Low Serotonin

October 5, 2020

Most people associate serotonin with that “feel good” brain chemical, while this is true, there are many other functions of this neurotransmitter.  

Low Serotonin - Naturopathic Medicine Denver

Adequate serotonin levels are associated with happiness and relaxation while low levels are linked to a weakened immune system, depression, and poor digestion, among other things.  Of course, we all want to feel good, and have optimal function throughout the day. Modern day life can make a chemical balance quite a challenge.


  • Prolonged stress – elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) will cause imbalance in neurotransmitters, leading to less serotonin utilization and production. 
  • Poor diet – Serotonin is made from proteins, and requires cofactors for production.  A lousy diet leads to less supply of the key ingredients for a healthy amount of serotonin.  Eat whole foods!
  • Toxins – heavy metals, pesticides, drug use, or prescription medication may damage the nerve cells that produce serotonin. 
  • Hormone changes – shifts in hormones causes imbalances too.
  • Lack of sunshine – Sunlight cues certain areas of the retina, which then stimulates serotonin release.

Symptoms of decreased serotonin

  • Craving carbohydrates – Carb intake pushes tryptophan (a building block of serotonin) to be more available.
  • Anxiety – Limited serotonin levels in areas of the brain that are responsible for impulsive behavior and emotional control may lead to anxious thoughts and feelings.
  • Fatigue – There is a marked effect on energy production when serotonin is low.
  • Memory Impairment – Balanced hormones and neurotransmitters are essential for memory. 
  • Constipation – A shortage of serotonin in the gut will slow motility.  It’s said that a “moody” gut often accompanies a depressed mind. 

How to increase serotonin

Conventional medicine prescribes SSRI antidepressants to ease the ill side effects of low serotonin utilization.  SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin so the neurotransmitter stays in circulation longer.  Unfortunately, SSRIs do nothing to increase the neurotransmitter (the root of the problem) So, what are some ways to increase serotonin levels naturally?

  • Exercise on a consistent basis
  • Get plenty of natural sunlight
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat a whole foods diet, while also avoiding sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Get good sleep!  Being sleep deprived may negatively affect serotonin receptors in the brain.

While many of the symptoms of low serotonin can be associated with other issues, it’s best to test.  Neurotransmitter testing is available here at Vitality Natural Medicine.  Hormone testing is also valuable as an imbalance in the thyroid, adrenal or sex hormones can all affect serotonin levels. 

Call or email the office if you are interesting in learning more, or would like to have a test performed.  

Francesca Quinn
Naturopathic Doctor Denver
(720) 310-0797
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