and make changes to your diet. Foods that may help increase serotonin include turkey, chicken, salmon, avocado, baked potato, walnuts, chickpeas, lentils, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Not only is it important to eat the right foods, it is also important to eat them frequently throughout the day.
- Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience: How to Increase Serotonin in the Human Brain Without Drugs
- San Diego State University: Intro to the Brain--Neurotransmitter--What Is a Neurotransmitter?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)--Overview
- Integrative Psychiatry: Serotonin