Serotonin for weight loss?
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only. We do not encourage intake of serotonin supplements unless otherwise advised by your physician. Any undesirable effects from intake of serotonin are sole responsibility of the user.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is created through a biochemical conversion process combining tryptophan hydroxlase and tryptophan. Combining this chemical reactor and protein component forms 5-hydroxyltrytamine or what we commonly known as serotonin. Despite being known as a neurotransmitter, many individuals consider that serotonin is also a hormone. It is popularly thought that serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and overall well-being.
Where is serotonin produced?
Serotonin is found on the platelets, central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. It is however produced on the intestine and brain. The majority of serotonin, approximately 80 to 90% are primarily found on the gastrointestinal tract.
Serotonin production is dependent on the levels of vitamin B6 and tryptophan. It also requires vitamin D to function correctly in the brain. Its production is also reliant on levels of both sleep hormones (melatonin) and stress hormones (cortisol). When the levels of melatonin are increased during sleep or winter season, levels of serotonin will drop. Same goes when the levels of cortisol increases, levels of serotonin drop.
Hormones are not the only factor that affects the production of serotonin. Dieting, calorie restriction, multitasking, digestive tract disorders all contributes to decreasing serotonin production. Although carbohydrate intake increases production of serotonin, it has negative effects on weight management because of its influence on insulin production, inflammatory potential and high calorie content.
What are the effects of serotonin in the body?
Since majority of the body’s overall serotonin count is found on the gastrointestinal tract, it is being used to regulate numerous intestinal activities. The rest of serotonin is being synthesized on serotonergic neurons in the brain because it is not able to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB). It also plays numerous functions including appetite, mood and sleep regulation as well as some cognitive activities such as learning and memory. Serotonin modulation on neuronal synapses is thought to influence the pharmacological activities of some classes of antidepressants.
When serotonin is released from the gastrointestinal tract, it will eventually find its way to the blood. Blood platelets will actively take the serotonin and store it thereafter. Once the blood platelets bind to a clot, they will discharge the serotonin. The serotonin will then act as a vasoconstrictor helping blood clotting and hemostasis regulation. Serotonin also serves as a growth factor for some cell types; hence, there is a possibility that it plays a role in wound healing.
Nootropic activities of serotonin
Along with norepinephrine and dopamine, serotonin is one of our body’s natural feel good neurotransmitter. Hence, when you have low levels of serotonin, you might likely experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. These emotions negatively contribute to our self-esteem, motivation, commitment and drive. This may even affect our will and drive to learn.
Other than affecting our overall motivation, serotonin is said to influence neurogenesis, memory and learning. Some studies have shown that serotonin promotes neurogenesis through 5-HT1a receptors stimulation. Neurogenesis is the creation of new neuronal cells that plays a critical role in memory formation, memory recall and learning. Enhancing neurotransmission of serotonin in the brain can help in improving memory consolidation and learning acquisition. It can also help in improving short-term and long-term memory.
Relationship of low serotonin levels and weight gain
When your brain detects that its serotonin reserves are less than adequate, it will send powerful signals to your body asking for carbohydrates. When your body is able to get the carbohydrates it requires to extract glucose for fueling and speeding up synthesis of serotonin, it will stop sending signals for additional carbs. This particular process is what dictates your body to crave for carbohydrate enriched foods. However, if your serotonin levels are unnaturally low because of lifestyle, diet or any other factors, your brain will command your body to overeat. Overeating, particularly of carbs are clinically proven to cause obesity.
The depression that often leads to low levels of serotonin leads to increased cortisol levels and inflammation which makes it difficult for your body to burn fat causing increased weight gain. It also leads to mood problems which may cause you to crave foods rich in carbohydrates.
Ways on how to increase levels of serotonin in your body
Since most serotonin are produced on your gastrointestinal tract, the best way to increase serotonin levels in your body is to eat a healthy diet composed of whole foods (not processed), vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts. Ensuring proper digestion, decreasing inflammation on your digestive tract and preventing food sensitivities are excellent ways to support production of serotonin. You can also opt to undertake serotonin supplementation including eating foods rich in vitamin B and vitamin D. You can also take 5-HTP, Rhodiola Rosea, inositol and St. John’s wort and adrafinil .