Most of us know about the role serotonin plays in mood regulation. Depression can result from too little serotonin – and when you see the above, that the gut produces serotonin you can also see why naturopaths always treat the gut first. 90% of your serotonin can be found in your gut, so there’s a good reason to sort out your gastrointestinal issues if you want to feel better and lose weight.
Here is a list of some of the reasons why adequate levels of serotonin are needed for successful weight loss.
- Serotonin is involved in ‘peristalsis’. That is, the wave like motions that your gut uses to project feces out of your system. A lot of people who present to clinic with constipation are very stressed and low in serotonin. This can add to weight gain.
- This neurotransmitter hormone helps us feel full. In the above picture you can see serotonin being ‘passed’ from one neuron to another. In the gap (synapse) between two neurons, there is a mechanism that ‘gobbles’ serotonin if it hangs around for too long. It's called the 'Serotonin Reuptake Transporter'. When we stop this mechanism, we allow for more serotonin to hang around in the synapse and eventually be transferred to the next neuron. St John’s Wort is a famous herb that blocks this mechanism and allows for more serotonin in the synapse. This allows for more serotonin to be passed down the nervous system to allow us to feel satiety.
- This study shows increased serotonin leads to decreased consumption of fat. People just feel like eating less fatty foods when their serotonin levels are sufficient. This makes sense then that 90% of serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal system and is involved in the regulation of appetite and the production of bile acids that help break down fat.
- Relaxing hormones like serotonin make us feel good and have us reaching for carbs less and less. If we involve proteins in our meals, three times a day, we have the building blocks to help our nervous system. And we will also feel fuller for longer. A low calorie diet, stripped of certain macronutrients such as proteins, leads to decreased tryptophan which leads to decreased serotonin and in turn, problems with mood and losing weight.
So I hope this helps shed some light on why it’s important to turn to holistic therapies as part of your weight loss program. You can see why we need to fix your gut and treat your nervous system in order for you to shed fat tissue. Weight loss for me is all about overall health and weight gain can certainly be a sign of underlying imbalances.
Yours in health,