Serotonin levels are not routinely checked before prescribing serotonin-elevating agents. Since blood serotonin levels correlate poorly with brain levels, a therapeutic trial with agents that are known to raise levels is a reasonable and cost-effective approach.
One must be cautious not to combine too many SRIs (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, St. John's Wort (hypericum), and 5HTP to avoid the medical condition known as serotonin syndrome. Here the brain has too much serotonin (the opposite of what happens in depression) and this may result in symptoms such as sweating, agitation, confusion, lethargy, tremor, and muscle jerks. If such symptoms occur, consult your doctor immediately.
Serotonin levels can dictate if you feel depressed or not. Antidepressant medications like Paxil, Zoloft, St. John's Wort, and Prozac work by preventing serotonin destruction and loss. These antidepressants inhibit serotonin uptake (or reuptake) by the neurons in the brains. Low serotonin levels cause depression.
Tryptophan is the dietary amino acid precursor for production of serotonin in the body. First it is converted into 5HTP, and then into serotonin. Both supplements are available, but tryptophan may require a doctor's prescription. It is recommended that these be taken under a doctor's supervision.
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