What is serotonin deficiency?

Serotonin is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine(5-HT) and is best known for its role in the mood and behavior of a person.

Serotonin also impacts our sleep, appetite, digestion, and more. A low level of serotonin can affect your mental and physical fitness.

Serotonin deficiency arises when serotonin isn’t acting as it should in your body. This can occur if your body doesn’t produce enough serotonin or the serotonin generated isn’t used efficiently.

Scientists haven’t comprehended exactly how this serotonin works, what it does, and what causes low levels of serotonin in the body. They aren’t sure about the right levels of serotonin in the body and how these might vary from person to person.

Read the following to understand what serotonin deficiency is and how it can affect your body.

What is serotonin deficiency?

Serotonin deficiency is a complicated condition for which no diagnostic criteria or clear tests exist. It is generally discussed in terms of symptoms and not the exact levels that might bring it.

Serotonin deficiency is linked to many physical and psychological symptoms, but its exact role in any of them isn’t fully understood.

For instance, researchers continue to debate the link between serotonin and depression. The relationship between sleep and serotonin is uncertain. The researchers agree on one thing: that serotonin’s function in the human body is complicated and far-reaching.

Research has made it pretty clear that the overwhelming amount of serotonin in your body, which is 95%, is produced in the gastrointestinal(GI) tract. The remaining 5% is produced in your brain and acts as a neurotransmitter that transmits signals between the brain and nerve cells.

Research has shown that some of the serotonin produced in your gastrointestinal tract strides through your body in circulating platelets, or tiny blood cells, to help regulate important body processes;

  • Immune response
  • Cardiac function
  • Bone development
  • Digestion

What are the symptoms?

Serotonin deficiency may be a contributing factor in many psychological and physical symptoms.

Psychological symptoms

Serotonin deficiency is related to many psychological symptoms. Some of them are listed below:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression Mood
  • Aggression
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Dementia and cognitive decline.

A low level of serotonin can lead to various behavioral and emotional conditions, including:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Suicidal disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)
  • Anxiety about social situations

Serotonin has different effects on different people. For instance, a low level of serotonin wouldn’t affect a person who hadn’t been depressed, whereas those with a history of depression may.

Physical Symptoms

Many bodily processes increase because of serotonin activity, including:

  • Metabolism
  • Sleep
  • Blood clotting
  • Energy balance
  • Digestion
  • Sugar balance in the body
  • Cardiac function
  • Liver function
  • Immune system response
  • Pain production

Serotonin deficiency has been associated with many physical conditions, including:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gastrointestinal issues

What causes it?

Scientists are not confident about what causes serotonin deficiency. According to research, early life stressors can negatively affect the transport of serotonin in the body.

Some other research shows that the gut has microbes that help to produce serotonin. The production of serotonin is disturbed when the microbes or the bacteria in the gut are disturbed because of stress, disease, diet, or other causes.

Other potential causes of serotonin deficiency include:

  • Chronic stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Digestion issues
  • Certain drugs
  • Hormone changes
  • Lack of sunlight

The lower level of serotonin is also associated with a person’s particular biology, which may include:

  • Fewer or less effective serotonin receptors.
  • A body that breaks down serotonin or absorbs it too soon.
  • Low levels of substances used to produce serotonin, including L-tryptophan, vitamin D, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.

How is it diagnosed?

Medical professionals normally choose to treat the symptoms instead of diagnosing serotonin deficiency.

It is because serotonin deficiency is a complex condition, and it is difficult to trace its causes. It is often unclear whether the symptoms cause the deficiency or the deficiency causes the symptoms.

There is a test that can be used to check the level of serotonin in your blood, but professionals use it to check the tumors that produce serotonin outside the brain. Your blood level of serotonin doesn’t accurately reflect the amount in your brain.

Serotonin can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier(BBB). It is a semi-permeable barrier that surrounds your brain and lets some substances pass through but not others.

This means that serotonin in your brain must be produced in your brain. For this purpose, your body’s overall blood levels of serotonin are an uncertain measurement of the serotonin in your brain.

Urine tests are also equally unreliable measures of your brain. They measure the serotonin that your body is producing and the serotonin that is present in your body, but they don’t measure the amount of serotonin in your brain.

Doctors prescribe urine and blood tests for serotonin-producing tumors but not for serotonin deficiency.

It is best to work with medical help if you think you have symptoms of serotonin deficiency. Read on to learn about potential treatments.

How is it treated?

You will be seen by your doctor in one of the following ways:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are often the first-line treatment for symptoms of serotonin deficiency such as depression and anxiety.

SSRIs help the body use serotonin more efficiently. They don’t create more serotonin.

The body uses only a portion of serotonin, and some of the serotonin goes back into the cell from where it came. SSRIs block some of the reabsorptions of serotonin, leaving more available for the body to use.

SSRIs commonly used include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Natural remedies

SSRIs may take weeks to show their effects, and sometimes they may not work at all. They also come with some side effects that would be bothersome for you.

If SSRIs work, they are a good option. Sometimes, if one SSRI doesn’t work, another one will.

If SSRIs aren’t the best option for you, you might ask your doctor about one of the following options.

Mood induction

Mood induction is the practical experience in which you develop a positive vibe by accomplishing something you like or imagining something that relaxes your mind. Music, films, and imagery are standard methods.


According to the research, physical activity increases the brain’s serotonin level.

Regular exercise is helpful, but aerobic exercises are considered a more effective type of exercise for increasing serotonin levels. Aerobic exercise includes:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Swimming


A diet high in tryptophan may increase your serotonin levels in the body. Tryptophan is the essential amino acid required to produce serotonin.

Considerable amounts of tryptophan won’t be absorbed in the brain from foods. Taking in a variety of foods with tryptophan can make a difference, particularly when combined with healthy carbs like whole grains.

Other substances that may promote the production of serotonin in the body include:

  • Vitamin D
  • B vitamins
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Bright light

According to the research, there is a boost in the level of serotonin in your brain when you are exposed to bright light, such as from the sun.

The bottom line:

Serotonin deficiency has a far-reaching effect on both physical and mental health. It is still unclear how serotonin is produced and used in our body; after 70 years of research by the scientist you think you have serotonin deficiency, talk with a doctor, and he will help you decide the best treatment for you.

Natural remedies are a great option to consider. Some natural remedies include adding more sunlight, certain foods, and aerobic exercise to your lifestyle.

Serotonin deficiency is a complex condition, and a medical professional is the best person to counsel you through it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is serotonin deficiency?

Serotonin is best known for the part it plays in mood and behavior. It affects our sleep, appetite, digestion, etc. Low levels can have wide-ranging effects on your body.

How Does Serotine Deficiency Occur?

Serotonin deficiency occurs when serotonin isn’t acting well in your body. This can arise when your body isn’t producing serotonin, or the serotonin being produced isn’t being used efficiently.

Which body functions does serotonin help to regulate?

Serotonin in your gastrointestinal tract moves through the body in circulating platelets, or tiny blood cells, to help regulate immune response, bone development, digestion, and cardiac functions.

What are some of the symptoms of serotonin deficiency?

The deficiency of serotonin shows psychological and physical symptoms. Psychological symptoms can include anxiety, depression, aggression, and insomnia. Physical symptoms include obesity, diabetes, fatigue, and cardiovascular disease.

What can be caused by a low level of serotonin deficiency?

Low levels of serotonin are correlated with numerous behavioral and emotional conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, suicidal behavior, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

What are the causes of serotonin deficiency?

Some potential causes of serotonin deficiency include chronic stress, digestion issues, nutritional deficiencies, certain drugs, lack of sunlight, and hormone changes.

How Can We Treat Serotine Deficiency?

You can treat serotonin deficiency with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRI) and natural remedies. Natural remedies may include mood induction, exercise, proper diet, and exposure to bright light.

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