What are the causes of low serotonin levels?

Updated April 17, 2017

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or a chemical that to allows impulses to move from one nerve cell to another. People with low-serotonin levels may experience hormonal changes, which can interfere with common activities, including eating and sleeping. One way to increase serotonin levels is a healthy diet. Medical treatment may be sought and monitored by a physician when patients suffer from low-serotonin levels.


Serotonin acts as a messenger to transmit signals within the brain. It is also found throughout the body. It affects multiple systems, including the nervous, cardiovascular and digestive systems.


One cause of low serotonin is the lack of sleep.

Another cause for low-serotonin levels is depression. People who do not feel good about themselves may receive medical treatment that could include cognitive behaviour therapy to learn how to accept life challenges and drugs such as the antidepressant Paxil.

Low serotonin may cause appetite problems. Those afflicted may crave foods and drinks with high-sugar content. Others may crave salty foods such as potato chips and pretzels.

Time Frame

Serotonin levels may change from lower amounts to higher amounts. Once diagnostic testing has confirmed low-serotonin levels, a physician can create a treatment plan combining nutrition, exercise and medication.

For example, a patient with low vitamin and mineral intake may be advised to eat more green vegetables with vitamin B and vitamin K.


Serotonin levels can be raised to help keep the system functioning properly. One way is maintaining a healthy diet, including eating low-fat, low-sugar and low-sodium foods. Tryptophan may increase serotonin levels. Sources include lean pork and veal. Plus, patients can have healthy carbohydrates such as milk.

Exercise may be performed to help keep the mind focused and the body toned.

Patients may be prescribed medications for increasing serotonin levels.


Serotonin syndrome can occur when two drugs introduce excessive serotonin into the body. Tremors and muscle spasms are possible. The syndrome may be confirmed with medical tests such as a complete blood count, an electrocardiogram and electrolyte levels, which monitors minerals found in the blood.

This condition may be avoided with better patient-doctor communication.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article


About the Author

Cherrine Banks has written about various topics include alternative health, business, cooking, diet, fitness and exercise, medical science, nutrition, and personal finance. Her background includes working in the financial services, health, insurance, Internet, and publishing industries. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in business management.