Key Insights into Serotonin Syndrome and Supplements Intake

Supplements are generally prescribed to patients when their bodies are deprived of their natural ability to stimulate and regulate mood-altering hormones or compounds that deter the balance of bodily functions. Let us take a look at the chemical neurotransmitter that alters our moods or causes mood swings and if taking supplements can really help in combating the syndrome associated with the deficiency of this element in our bodies.



A Bit About Serotonin

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter, a chemical produced by nerve cells found mostly in the digestive system and the brain. Serotonin affects critical functions of the body like motor skills, emotional deliverance, digestion, body temperature maintenance, blood flow, breathing, and many other since it transmits messages to the brain cells about the action that needs to be performed. More about Serotonin can be found here:


Some important benefits of this chemical are:

  • Depression Reduction
  • Anxiety Regulation
  • Bone Health Maintenance
  • Nausea Control
  • Wound Healing through blood clotting
  • Bowel Movement Control
  • Controls sleep and waking up
  • Emotional Stability
  • Increased Focus


Serotonin Syndrome-The Deficiency and The Excess

Serotonin is composed of an essential amino acid called Tryptophan. Usually obtained through your diet, it is commonly found in foods like nuts, cheese, meat, etc. that boost Serotonin levels and impact your emotional health because of their protein, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin, and Iron content.


The normal range in which Serotonin levels must fall is 101–285 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Anything below or above this level causes the Serotonin Syndrome. Serotonin Syndrome can be caused by drug interactions, supplements, and improper diet regime.


The Deficiency Syndrome is characterized by depression, anxiety, insomnia, constricted blood flow, hair thinning or loss, and memory loss, while the excessive presence of Serotonin leads to muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, reduced agility, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, Diarrhea, pupil dilation, excessive perspiration, tremors, seizures, metabolic acidosis, and in worst cases death.


The causes for the deficiency could be lack of Serotonin intake through your diet or medical conditions that reduce the levels. The excess of Serotonin levels is caused by an overdose of OTC and prescription drugs, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other Drugs that can spike up Serotonin levels if taken in excessive dosage are:

  • Diphenhydramine-Anti-Allergens
  • Cytochrome P450 enzymes/CYP Inhibitors
  • Antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin
  • HIV medication like Ritonavir
  • Dextromethorphan for cold
  • Metoclopramide, Granisetron, and other Anti-nausea medications
  • Lithium for Bipolar
  • Buspirone
  • Opioids for pain relief
  • Triptan
  • Monoamine oxidase Inhibitors

Recreational drugs such as Cocaine, LSD, and Ecstasy (that contains Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)) are also major contributors to the increase in Serotonin levels.


The Gut and The Brain Nexus

Serotonin is an important chemical that affects digestion. The gut produces around ninety percent of the Serotonin in the body due to the presence of the semiautonomous nervous system embedded in the gastrointestinal system.


The secretion of enzymes (like Serotonin) and reflex coordination is done by the nerves present in this system. The enteric nervous system of the gut is connected to the brain’s network using neural pathways. The sensation to use the bathroom is thus established by informing the brain. Alternately, when anxiety builds up in the brain, it triggers the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which causes cramps, bloating, gas, pain, etc. in the abdomen.


Serotonin affects how the food is transported through the digestive system, how fluids are secreted through the intestines, and the overall sensitivity of the intestines to sensations such as pain, fullness, emptiness, etc.


The health of the gut is binding on the overall health of the body and the mind. When the stomach is upset and the normal enzyme production, food transportation, food breakdown, etc. do not take place normally it can lead to anger, anxiety, and general mood swings. Lower levels of Serotonin in the gut can cause fibromyalgia, a condition associated with increased sensitivity towards severe muscle pain.


Patients with IBS and lower levels of Serotonin experience constipation since their rectums are less sensitive to the chemical. On the other hand, patients with IBS and higher levels of Serotonin can be affected by diarrhea since their rectums overreact to the Serotonin production.


Serotonin is the primary reason for the proper relay of neural messages between the gut and the brain, thus being the catalyst for good gastrointestinal tract health.


Implications of Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome and the Workaround Using Supplements

Several studies have proved that Serotonin deficiency is the major cause of depression and anxiety. The Serotonin auto-receptors secrete Serotonin in the right quantities which carry out the message signaling tasks.


The deficiency can affect the bronchial tubes, colon, appendix, small intestine, bowels, and the entire digestive tract. The mental calm is affected since there are disruptions in the physical functions of the body.


The workaround would definitely include Serotonin boosting drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and Serotonin Supplements.


Natural ways of boosting Serotonin are Sunlight Therapy, Relaxation through exercise and physical activity, and Serotonin boosting diet.


Most doctors prescribe supplements that would artificially help the body absorb the chemicals present in these drugs.


Some of the drugs usually recommended by doctors in certain dosages are given below, we highly recommend that you consult your physician before taking these even if they claim to be naturally manufactured with herbal products.

  • St John’s Wort
  • S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)
  • Ginseng
  • L-tryptophan
  • Folate
  • 5-HTP

While there are non-invasive means of replenishing Serotonin levels like Omega-3 fatty acids consumption and natural Vitamin D absorption, sometimes a person’s genetic structure may not allow the body to sustain the required Serotonin levels.


Even medicines that interfere with the Serotonin retention in the body or weaken the Serotonin production at the nerve cells level can lead to the deficiency syndrome which would ultimately lead to cognitive and mental imbalance. Supplements need to become an intervention only when all the natural means fail to succeed in elevating Serotonin levels in the brain and the digestive system that necessitates survival.