Are You Suffering from Low Serotonin? Understand the Symptoms & What You Can Do About It

by Mia Lundin on February 13, 2012

Did you know that serotonin imbalance is one of the most common contributors to mood disorders?

Did you also know that some experts believe that low serotonin has become a virtual epidemic in Western society?

In fact, SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly called antidepressants, which are prescribed to treat mood disorders by targeting serotonin levels, are now a multi-billion dollar industry.

Antidepressants are Big Business

According to IMS Health, between 1996 and 2007, non-mental health physicians who wrote prescriptions for antidepressants rose from 59.5% to 72.7%.  Also according to IMS Health, in 2010 alone, $11 billion dollars were spent on antidepressants.  That breaks down to $30 million, 136 thousand, 986 dollars per day spent on antidepressants in 2010 – a staggering number.

What is even more disturbing, is that many, far too many of those sales and prescriptions were to women suffering from mood disorders associated with hormone imbalance. Physicians prescribe antidepressants to women struggling with hormone imbalance at an alarming rate.  And it certainly doesn’t help when the FDA funds a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association supporting the practice.

But is this necessary?  Are antidepressants really the best solution for women who are suffering with hormone imbalance?  Some researchers and medical professionals believe they are.   However, I do not.  Treating hormone imbalance as if it is a psychiatric illness sends a message of shame and guilt to women.  Furthermore, if a woman believes that her mood disorders are rooted in unstable or irrational behavior, she will not seek the kind of help she needs to properly address her symptoms.

If you are suffering from mood disorders brought on by hormone imbalance, you do not need to feel ashamed or embarrassed.  You are not suffering from a psychiatric disorder, and you are not mentally unstable or irrational.  It is your brain chemistry that is out of balance, and treating the imbalance with foods, supplements, and hormones is by far the best solution!

Serotonin – The Brain Chemical of Well-Being & Happiness

Serotonin is one of fifty different neurotransmitters in your nervous system.  It is also a key chemical which contributes to your feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin defends against depression and anxiety, and also promotes feelings of relaxation, peace, hope, and optimism. On the other hand, if serotonin levels become unbalanced, the result can be a variety of emotional and mood disorders.

If serotonin levels are too low, for example, you may feel highly emotional and distressed.  You could also experience insomnia, rage, irritability, racing, panicky thoughts, anxiety, headaches, intestinal distress, and even alcohol cravings.

What Causes Serotonin Imbalance?

Many things can cause serotonin levels to become imbalanced: chronic stress, improper diet, and hormone fluctuations.  During times of PMS, perimenopause, and menopause, for example, when women experience unpleasant symptoms such as mood swings, rages, and depression, it is not just fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels which are causing the symptoms, but fluctuating serotonin levels as well.

How to Raise Serotonin Levels Naturally

Estrogen is one of the first places to begin to naturally raise and balance serotonin levels. Estrogen is a natural antidepressant and mood stabilizer which works in direct concert with serotonin.  That is, when estrogen levels go up, serotonin levels go up as well.  Conversely, when estrogen levels go down, serotonin levels also go down. By balancing a woman’s estrogen levels, you are creating a chemical environment which supports serotonin function and production.

Estrogen makes tryptophan more available in the brain.  Acquired from food sources such as turkey and milk, tryptophan is an important amino acid and a basic building block of serotonin. Estrogen also increases the efficiency of serotonin receptors, making more serotonin available in your body. In turn, serotonin also allows for adequate estrogen production by the ovaries, which creates a positive, perpetuating cycle that maintains healthy levels of both estrogen and serotonin.

Amino Acids such as 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) will also naturally raise serotonin levels in the brain. Produced from tryptophan, 5-HTP is converted into serotonin.  Some people erroneously believe that since 5-HTP is naturally produced from tryptophan found in our foods, eating more foods will naturally increase 5-HTP production.  But, that is not true.  What will increase 5-HTP is supplementing.

Extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia plant, 5-HTP as a supplement is one step closer metabolically to serotonin.  That is, the process of converting from tryptophan to 5-HTP, and then to serotonin, is shortened when we supplement directly with 5-HTP rather than first acquiring tryptophan through food.

I Can Help!

I have used natural and healthy solutions such as 5-HTP, for over 15 years in my clinical practice to help patients suffering from mood disorders. Many women come to me at the end of their rope; stressed, agitated, and suffering with negative symptoms from antidepressants and other drugs.

Introducing 5-HTP as a supplement, in addition to addressing any possible estrogen deficiency or dietary issues, has enabled them to naturally raise their serotonin levels and free them from antidepressants and other unhealthy drugs.

If you are suffering with mood disorders and wish to be free of drugs and antidepressants, I can help you too!  Contact me or one of my staff here at The Center for Hormonal and Nutritional Balance .  We can help you take your life back and restore emotional and physical harmony and balance!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven February 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm

This is one of the best article regarding Serotonin that I read on all the internet.

Great job Mia!

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Elise Koelsch February 25, 2012 at 11:06 am

Very well written,You are the best

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Jamie August 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I came off the contraceptive pill 4 years ago then 3 months later I developed chronic ibs..!!! It’s got worse and worse.. And havnt had a period since.. I have low estrogen levels… I’ve told the hospital my ibs and loss of periods came on when I stopped the pill… I’m in agony with painful spasms in the intestines all the time.. I need to raise my estrogen and serotonin levels and think this will control my ibs and will have a period.. Can you help please jamie x

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Mikayla November 3, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I think it’s really important for people, especially women, to know their options when it comes to mental health. Treating hormone imbalance as if it is mental illness seems unnecessary and counterproductive. On the other hand, there are people who do truly benefit from pharmaceuticals and, in the same way that shaming can be applied to women’s behavior during their periods, I wouldn’t want people to think that there is a shame or weakness in being treated for a true neurological chemical imbalance with appropriate medications. I liked the article. I also found that when I went off my birth control, my estrogen levels lowered and I felt strange. I wish doctors had a better understanding of what that felt like so women were more prepared.

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Marty November 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm

The more I read the more I realize. When I started being treated when I was 18 they knew these things then that they know now. Although very few physicians even seem to really be up to date on this. I feel I have to advocate for my own health and I have an MD that is very resistant to this. Very hard to find a good physician in my area any longer due to insurance issues and they just aren’t what they used to be.

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Marty November 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I meant to say I wish then knew then what they know now.. My mind thinks faster than I can type. Sorry.

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Marty November 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I give up do you get the gist of it. See I’m not thinking clearly. LOL

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