Serotonin: a stress hormone, NOT a happy hormone

Updated: May 14

Okay I know you all are thinking wait what! Serotonin is our #happyhormone. Well I am here to tell you that it is not and it is actually a big stressor to the body when in excess (remember: we need healthy amounts to survive). It even has anti-thyroid and anti-mitochondrial properties. It is often prescribed (#SSRI's) for people suffering from depression, but is it really helping? Is this really the solution? There are some studies proving its just the placebo effect helping.

Dr Ray Peat has proven that #depression is actually worsened by excess #serotonin. Many other studies have proven that excess serotonin is linked to many conditions like low #immunity, hypo and #hyperthyroidism, #autism, #IBD, #IBS, #Celiac, #Chrons, #hair loss, cellular #aging, low #libido, infertility and so much more. The majority of people with IBS have high serotonin levels and experience both anxiety and depression. 95% of the serotonin in our body lives in the gut so this is no surprise. Once serotonin is released from cells in the gut lining, it then binds to receptors in the intestinal wall. How long serotonin takes to bind to these receptors and remain in the gut significantly impacts your bowel movements which leads to IBS and anxiety symptoms. Another contributing factor that you must look at is that serotonin activates glycolysis which forms lactic acid. Excess lactic acid is known to cause IBS as well as decrease energy production which causes a slower metabolism.

What I find most interesting is that the more estrogen you have the more serotonin you have. And what is the main driver of high estrogen? Stress. Unfortunately, women are more susceptible to excess serotonin because estrogen prevents the serotonin detoxifying enzymes from working properly. Dr. Ray Peat explains that in hibernating animals the stress of a declining food supply causes increased serotonin production. And in the stress of winter, serotonin lowers temperature by decreasing the metabolic rate. So basically whenever serotonin increases, so does cortisol (stress hormone). When cortisol is chronically high, it destroys the gut lining which leads to the reabsorption of endotoxins and serotonin. Chronically high cortisol will also release PUFA's from the tissue which increases the uptake of serotonin in the brain. The liver is responsible for detoxifying these but if you have a slow metabolism, you will likely have slow liver function too. Dr. Ray Peat also explains that serotonin causes #hypoglycemia which along with a slow liver, will inhibit the conversion of thyroxine into active T3 leading to #hypothyroidism. Finally, he explains the close relationship between serotonin and iron. Most people are overloaded with iron and they don't have enough bioavailable copper to neutralize serotonin and get back down to healthy levels.

So what causes excess serotonin and what can you do about it? Well for starters, I would stay away from tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements which are precursors to serotonin. 5-HTP is commonly found in #anxiety and #sleep formulas but it does way more long term harm than good.

Once those are removed I would look into mineral imbalances like iron overload as iron and serotonin have a very strong relationship and when you have too much iron, you won't have enough bioavailable copper to neutralize and keep serotonin in check. I like to use HTMA tests with my clients and sometimes a full monty panel if I feel it is necessary to get their full mineral picture. You really want to assess how much bioavailable copper you have. Then I would evaluate gut health as endotoxins can cause the release of serotonin. I have a blog post on raw carrot salads that would help a lot with this! I would be sure to support the liver and detoxification pathways by reducing toxic load, balancing minerals and getting enough bioavailable animal protein in everyday. Above all, I would make sure to be eating a metabolically supportive diet with lots of #sugar and limiting anti-thyroid foods like #PUFA's while ensuring blood sugar is balanced. Lastly, #dopamine is an antagonist to serotonin so I would work on getting that up by getting enough #sunshine, #movement and reducing #stressors etc.

I always recommend working with a skilled practitioner that know the risks of excess serotonin because this isn't medical advice!


Katie xx

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