Symptoms of Serotonin Deficiency

By Tess Thompson

There is now a reasonable acceptance of the fact that the type of food that we eat can affect our emotional wellness. Out of the three neurotransmitters that are involved in promoting positive mood, serotonin is the one that is greatly affected by the food we eat. A steady serotonin level means that we remain in a positive mood while its deficiency may result in negative moods like:

  • Anxiety or excessive worry
  • Panic, fear and phobias
  • Pessimism
  • A tense state of mind accompanied by irritation and impatience
  • Obsession
  • Suicidal tendency
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Low self esteem
  • Emotional behaviors like anger and aggression
  • Insomnia or light sleep
  • Craving for sugar
  • Post menstrual syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Abhorrence of dark weather

Low serotonin levels may be caused due to genetic variations in alleles or due to acquired reasons. Two examples of genetic variations are worth mention here. Infants that are born with abnormal structure of serotonergic neurons are more vulnerable to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and serial killers are known to have constant low levels of serotonin.

Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining serotonin levels and a diet rich in serotonergic foods like walnuts, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables helps keep the requisite levels in place. Chicken and turkey are rich in Vitamin B6, which plays a vital role in the production of serotonin. However, there are other factors that may cause serotonin deficiency in the body. Among other, acquired reasons include the following:

  • Stress
  • Over exposure to plastics and chemicals
  • Lack of exposure to sunlight
  • Deficiency of serotonin precursors like tryptophan
  • Niacin deficiency as well as deficiency of other vitamins, minerals, and calcium
  • Insulin resistance
  • Progesterone deficinecy
  • Dimished flow of blood to the brain
  • Excessive use of antidepressants

Serotonin stored in platelets also behaves as a vasoconstrictor and prevents bleeding to aid in the healing process. Overdoses of serotonin can lead to pulmonary hypertension due to constriction of the pulmonary vessels. Serotonin may by itself cause the development of excess fibrous connective tissue in the heart when eaten in large quantities in diet.

A condition called serotonin syndrome is caused by extremely high levels of the neurotransmitter. It is practically not possible to reach an overdose through a single antidepressant but a combination of drugs like SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) can result in an overdose.

Serotonin levels can be brought to the desired levels by synthesized serotonin derived from its precursor, the amino acid tryptophan. But it is always better if medication can be avoided. Although the effect of diet on emotion is short lived, steady serotonin levels can be maintained by effective management of diet by regular consumption of foods containing serotonin.


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