Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Seratonin

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Blood Test for Seratonin [posted 7/27/98]
Question: I have read on this web page that there is a blood test for testing the level of seratonin. Could you please give me more information on this blood test and how I might get such a test taken?

Answer: For my patients, I just order the test and send them to the lab. I'm not sure the lab that the test is sent to, but I get the results in about 3 weeks. I'm sure your physician could do the same.

Question: My husband has had several blood tests in the last year and each has come back with a 352 level of Seratonin. We are told that this is high? What does this mean?

Answer: Low levels mean something and high levels do not with the exception of serotonin producing tumors(non cancerous growths). These are rare and serotonin levels are usually not checked to make the diagnosis.

Question: I would like to find all possible information regarding seratonin and its effects on the brain when there's a chemical imbalance with testosterone. Can you point me in the right direction?

Answer: I'm not quite sure what aspect of serotonin /testerone you seek-can you be more specific.

Question: I was told I have something wrong with my seratonin level, but I have no idea what it controls. Would you please tell me what it controls in the body and what happens if my level of seratonin is low?

Answer: Serotonin is used by your body as a neurotransmitter. This means that nerves talk to each other and send signals to each other using serotonin as one of the mediums. Certain nerves use this chemical while other nerves use other chemicals. I have two patients with low levels of serotonin and I have never found a cause or many reports in the literature telling me what to do. Elavil or this class of anti-depressant seems to help. There are new anti-depressants called serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These people manifest their deficiency by depression and this seems to be genetic as far as we can tell.

Question: What is Seratonin?

Answer: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter used at the ends of nerves. It is manufactured in your body using the amino acid tryptophan. At the meeting of one nerve with another there is a space. Release of serotonin (or other drugs-depending on the type of nerve) causes the other nerve to fire and continue the message along the "cable". Its other name is 5- hydroxytryptamine and is also found in platelets. Release of serotonin by injured platelets is thought to cause blood vessels to contract.

Question: Could you tell me what the relationship is between the level of seratonin in the brain and appetite? Also, what foods will increase the levels of seratonin?

Answer: We really do not know the triggers for hunger or appetite. It seems that serotonin is involved, but where and how are currently unknown. Serotonin release is triggered by a carbohydrate load (sugar, etc.) and there are many who feel that eating Carbohydrates under stress is aimed at this serotonin release. Other potent drug stimulators are anti-depressants like Elavil (amitriptyline).

Seratonin & Suicide
Question: I have just read a research article by J John Mann (Colombia) regarding the possible use of seratonin deficiencies as an indicator in suicide cases (other contributing factors understood). My question is how would one test for this (Blood test, etc?) And what is the acceptable validity for the use of medications as an aid in prevention? I have a friend (minor) who could possibly benefit from the proper medical (i.e.,pharmaceutical) treatment in conjuction with counciling, as opposed to (or perhaps in addition to) the normal depressent type medications.

Answer: There is a blood test for serotonin. Some Psychiatrists use it to indicate the appropriate type of drug to use. It is not clear exactly how this plays with"depression"-clearly the serotonin deficiency in the body effects many neurological processes.

Seratoin Syndrome
Question: I have been told I have seratonin syndrome, but I am not sure what that implies. I realize I am unable to take the popular SSRI antidepressants without severe side effects. I notice there is a section on seratonin syndrome of the FAQ page, but I am denied access. What can I do to either access this information, or find it somewhere else?

Answer: There are several syndromes that could be referred to as Serotonin Syndrome. First is overproduction by carcinoid cells of serotonin. This causes diarrhea, flushing and tachycardia. Second is serotonin deficiency which is characterized by a low level of serotonin in the blood. Third, a whole bunch of syndromes grouped under this when the physician can't make a diagnosis of the real problem. Carcinoid Syndrome can be localized in any general medicine textbook. Serotonin deficiency in a few articles-check Index Medicus for a complete listing.
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