Results of research studies indicate that women have serotonin deficiency and depression more often than men. A study published in September 2007 in the journal Biological Psychiatry showed that men and women react to serotonin deficiency in different ways. Men tend to be more impulsive but not necessarily depressed and women, experienced a noticeable drop in mood and became much more cautious (a common emotional response associated with depression).
The research also suggested that when men become depressed, it seems to be associated with a dopamine deficiency and is more likely to show as apathy or lack of interest, a lack of ability to focus, and experience alcoholism, ADHD, and impulse control disorders.
It all starts in the brain.
Serotonin, the so-called inhibitory neurotransmitter, is a chemical produced by the body that enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with one another. When functioning properly, serotonin gives us positive feelings and in a good mood; we are happy and confident, and tend to be more flexible, and easy-going. As noted in a previous Examiner article "a deficiency of the serotonin neurotransmitter interferes with its ability to regulate, which in turn can lead to symptoms of irritability negativity, obsessive behavior (like overeating or stress eating), food cravings, and excessive worrying, sleepless or depressed." According to one source noted in the examiner article, the key reasons for deficiencies in the serotonin neurotransmitter include:
- Lack of sufficient sleep which in turn can disrupt cortosol and our energy controlling hormone leptin, leading to overeating and weight gain.
- Not managing our stress levels which can lead to stress related eating.
- Lack of exercise/physical activity which can lead to weight gain.
- Insufficient exposure to sunlight
- Consuming pesticide-laden meat and produce
- Insufficient consumption of high-protein non-processed food
- Consuming too much caffeine and alcohol
- Food allergies
- Multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Omega-3 deficiency
- Insulin resistance which can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes
- Chronic infections
Some of the indicators associated with a serotonin deficiency mentioned included:
- Craving sweets and starches
- Negative self talk and low self esteem
- Pessimistic, gloomy, distrustful, and cynical nature
- Phobias, being apprehensive, excessive worrying or panic attacks
- Associated medical condition such as Fibromyalgia, TMJ, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, or asthma.
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- In extreme cases, thoughts of suicide
The following actions were referenced as possible contributors to improving serotonin levels:
- Adequate sleep
- Managing stress
- Adequate exercise/physical activity.
- Sufficient but not excessive exposure to sunlight
- Consume organic foods
- Reduction in the consumption of processed foods
- Adequate consumption of high-protein foods
- Reduction or elimination of caffeinated beverages/foods.
- Elimination of alcohol containing beverages.
- Adequate intake of Omega3 fatty acids
- Adequate intake of vitamin and mineral rich foods
This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical/nutritional/fitness advice. Information presented is subject to change as additional discoveries are made or additional research is published.
Additional information: Take the mood type self-exam by Julia Ross.