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Serotonin: Everything You Need to Know in Detail

By Vikas Chandra Das
18 November 2022, 4:12 PM

Serotonin functions as a neurotransmitter that sends signals and regulates your mood. It is present in the brain, platelets and gut. It also acts as a hormone and is also known as the ‘happy chemical’ as it promotes the well-being of the body. Serotonin influences learning, memory, and happiness. It also regulates body temperature, sleep, sexual behaviour and hunger. Most of the serotonin is present in the intestine which improves digestion. About 90% is present in the intestinal tract and 10% is found in the brain. The levels of serotonin play an important role in your body. Low levels can lead to depression while high levels can even cause death. If you experience certain problems, it would be better to have financial security in case of an emergency which can be provided by a health insurance policy

How is Serotonin Made?

Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This is not made by your body and has to be obtained from the food you eat. It is commonly found in food such as meat, dairy products, meat, eggs and nuts. The substance is also found in animals, plants and fungi.

The Role of Serotonin in the Body

 There are various roles of serotonin in your body -

  • Mood: Serotonin in your brain regulates your mood. It is also known as the ‘happy chemical’. Normal levels of serotonin promote a good mood and you will be focused, calmer and emotionally stable. However, low levels are associated with depression and anxiety. The medications used to treat depression target increasing serotonin levels in your body.
  • Digestion: Maximum amount of serotonin is present in your gut and it helps in improving digestion. It protects your gut and it releases serotonin to speed up the digestion process to get rid of toxic substances from the body. It helps in regulating and controlling appetite while eating.
  • Nausea: If serotonin is released more than it can be digested, it causes nausea. In this case, the brain sends the message to the gut which you perceive as nausea. The medication used to treat nausea targets serotonin receptors in your brain.
  • Sleep: It plays a role in the quality of sleep. Your body needs serotonin to make another hormone which regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Blood Clotting and Wound Healing: Serotonin is stored in platelets of your blood. To recover the damage, serotonin helps in blood clotting, stopping the blood and in turn heals the wound.
  • Bone Health: Levels of serotonin promote bone density. Higher levels of serotonin in your gut can make your bones weak leading to frequent bone fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Sexual Desire: Serotonin promotes and regulates sexual functioning in the body along with promoting your desire for sex.

Problems Associated with Low Serotonin Levels

Low levels of serotonin can cause various problems like

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Sleep-related problems 
  3. Digestion issues
  4. Suicidal thoughts
  5. Compulsive disorder
  6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)
  7. Phobias

Low levels of serotonin are caused because one, your body isn’t producing enough and two, your body isn’t using them effectively due to the lack of enough serotonin receptors or their incomplete working.

Signs of Low Serotonin

Signs of potential serotonin deficiency include:

  • Irregular sleep cycle
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe mood swings
  • Memory and learning issues

Ways to Increase Serotonin Levels in Your Body

Various ways to increase serotonin are:

  • Eating food with more tryptophan content such as salmon, eggs, cheese, tofu, turkey, pineapple, nuts, oats and seeds. 
  • Getting more sunlight can help lift your mood. Not getting enough sunlight can lead to mood disorders in some people.
  • Taking dietary and herbal supplements can help in increasing serotonin levels in your body. You can take dietary supplements like tryptophans and probiotics. Herbal supplements include ginseng, nutmeg, etc.
  • Regular exercise can help in reducing stress levels and increases serotonin levels in your body. According to researchers, thirty minutes of aerobics five times a week and two sessions of strength training in a week can increase the levels of serotonin in your body.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors(SSRIs): Low levels of serotonin can be a cause of depression and anxiety therefore, SSRIs are prescribed to reduce the symptoms of depression by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. When brain cells send signals to one another, they release serotonin which must be reabsorbed and recycled before the next signal and this process is called reuptake. The commonly prescribed SSRIs to treat mood disorders and depression include:
  1. Citalopram
  2. Escitalopram
  3. Fluvoxamine
  4. Paroxetine
  5. Fluoxetine
  6. Sertraline

Problems Associated with High Levels of Serotonin

The elevated levels of serotonin can lead to a condition called Serotonin Syndrome. It usually happens if you are taking drugs to elevate the serotonin levels in your body. The symptoms could be moderate or severe. Mild symptoms include shivering, confusion, restlessness, heavy sweating, high blood pressure, and diarrhoea. Severe symptoms include high fever, seizures, fainting, and abnormal heartbeat. This could also be fatal if not treated in time.


Serotonin affects various functions of your body including mood, sleep, digestion, appetite, anxiety, blood clotting, etc. When your body does not have enough serotonin or is not using the serotonin effectively, you can be prone to clinical depression. High levels of serotonin can also lead to some serious issues, which can be fatal. If you are taking certain drugs that affect serotonin levels or if you are experiencing certain symptoms, you must contact your healthcare provider. 


1. What factors affect serotonin levels?

Certain factors can affect serotonin levels in your body. This includes

  1. Genetic factors
  2. Chronic pain
  3. Lack of physical activity 
  4. Age-related health and brain change
  5. Lack of sunlight exposure
  6. Stress

2. Where is serotonin stored?

90% of serotonin is stored in your gut which is the gastrointestinal tract. From there it is absorbed by the platelets. 10% of serotonin is stored in the brain. This helps in regulating mood, anxiety and sexual desires.

3. What causes a lack of serotonin?

Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, anti-depressants, and some cholesterol-controlling medications can lower the serotonin levels in your body. 

4. When does serotonin release?

Serotonin is a chemical that is released when brain cells send signals to and from one another. When you laugh or cry, your blood releases serotonin. It is also released during nausea, blood clotting etc.

5. Is serotonin syndrome permanent?

No, the symptoms usually subside once you stop taking the medicines that elevate serotonin levels in your body. There are no long-term complications of serotonin syndrome, however, you should be conscious to avoid it in future.

6. How does serotonin relate to depression?

Numerous scientists think that serotonin levels that are not stable can negatively impact stability can have a negative impact on one's mood and contribute to depression.

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