Depression is highly prevalent in our society, currently affecting approximately 14.8 million people in the US according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Women are diagnosed twice as often as men. The treatment for depression typically involves psychotherapy, medication or both. One class of anti-depressant drugs, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) are often prescribed to treat depression. SSRI’s work by increasing the extracellular level of serotonin in the brain by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell (where it was released from). This increases the level of serotonin available to bind at the postsynaptic receptor. What you may not know is that when serotonin is outside of the cell, it’s broken down at a greater rate. SSRI’s change the location of neurotransmitters but not the amount so the amount of neurotransmitters your body has decreases over time. SSRI’s don’t work if your neurotransmitter levels are too low. It’s common for MD’s to increase the dosage of these SSRI’s until they stop working completely. So the key is to make sure your body has the tools to make more.
Did you know that 90% of serotonin in made in your gut?
So in order for it to be made properly, you need:
1) A healthy intestinal environment.
2) To eat the right nutrients.
3) To identify and reduce causes of stress to your body.
If your diet is comprised of processed food, refined sugar, alcohol, eating carbs by themselves, or if you have hidden food allergies, parasite or other gut dysfunction you are not creating a healthy environment for your body to make this neurotransmitter.
Eating the right nutrients: Your body needs substances such as amino acids, calcium, and vitamins B3 and B6 to synthesize serotonin. Remember, it may not be enough to just add these to your diet if your digestion is impaired (because even if you ingest it, it doesn’t mean it’s getting broken down, absorbed and utilized the way it should). If you experience bloating, gas, anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, pain, numbness/tingling, or other symptoms gut testing would be something to consider.
Lifestyle: Today we live in a fast paced world, subjecting our bodies to an excess amount of stress (which causes the release of the stress hormone cortisol) that it’s not equipped to handle. Cortisol and serotonin have an inverse relationship. The higher your stress and cortisol output, the lower your serotonin levels will be. Remember that stress can be anything from emotional stress to eating too many carbs/sugar causing blood sugar imbalances to going to bed late. Stress is cumulative!
To learn more about improving your health or to test the health of your digestive system, contact us for more information.
Nutrition & Wellness Specialist
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