Serotonin and its true nature has been highly misconstrued by the world of nutritional supplements and modern day "science". Marketed as a feel good neurotransmitter, serotonin couldn't be further from it. The truth is, serotonin is an inflammatory mediator that rises with stress while also triggering a cascade of stressful reactions in the body that lead to a low energy, fibrotic state.
In fact, the use of SSRIs (serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are known to contribute to a wide variety of negative symptoms, including digestive disorders, migraines, drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, insomnia, agitation or restlessness, dizziness, sexual dysfunction as well as the exact issues they try to relieve like anxiety and depression.
If you observe these symptoms, they aren't surprising, given serotonins general anti-metabolic effects. As a matter of fact, most if not all of serotonins undesirable effects stem from its metabolic suppressing mechanisms, which is in no way beneficial to good health. Optimal cellular health is dependent upon efficient energy production, which can only be possible of the metabolic rate is fast and strong, not suppressed.
Reviewing the symptoms of SSRIs, these are all clear manifestations of a chronically suppressed metabolism. But also keep in mind that serotonin is known to increase the production of cortisol, the classic catabolistic stress hormone that leads to diabetes, hair loss and even cancer when chronically elevated. At the same time, as cortisol rises, there is an increase in serotonin uptake into lymphocytes, causing a vicious cycle of stress that perpetuates the suppression of the metabolic rate. 1
In addition to its stressful, anti-metabolic effects, serotonin is also an antagonist to dopamine, the true happy chemical that supports a high metabolic rate and sense of well being. In fact, its been found that anti-serotonin agents have the very opposite effect increasing playfulness, alertness, learning capacity, and no negative symptoms have ever been associated with them unless are abnormally large doses. Where on the other hand, injecting serotonin, or increasing its activity, can cause sedation, helplessness, or apathy.
If all this weren't enough, let us not ignore the fact that roughly 50,000 people have committed suicide on Prozac.
Tips for Lowering Serotonin
Generally speaking, its best to not interfere too much with the brains natural production of hormones and neurotransmitters. However, serotonin, like other stress substances s tends to be elevated in most people, at least people with health issues. For example, serotonin levels are known to be very elevated in gut inflammation-related issues like IBD and IBS, as well as intestinal cancers. It also tends to be elevated in depression and anxiety, in hair loss/baldness, and hypothyroidism.
That being said, taking a natural lifestyle approach to regulating serotonin is more likely a good idea, and could provide many benefits.
Here are some things to consider:
MAO-B inhibitors: In the past, anti-depressant drugs were more discriminating on the type biogenic amines they increased. Today, the way the old MAO inhibitors supposedly did. Every substance in the body has many functions, MAO-A inhibitors for example can inhibit many substances, including serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline. Most SSRI's inhibit MAO-A, which causes an accumulation in adrenaline and serotonin, which explains the very stressful symptoms associated with their use. It also explains their very scarce ability to provide relief, which has nothing to do with serotonin but on the short term, increasing adrenaline and dopamine can provide a temporary sense of high. On the other hand, MAO-B inhibitors reduce the breakdown of benzylamine and phenylethylamine and dopamine. So taking them tend to actually increase dopamine and lower serotonin, having a stronger dopaminergenic effect, making them useful and safer. Natural MAO-B inhibitors include Ginkgo Biloba and He Shou Wu.
Tryptophan Deficient Diet: Studies have found that taking amino acids deficient in tryptophan can deplete serotonin. Basically, when we consume proteins lacking tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin) the body will deplete the serotonin from the tissue and plasma to balance it out. Therefore, taking proteins like gelatin or collagen that are missing tryptophan can be helpful for depleting serotonin and preventing its accumulation. You may also want to avoid other very tryptophan rich foods like bananas, turkey, poultry and when you take milk, add some collagen to it.
- Improve Gut Health: 90% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut, and is produced in greater abundance when the gut is inflamed or stressed - not the other way around. A healthy gut will not produce much serotonin, which is normally a stress reaction to inflammation. In fact, there is a strong correlation between gut inflammation and mood and mental imbalances, which is related to the massive amounts of serotonin that are produced in these conditions that suppress the brains ability to consume glucose (energy). Therefore, if you struggle with any symptoms of high serotonin that we covered, getting a handle on your gut health is key. We recommend checking out our online course, Perfect Digestion for a complete guide to healing any and all digestive issues for a wholistic approach to lowering serotonin and improving overall metabolic function.