Serotonin Deficiency: What We Do and Don’t Know

Serotonin Deficiency Test

The serotonin deficiency test is a simple blood test which measures your levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). Your body produces its own version of the neurotransmitter, but it’s not enough to keep you feeling well. You need regular doses from other sources, like food or supplements. The best way to boost your brain’s production of serotonin is through diet and supplementation.

Your level of 5-HT determines whether you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, mania, psychosis or obsessive compulsive disorder. If you have any of these conditions, then the proper amount of serotonin will make all the difference in your life.

How Does Serotonin Affect Me?

Depression: Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression. Depression is characterized by sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy and feelings of worthlessness. While there are many causes for low serotonin levels, one of them is insufficient dietary intake. Foods high in tryptophan and tyrosine may improve mood. For example, eating turkey bacon or eggs daily may help you feel better than drinking a glass of wine every now and then.

Anxiety: Anxiety disorders are often caused by low serotonin levels. Commonly, people with anxiety disorders will feel the effects of a panic attack. During a panic attack, you may experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness and/or nausea. The best way to treat serotonin levels is through diet and exercise. Getting your body in motion and consuming foods like bananas, pumpkin seeds, oats and coconut oil can help.

Always check with your physician before beginning any new diet or exercise routine.

Insomnia: Not being able to get enough sleep can ruin your productivity at work and make you feel miserable the rest of the time. Poor or insufficient rest can cause low serotonin levels, which in turn can cause anxiety and depression. Try supplementing your diet with tryptophan-rich foods and exercising regularly to improve serotonin levels. However, if you’re still not sleeping well, you may need to see a medical professional for treatment.

Mood Swings: Mood swings are another condition related to low serotonin levels. If you suffer from extreme mood swings, especially if the mood swings are not associated with any sort of hormonal changes, it could be due to low serotonin levels. Moreover, in some cases birth control pills can also lead to mood swings. In this case, try supplementing your diet with foods high in tryptophan. If this doesn’t help, talk to your doctor about other options.

Nausea: Nausea is a feeling of unease and discomfort in your stomach. If you feel nausea, you should look at your diet to see what you’ve eaten that might be causing it. For example, if you’ve eaten foods high in tyramine, this can cause you to feel nauseous. Tyramine is a type of amino acid that breaks down into a toxic chemical that can make you sick. It’s most commonly found in aged or spoiled food, such as aged cheese, sour cream, smoked fish and others.

If you eat a lot of these types of foods on a regular basis, try taking a supplement that contains L-tyrosine to balance out your diet.

Serotonin Deficiency: Low levels of serotonin can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia and other mood disorders. Unlike dopamine deficiency, low levels of serotonin cannot be treated with medication. In this case, increasing your intake of foods rich in tryptophan can help to improve your mood. Tryptophan can be found in foods such as turkey, bananas, cottage cheese, chicken and peanuts. Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or starting an exercise routine.

Tingling Sensation: You may feel a tingling sensation somewhere in your body. For example, you may feel tingling in your hands or feet. This sensation is commonly a sign of low magnesium, which occurs when not enough magnesium is in your body. Magnesium helps your muscles, nerves and bones function properly. If you feel a tingling sensation, eat more foods that are rich in magnesium, such as dark green leafy vegetables, brown rice, pumpkin seeds and halibut.

Alternatively, you can take a magnesium supplement to help relieve the tingling feeling.

Tips for Increasing Serotonin Naturally

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in your mood and your sleep cycle. When you don’t get enough of it, you can feel depressed, stressed and anxious. There are many things you can do to increase your serotonin levels naturally, such as getting more exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest.

Exercise: Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind. A daily walk can increase your serotonin levels, making you happier and less stressed. Physical activity boosts endorphins in the body, which also act as natural painkillers and boost moods.

Try to get at least 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity every day. If you’re not used to being active, start slowly and build up your endurance over time. You should also ensure you’re consuming enough nutrients, such as 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.

Diet: Serotonin is produced from foods containing the amino acid tryptophan. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more serotonin your body produces. Carbohydrates include breads, pastas, fruits and vegetables. When choosing your carbohydrates, try to stick with whole grain varieties, as they contain more fiber and nutrients.

If you aren’t getting enough carbohydrates in your daily diet, your body starts to break down proteins to make up the deficit. While this isn’t harmful on a short-term basis, if you don’t get enough carbohydrates, your body will start breaking down vital organs and muscle tissue. This leads to weakness, weight loss and an increased risk of infection.

Rest: Many people with mood disorders feel driven to be productive all the time. However, it’s important to allow yourself to take a break every now and then. Rest is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, so don’t feel guilty about taking time to relax every now and then. Even a short nap can improve your mood and productivity after you wake up.

Lifestyle Changes: Your serotonin levels can also be increased through positive lifestyle changes. One of the most important lifestyle changes you can make is to eliminate things that cause stress in your life. This may include toxic relationships with people who drain you, a job that is stressful or an environment that is dangerous.

It may seem impossible to eliminate all of your stressors. If this is the case for you, it may help to take up meditation or yoga. Both of these practices have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. They can also improve your mood by increasing your awareness of the present moment and teaching you how to let go of negative thoughts.

Treating the Underlying Condition: Most people with mood disorders such as depression also have a serotonin imbalance. This means that no matter what you do, you’re likely to still experience depressed or anxious feelings. If this is the case for you, it’s very important to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask to be referred to a psychiatrist. Many medical professionals can treat depression with prescription medications.

Antidepressants are especially effective in treating serotonin deficiencies.

With treatment and time, you can live a happy and fulfilled life. Be patient with yourself and let go of your expectations. Your dreams won’t all come true in a day. You should also try to be kind to yourself. Mistakes are going to be made, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

Be kind to yourself and forgive others who have wronged you.

Most importantly, try to fill your life with experiences. Remember that experiences make you who you are, so try new things and go out of your way to explore. Some of your experiences will be painful, but they’re necessary for growth. Other experiences will be exciting, but they won’t last. No matter what happens, always remember that you are worthy of love and happiness.

Seeking Help

Most people feel severe anxiety or depression at some point during their lives. These feelings usually don’t last long and can be treated with exercise, therapy or medication. If you feel like your mental illness is getting worse and is preventing you from living your life to the fullest, make an appointment with a psychiatrist. You can find one by looking in the yellow pages or by asking your family doctor for a referral.

Setting Appointments: When you call to make an appointment, be prepared with information about yourself. This will make the process go more smoothly. Be ready to tell when your mood swings happen. If they are predictable, say once a month, then say this. If they are less predictable, like before school or after a breakup, then say this as well.

Also be ready to answer questions like:

Do you have any suicidal thoughts?

This is very important. If you say yes, then be ready to answer more questions about it.

What is the longest stretch between your episodes of mania or depression?

Are there any factors that trigger your episodes? For example, are there certain times of the year when your depression gets worse or do you get anxious after drinking coffee?

The more you can tell the psychiatrist about your symptoms, the better he will be able to help you.

What to Expect from Your First Appointment: During your first appointment, the psychiatrist will most likely take your health history and ask you questions about your symptoms. He or she is gathering information in order to diagnose you with the correct condition. Some of these questions might be very personal and intrusive. Try not to take it personally; psychiatrists have to ask these questions in order to help you.

Diagnosing You: After your appointment, the psychiatrist will do some research in order to determine a diagnosis. A diagnosis is a medical term that basically means, “this is what’s wrong with you.” For example, a person with really high blood pressure has hypertension. The word “hypertension” is the diagnosis.

The reason why it’s necessary to come up with a diagnosis is so that the psychiatrist can prescribe the correct medications and treatment plan for you.

Prescribing Medication: If the psychiatrist determines that you need medication, he or she will most likely write you a prescription and refer you to a medical doctor (called a physician) for follow-up. The physician will monitor your condition and most likely change your dosage depending on how your body reacts to the medication.

Usually, your psychiatrist will follow up with you after a couple of appointments to see how you’re doing and change your medication as needed.

Going to therapy: Along with medication, it’s important that you also see a therapist on a regular basis. A good therapist will teach you coping skills that will help you through times of crisis, as well as give you tools to help you make healthy choices in life. So don’t try to avoid therapy, go at least once a week.

Family Support: It is very important that your family understands your condition and helps you when you are going through a rough time. If they don’t understand, make an effort to educate them.

Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long-term process that requires dedication and patience on your part. However, by working with your psychiatrist and therapist, you will be able to take steps toward recovery–one day at a time.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

These are the main types of mental health professionals:

I Psychiatrist

This is a medical doctor (M.D.) who has additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication. They can take a medical history, perform physical exams, and order lab tests.

Depending on their area of specialization, they may also perform things like EKGs, EEGs, and brain scans.

II Psychiatric Nurse

This is a nurse (either RN or R.N.) who has received special training in mental health diagnosis and treatment. Psychiatric nurses can perform a physical exam (such as checking your pulse, temperature, breathing, and reflexes), take your medical history, and order lab tests. However, they cannot prescribe medication.

III Counselor or Therapist

These are people with degrees in fields such as psychology, social work, or human services. They are not medical doctors and therefore cannot prescribe medication. However, they can still help you by developing a treatment plan to assist you in dealing with your condition and making long-term changes in your lifestyle.

IV Social Worker

This is a person who has received at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (B.S.W). They can help you find a therapist or a support group and offer you an emotional support system.

The main goal of treatment is to reduce your symptoms and help you lead a more normal life. The treatment approach is different for everyone, since everyone is different. The treatments that have proven most effective are:

O Medication management

This involves taking medications prescribed by your psychiatrist or physician. The drugs prescribed will vary depending on your specific condition, but the goal of this treatment is to regulate the chemical balance in your brain.

O Individual therapy

This involves meeting one-on-one with a trained mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or counselor. The therapist will ask you questions about your condition and life in general in an effort to help you discover strengths as well as weaknesses. Based on the information you provide, the therapist will help you create an action plan to improve your situation.

O Group therapy

This involves meeting with a group of people who share common issues or problems. As a group, you will discuss your feelings, and the therapist will lead the discussion. Group therapy gives you the chance to talk about your situation with people who understand what you’re going through. This often relieves feelings of isolation and reduces the stress of trying to hide your mental illness from others. It can also help replace old, unhealthy habits with new, positive ones.

O Couples therapy

This involves both you and your romantic partner meeting with a trained mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or counselor. The therapist will help you learn how to improve communication with your partner and work through any disputes you may have as a couple. This approach is especially helpful for couples in which one person in the relationship has an anxiety disorder or depression.

O Psychodrama

This involves acting out situations and feelings with the help of a mental health professional. This therapy helps you gain a better understanding of your thoughts and feelings, which can in turn help you make changes for the better.

O Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This is a treatment approach that was designed to help people with depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. During EMDR, you are asked to recall a negative memory.