Is It All In Your Head?


My Story of Serotonin Deficiency

A couple weeks ago, we went out to Enchanted Rock, a pink granite boulder rising 425 feet above the ground, covering 640 acres of beautiful Texas Hill Country. We hiked the quick 10 minutes to the top and walked to every edge, looking down over the fields of sage and cedar and crawling between rocks and in small caves. We were tickled, well-PINK because it was a huge difference from a few years ago when we made that hike and it struck terror in my heart! The slant of the rock had me almost crawling to the top and the edges gave me vertigo. You see, at that time I had a deficiency of serotonin levels in my brain. Serotonin is the brain chemical that makes you feel happy. A fear of heights is just one of the symptoms of this imbalance. Assess Your Brain Chemistry and see if false moods or phobias are holding you back. For me, this little rock was a big problem causing my palms to sweat , my head to spin and my husband to think I was going CRAZY! Today, having rebalanced my brain chemicals, this rock had nothing on me!

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is our primary defense against depression and anxiety. Serotonin provides a positive outlook, emotional stability, self-confidence, emotional and mental flexibility and a sense of humor. Serotonin is synthesized in the body by the amino acid, Tryptophan. 80% of the people in the US are deficient in serotonin, some more severely than others.

When deficient in serotonin, you will notice symptoms including the following:

Afternoon or evening cravings Negativity, depression
Worry, anxiety Low self-esteem
Obsessive thoughts or behaviors Hyperactivity
Controlling, perfectionism Winter blues
Irritability, rage (PMS) Dislike hot weather
Fibromyalgia, TMJ, other pain Suicidal thoughts
Panic attacks; phobias (fear of heights, small spaces, snakes, etc)

Physical symptoms of serotonin deficiency include gut and heart problems (stomach in knots, constipation), sleep problems, fibromyalgia, TMJ, Migraines and cravings for carbohydrates, alcohol and certain drugs. These symptoms cause many people to turn to substances including sweets, chocolate, starch, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, ecstasy and anti-depressant drugs. If you are concerned that you might be relying on these foods and substances to soothe a brain chemical imbalance, contact me for a complimentary consultation. The important thing to recognize is that even though some of the symptoms sound like depression or mental illness, it may simply be a matter of an imbalance of brain chemicals-a false mood. In other words, it is not all in your head!I remember how relieved I felt when I figured that out.

How does someone become deficient in their "happy" chemical? Lifestyle choices that we make every day either move us toward or away from such deficiencies. Serotonin levels become depleted when you don't get enough protein or good fats in your diet, consume too much caffeine, alcohol or artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and when you are under extreme stress. Unbalanced sex hormones and thyroid hormones are a factor. Not getting enough sleep, sunlight or exercise contributes and even pregnancy can cause low levels. Serotonin deficiency can be genetic and many times parents take children to see a health practitioner for anxiety or obsessive behaviors only to realize they themselves are deficient in serotonin or another of our neurotransmitters.

Here's the good news. Deficiencies in any neurotransmitter (serotonin, catecholamines, GABA and/or endorphins) can be corrected by simple means. No drugs or surgery needed. Most brain chemical imbalances can be resolved by food and lifestyle changes or by supplementing amino acids-the building blocks for protein. Several nutrients are needed to synthesize serotonin including protein, calcium, magnesium, Vit. D and B Vitamins. To learn more, subscribe to One Whole Health...FOR YOU! a monthly e-letter from One Whole Health.

Here are ways to boost your serotonin:

* Eat protein with every meal (lean and clean turkey, chicken, grass-fed beef, pork, dairy and eggs)
* Eat good fats with every meal (Fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olives, flax seed)
* Drink water(1/2 your body weight in ounces)
* Exercise-many studies show exercise is far more effective than anti-depressant drugs in treating depression
* Get plenty of direct sunlight
* Avoid white bread, pasta, sugar, fried foods, trans fats, caffeine, artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, alcohol
* Never skip a meal

If you think you may be suffering from a neuro-transmitter deficiency and these lifestyle changes don't seem to be enough, I encourage you to get support from a Health Coach or health care practitioner. All four of the neurotransmitter deficiencies can be evaluated and recommendations can be made. In my practice, I regularly test for brain chemical levels and watch clients feel like a huge weight has been lifted when they address the results. Keep in mind, amino acid therapy should not be entered into without consulting a profession. For an initial consultation to discuss your symptoms, contact me at

Note: This article is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat any deficiency. My hope is to simply give you clues as to what could be making you feel off balance.