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Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating several processes within the brain, including depression, mood, emotions, aggression, sleep, appetite, anxiety, memory and perceptions. Serotonin is synthesized in the brain and body from tryptophan, an amino acid. Tryptophan converts into 5- hydroxytryptophan, then into serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). A shortage of tryptophan is believed to be a major culprit leading to depression. High levels of tryptophan in the brain directly influence increased serotonin production and new brain cell production begins to rise.
Low serotonin levels are often attributed to anxiety, panic attacks, obesity, eating disorders, insomnia, fibromyalgia, depression, chronic pain, migraines and alcohol abuse. Negative thoughts, low self-esteem, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, PMS, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are also symptoms of low serotonin.
Neurotransmitter testing is available to provide precise information on any deficiencies in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Testing is helpful in determining a treatment, in the case a neurotransmitter imbalance is present.
If you are already experiencing symptoms, your serotonin levels may be quite low. At this point, it may be very difficult to increase serotonin levels with food alone. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) do not increase the amount of serotonin molecules in the brain, but are thought to block the reabsorption of serotonin by certain nerve cells. If you have low serotonin to begin with, these medications will either not work, or will only work temporarily. Natural serotonin supplements are an effective means to raise serotonin levels, without the side effects of antidepressants. 5-hydroxy tryptophan (5-HTP) is a naturally derived supplement that introduces higher levels of tryptophan into the blood stream, which then facilitates the needed synthesis of serotonin.