Do you have Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome?

If you’ve wondered whether an emotional behavior may be rooted more in chemistry than physiology, you may be right.  Serotonin has a powerful effect on our feelings and physical behavior. When serotonin levels are adequate we feel safe, happy, content, satiated, and have great impulse control.  Serotonin deficiency syndrome is when levels are low enough to cause or exacerbate the following:

These behaviors and emotional states are not necessarily produced by a physical dysfunction in the brain. Instead, it may be based on a biochemical condition that can be traced back to the brain’s serotonin neural circuits which are hampered due to inadequate amounts of serotonin in the nerve pathways. A serotonin precursor called l-tryptophan (or tryptophan) can restore these biochemical transmissions to the serotonin neural receptors. L-Tryptophan supplementation is a safe and natural way of increasing low serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a chemical known as a neurotransmitter in the brain which performs multiple functions, including regulating emotions and mood.  We have four primary neurotransmitters which are serotonin, endorphin, catecholamines and GABA.

Ninety percent of serotonin is produced in the intestinal tract while a small amount is produced in the brain by an essential amino acid called l-tryptophan.  There are a total of 22 amino acids, out of which 8 are essential meaning that our bodies don’t produce them so they must be ingested.  Of the 22 amino acids, l-tryptophan is the least plentiful.

Tryptophan synthesizes proteins in the body. An average diet only provides about 1-1.5 grams of tryptophan daily. Foods containing tryptophan included high protein sources like chicken, eggs, turkey, pork, salmon, dairy, soy, nuts, seeds banana, pumpkin and yeast. If B vitamins are in short supply tryptophan absorption is further diminished. Lack of sufficient B3 and B6 will reduce the amount of tryptophan which makes it to the brain from the foods we eat to less than 1%.

Some amino acids make it through the “blood brain barrier“.  This barrier prevents toxins and excessive amounts of nutrients from diminishing brain function. When ingested tryptophan can pass through the blood brain barrier but serotonin cannot.

Five other amino acids, tyrosine phenylalanine, valine, leucine and isoleucine compete for transport with tryptophan for the molecular rides that pass through the blood brain barrier. Strangely enough, eating more protein in an attempt to increase the amount of tryptophan absorbed actually reduces it due to the increased competition with the other amino acids trying to enter the blood brain barrier. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and B vitamins all facilitate serotonin production.

In 1989 in New Mexico a tainted batch of tryptophan from a disreputable manufacturer named Showa Denko, affected 1500 people. A FDA ban was placed from 1989-2006 on imported tryptophan with the exception of one called Tryptopure®. Tryptopure® is the world’s leading supplier of l-tryptophan.

Food cravings, particularly for carbohydrates, can be triggered by serotonin deficiency because increased insulin levels inhibits the five other amino acids allowing increased tryptophan absorption. Unfortunately indulging in “comfort food” like cake, ice cream, chips and pizza when we are depressed helps increase tryptophan absorption, but it comes at the cost of excessive fat conversion and storage.

Tryptophan triggers the production of 5-HTP (oxitriptan) and serotonin.  Supplementing with 5-HTP should be done with some caution because large amounts of 5-HTP can cause nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and other intestinal distress.  L-Tryptophan does not cause intestinal discomfort.

Caffeine, aspartame and alcohol deplete tryptophan and serotonin in the body. Diets low in protein, lack of exercise and sunshine, high amounts of stress and genetic dispositions can also inhibit serotonin levels.

The best way to increase serotonin is to increase tryptophan through supplementation.  Total daily consumption of l-tryptophan should be 1-3 grams, so daily supplemental amounts of  500-1500 mg would be about ideal. Consuming large daily amounts (6-9 grams) triggers a liver enzyme which actually destroys tryptophan.

Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland from serotonin and is often used as a naturally encourage sleep.  However, supplementing with melatonin alone is not as effective if serotonin is already low.  Stubborn sleep problems may improve by combining 0.5 mg to 1 mg of melatonin with 500-1500 mg of l-tryptophan and taken at night on an empty stomach.

Serotonin deficiency syndrome should improve when supplementing with tryptophan in 500-1500 mg daily. Another synergistic combination would be adding 33-100 mg of 5-HTP and 0.5-1 mg of melatonin daily.

Many people are under the impression that anti-depressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and others raises levels of serotonin in the brain.  That is not the case.  Those drugs concentrate existing amounts of serotonin in the brain keeping a relay going between the nerves. Some studies raise the disturbing question as to whether long term use of anti-depressants actually reduces serotonin levels. Never exceed prescribed amounts of anti-depressants or combine them with with serotonin precursors like l-tryptophan. Combining or exceeding dosages can cause concentrations of excessive serotonin which can be life threatening. Unlike these powerful pharmaceuticals and prescription sleep aides, l-tryptophan can be taken with no impairment to motor skills, vision, cognitive or memory performance and is not addictive.

If you are looking for a gentle, natural and safe way to increase your serotonin levels, l-tryptophan is a terrific place to start. It is much easier to absorb nutrients in an isotonic state because an isotonic supplement will drastically increase the bioavailability. Isotonix® L-Tryptophan is an isotonic formula, manufactured in GMP production facilities by the Isotonix® company exclusively for SHOP.COM (powered by Market America) and is made from safe and patented Tryptopure®.

Isotonix® L-Tryptophan
Isotonix® Calcium Plus
Prime Dreamz®
Isotonix® Activated B-Complex
NutriClean® Probiotics
Bliss™ Anti-Stress Formula


  1. Aubrey said,

    March 18, 2009 at 5:29 am

    This article is EXCELLENT. I adore this supplement (helps me sleep), but after reading this I have four close friends in mind that would really benefit from this. I’m going to send a few of them this article and see what they think.

  2. samira said,

    July 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you.
    The article was very interesting.

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