What Does Serotonin Do?


Quick Answer

Serotonin delivers and regulates signals between neurons. It may be responsible for a variety of both bodily and psychological functions including appetite, memory, sleep, social behavior, mood and sexual functioning.

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Full Answer

Low serotonin can adversely affect both health and quality of life. The symptoms of low serotonin levels may include: chronic fatigue, trouble sleeping, fluctuations in appetite and body temperature, headaches or migraines, gastrointestinal problems, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and lost or decreased sexual function. As with any physical irregularity, a patient concerned about low serotonin levels should consult a physician. Doctors classify antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac and Celexa as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs; they function by increasing serotonin levels.

In addition to medication, exercise, dietary changes and sunlight exposure can boost serotonin levels. Nutritionists recommend a diet high in protein and B vitamins to maximize natural serotonin production.

Occasionally SSRIs can cause serotonin levels to go too high. High serotonin levels are just as problematic as low levels and can be potentially fatal. Excessive levels of serotonin lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome. The symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include: agitation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headaches, insomnia, confusion, irregular blood pressure, vomiting, palpitations, lack of muscle control, chills, sweating and fever.

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