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Causes of Low Serotonin

Overview

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain. It is responsible for regulating many vital functions in the body. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of body temperature, sleep and sex drive, to name just a few of the processes it affects. Chemical imbalances in the brain can cause depression, suicidal thoughts and other psychological and physical issues. Lower than normal amounts of serotonin can affect other systems in the body, including the endocrine and immune systems.

Stress

Serotonin is one of the main neurotransmitters in the brain. It is essential to the way the brain functions and processes information. According to Ohio clinical psychologist Joseph Carver, stress greatly influences the levels of serotonin in the body. When a person experiences stress, serotonin is utilized at a higher than normal rate. Increased amounts of stress for prolonged periods of time can result in a depletion of serotonin. As levels continue to drop, it is harder for the body to replace them and maintain the necessary amounts needed to function efficiently.

Medications

It is thought that some birth control and acne medications can reduce serotonin levels in the brain. Because these medications involve hormone levels in the body, they are believed to affect the hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain as well, Dr. Carver, a clinical psychologist, explains in an article on his website. In some cases, taking herbs like St. John's wort may counteract the effectiveness of antidepressants, causing levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine to be lowered.

Physical Issues

Physical issues that affect hormone levels in the body may also contribute to the lowering of serotonin levels. According to the Merck Manual, illnesses can lower levels of serotonin in the body. Diseases of the thyroid, pituitary and pineal glands can result in chemical imbalances in the brain and other parts of the body. Cancer of the thyroid or other hormone producing glands can affect the levels of other hormones. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and lupus can weaken the body as a whole and set off a chain reaction of events that can ultimately affect serotonin and other chemicals in the brain as well.

Diet

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is vital to the production and release of serotonin. Turkey and bananas are high in tryptophan and other amino acids. Complex carbohydrates are also beneficial in the production of serotonin. Whole grain foods such as breads and pasta fall into this category. Carbohydrates dump sugar into the bloodstream as they are digested by the body. This release of sugar or "dumping" causes serotonin to be released as well. Making sure that foods containing tryptophan are including in the diet may help keep serotonin levels from dropping, according to the professionals at AngelFire.com.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.