By: Jessica Yoches, MNT
Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter commonly connected to happiness and mood, but it also has numerous functions and roles in multiple body systems, such as in the gastrointestinal, immune, urinary, reproductive, cardiovascular, and hormonal systems.
Functional medicine recognizes the other roles of serotonin and the importance of a healthy gut. Since 90-95% of serotonin is made in the intestinal mucosa, a healthy gut is necessary for optimal serotonin production.
Having leaky gut associated with autoimmune conditions such as Celiac, Lupus, MS, and Hashimoto’s etc. leads to low serotonin production and other health issues. Dysfunction of serotonin production in the gut is linked with IBS, IBD, and other gut issues such as constipation and infections.
Supporting serotonin production is also important for those with methylation issues and SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, such as MTHFR. Looking at your individual genetics is another piece we can investigate at The Healing Center Denver to integrate into your protocol.
Functions of Serotonin
- Gut – regulates digestive enzyme secretion, stimulates peristalsis to push intestinal contents forward, and transmits signals between the nerve cells of the gut and the central nervous system.
- Hormonal and Metabolic – Regulates energy balance, blood sugar control, and metabolic rate. Serotonin also influences the HPA axis, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, which affects stress response and even thyroid hormone levels.
- Urinary – part of bladder control regulation
- Cardiovascular – helps control blood clotting; monitors contraction and relaxation of blood vessels for vascular tone; helps detect abnormalities of blood flow in the brain; and regulates heart rate, force of contractions, and how much blood the heart is pumping.
- Brain and Nervous System – the small percentage made in the brain helps control temperature regulation, mood, sleep, anxiety, appetite, pain perception, memory, anger, fear, aggression, addiction, sexuality, motor control, vomiting, and breathing.
Cofactors of Serotonin
- Niacin, B3 (niacinamide)
- Methyl folate or folate
Other Serotonin Precursors
- John’s Wort
Food Sources of Serotonin
- Wild Caught fatty fish, such as Salmon
- Nuts and Seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Green Tea
- Fermented foods
- Greens and green juices