We hear a lot about low serotonin in fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), and it’s usually in relation to its function as a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger in the brain.) However, serotonin is also busy within the rest of your body as a hormone, and body-wide serotonin dysregulation is believed to contribute to many of our symptoms and comorbid conditions.
The name serotonin is derived from its earliest discovered function, which is too narrow the blood vessels — sero means serum, which is a component of blood.
Blood flow irregularities have been noted in both of these conditions:
- In FMS, research shows abnormal blood-flow patterns in the brain, with more than normal in some areas and less than normal in others. We don’t know the specific effects of this, but researchers do know that blood flow has a significant impact on brain function.
- Also in FMS, some researchers theorize that the horrible burning pains we get are due to ischemia (impaired blood flow), which basically means the area “falls asleep” and then gets those painful pins and needles as the blood, and therefore feeling, returns.
- In ME/CFS and to a lesser degree in FMS, some research has shown low blood volume, which results in cells that are starving for oxygen and nutrients. Picture being at a high altitude and struggling to catch your breath after not eating all day. That’s what every cell in your body may be going through.