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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What Serotonin is and How It Works?


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Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.

Serotonin is a product of a chemical produced in the nerve cells. It transmits signals between nerve cells, and larger concentration of serotonin can be found in the digestive system, central nervous system and also in the blood platelets.


Serotonin is produced from essential amino acid tryptophan. This acid enters our body through the foods we eat. Foods like red meat, cheese, and nuts can give off amino acid that produces serotonin.

Reduced amount of amino acid tryptophan can lead to lower levels of serotonin, causing depression, anxiety, and ultimately, mood disorders.

Work of serotonin

Serotonin affects every areas of the body including your motor skills to your emotions. It is commonly termed a natural mood stabilizer. It’s the natural chemical responsible for eating, digestion, and sleeping.

Serotonin is very important that it also helps with the following;

1. Mood

The presence of serotonin in the brain is believed to help with our mood, anxiety, and happiness. A reduced level of this happy chemical in our body has been linked with depression and mood swings. However, medically increasing the levels of serotonin decreases arousal.

2. Bowel movements

Since serotonin is present in the body’s intestines and stomach, it is known to help control bowel movements and managing its overall functions.

3. Sleep

Serotonin amongst other things, also helps to stimulate the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling how we sleep and wake. Your sleeping and waking up solely depends on what area is triggered and which serotonin receptors are stimulated.

4. Clotting

Wounds get naturally covered through the process of blood clotting, and this happens when serotonin are released by blood platelets to aid in type healing of wounds.

Tiny arteries become narrow through the help of the serotonin released to help with the formation of blood clot.


5. Nausea

It is believed that serotonin is responsible for why we get nauseated. In cases where we have diarrhea, serotonin helps to push out foods that might upset us.

The chemical is also multiplied in the blood, helping to stimulate the area in the brain that manages nausea.

6. Sexual function

Reduced level of serotonin has been linked with improved libido, while the increased level of serotonin is said to be responsible for minimized libido.

7. Bone health

The health of your bones is determined the level of serotonin in the body. Excess amount of serotonin can cause osteoporosis, which is the weakness of the bones.

The effect of serotonin on mental health

Your mood is naturally regulated by serotonin. You may feel the following when your serotonin levels are averagely normal;

  • Calmer
  • Happier
  • Fully focused
  • Emotionally balanced
  • Less anxious

A study carried out in 2007, found that individuals suffering from depression had reduced levels of serotonin, and may also suffer from insomnia and anxiety.

There’s be some debate about the effect of serotonin on mental health. Researchers have wondered if depression can be affected by the increase or decrease in the levels of serotonin.

Recent studies have proven that serotonin levels does in fact affect depression.

Normal range for levels of serotonin

Typically, the normal accepted range for serotonin in the blood is 101-283 ng/mL. Nonetheless, there might be a slight difference on the samples and measurements, hence the importance to discuss with your doctor about your test results.

When the serotonin level is high, it might be a clear indication of carcinoid syndrome. This is a collection of symptoms linked with tumors of the following;

  • Colon
  • Appendix
  • Small intestine
  • Bronchial tubes

But a test is needed to measure serotonin levels in the blood to be able to either rule the disease out or diagnose it.

Treating serotonin deficiency

Serotonin can be increased through medication or more natural ways.


A reduced amount of serotonin in the brain may result in anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Some doctors might prescribe SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) as treatment. SSRI are some of the antidepressants commonly prescribed.

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors improves the serotonin levels in the brain by limiting or blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, for more of it to be active. Some SSRI include Zoloft, Prozac, and others.

Please, kindly note that when on any SSRI, be sure enough to communicate with your doctor if you choose to use other medications. Combining drugs may expose you to risk of serotonin syndrome.

Natural boosters for serotonin

Asides SSRI medications, according to a paper published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, the following steps can help improve levels of serotonin in the body;

  1. Work-out: Consistent exercise can help in improving overall mood.
  2. Exposing yourself to bright light: Sunlight or even light therapy are naturally recommended to help in treatment of seasonal depression. Discuss with your doctor to advice you on how best to apply it.
  3. Healthy diet: Your diet should include foods that can help maximize levels of serotonin, and some of them are nuts, tofu, salmon, pineapple, eggs, turkey, and cheese.

Although, diagnosis of symptoms of serotonin can’t be determined yet, nevertheless, physical tests can be carried out by your doctor to check if you have it.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome often fades off within days of taking medications to block serotonin or have the drugs causing the conditions replaced. Don’t forget, serotonin syndrome me be life-threatening if untreated.


Every part of your body can be affected by serotonin. It is responsible for many of the vital functions that take place throughout the day.

It is critical that you ensure your serotonin levels are balanced, else, your physical, mental, and emotional state can get affected.


It might be an indication of something more serious if there is an imbalance in your serotonin levels. It would do much good to keep a close watch on your body and how it changes.

Have you ever had to take medications for serotonin? What methods did you use that wasn’t mentioned in the article? Share with us in the comments below.

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