Reducing Serotonin Levels

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I’m not a fan of exhaustive lists that are meant to cover absolutely every possible way that some miscellaneous biochemical, of which there are a bajillion, are affected by our diet and lifestyle.  Trying to simply research one of them recently, serotonin, has nearly turned my brain into scrambled eggs.  Actually, that’s a terrible metaphor as my brains probably look, taste, and have some nutritional similarities to scrambled eggs regardless of my current research project (snoop du jour?).  But you know what I mean.

In the last post I discussed some of the dangers of serotonin.  When looking at the big picture of aging, inflammation, mitochondrial respiration, metabolism – that stuff that is a recurring theme in almost all illnesses, serotonin is worthy of mention.  It’s not worthy of mention because it is the “happy” chemical that makes us “feel good,” which is about as educationally deep as Blues Clues when describing the complexity of serotonin, but because of the many interactions it has with our cells in a very fundamental way.

Like, say, when you increase serotonin in the brain and see a reduction in ATP and a move away from oxidation and towards glycolysis (in English, this means that serotonin makes brain cells less able to produce energy properly, and put the cells into a metabolic state synonymous with aging, cancer, and neurodegeneration).

Anyway, to get back to the original point – I’m not a big fan of exhaustive lists that would make anyone who takes the information seriously completely neurotic.  I am a fan of simple changes that don’t really make a person a health hermit or require much effort (other than maybe reorganizing your daily rituals), that actually do make a significant difference.

Before I list some ways a person can potentially lower serotonin levels, so that this information can connect with some people who are truly negatively impacted by an excess of serotonin (and therefore have the highest likelihood of benefitting from the information noticeably), please don’t make serotonin the next big, bad, wolf.  It is an important substance, and its basic functions should be known and understood a lot better than they are, but remember that there really are no dietary or lifestyle one-hit wonders.  Everything we do and consume and experience interacts with our physiology.  Serotonin is just one lens to look through at how certain stimuli interact with our bodies.  Anyway, here goes…

5 Practical Ways to Lower Serotonin…

1)      Eat more digestible foods

Slow digestion with weaker digestive secretions is a feature of a reduced metabolism.  This can lead to bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine (SIBO) – thought to be the predominant cause of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as yeast overgrowth and other complications.  Women produce more estrogen than men, and estrogen increases serotonin and suppresses metabolic rate, which is most likely what’s responsible for the far higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome in women than men (and issues that seem to have a strong connection to the gut, such as mood disorders and autoimmune disease).  It doesn’t take as much “health food,” dieting, or overexercising to trigger IBS and other problems in a woman of reproductive age than in a man in my experience, as discussed in 180 Degree Digestion.

Anyway, the foods that exacerbate this condition, fueling greater bacterial proliferation and serotonin production (most serotonin is produced in the gut), are foods with a high-residue.  These include beans, legumes, whole grains, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit – particularly the firmer fruits and unripe bananas, and anything overly coarse and fibrous that is tougher to fully break down in the upper regions of the digestive tract.  While such foods are a staple of cultures with low incidences of irritable bowel syndrome, and seem to have a protective effect over bowel diseases (probably because they yield more short-chain fatty acid production in the gut as discussed in my other work), I find that once health problems arise the theoretical superiority of “whole foods,” high fiber diets, raw and unrefined foods, and so forth becomes temporarily irrelevant.

Anyway, be open about eating a highly-digestible diet featuring well-cooked, soft foods with very little fiber, particularly if you have health problems with a high probability of being caused by serotonin, such as depression, brain fog, lethargy, asthma, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome – to name a few.  This usually boils down to eliminating most of the things in the diet that could be considered “health food” and opting for refined grains, strained juice instead of whole fruit, granny-style vegetables that have been cooked to a slush-like consistency, mashed potatoes, blended soups, pie, ice cream, and other nice things.  Don’t forget the salt.  In general, the softer and easier-to-chew a food is, the easier it is to digest.  But in general, minimizing digestive irritation by any means should decrease serotonin.

Note – there are other ways to look at this, for example, eating tons of raw fruit can cause your transit time to speed up so much that it doesn’t have time to ferment and increase bacterial proliferation in the gut.  But eating a ton of raw fruit usually makes people freezing cold and feeling pretty crummy, probably due to its high water content, and low sodium content – factors that I am discussing in a book I have due out in a few weeks.

2)      Get bright light exposure as close to dawn as possible

Light, and proper circadian rhythmicity, seems key in overcoming some of the syndromes associated with serotonin such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, Sundowner’s Syndrome, depression, insomnia, asthma, and just generally feeling tired and groggy in the morning.  There is debate between whether bright light therapy or dawn simulation is superior.  The ultimate would be to sleep outdoors, and natural dawn and dusk is perhaps why sleeping and spending more time outdoors seems to lead to so many health improvements.  Likewise, for proper circadian rhythmicity, it’s probably best to have LESS light exposure after sunset, especially from bright stuff you stare directly into.

3)      Spend time outdoors

Along the same lines, spending time outdoors, especially early in the day, is hugely underestimated in terms of its important physiological impact.  While ideas like “earthing” and exposing oneself to more negative ions seem, on the surface, to be wacky new age fads, they do have real scientific validity – validity that will probably continue to be understudied and underappreciated.  You could also try using earthing mats or ionizers in your home if getting outdoors is not an option.  But reliance on a gadget is certainly inferior to the whole experience of being outdoors, in bright light, doing something physically active, using the brain actively, and all the things that come with the entire outdoor experience.  I hit this topic up in a post entitled 10 Health Reasons to Spend Time Outdoors a few months ago.

4)      Use your brain actively

Serotonin seems to be more aligned with low brain wave activity – alpha waves and lower.  Active use of the brain seems to be something that is driven by serotonin-opposing forces, like dopamine.  While it’s good to relax the mind from time to time with things that stimulate alpha waves and serotonin, like meditation for example, the rate of mitochondrial respiration and glucose oxidation in the brain and body is much higher when the brain is active and producing higher frequency beta waves.  Of course, you can have too much of a good thing and become highly stressed and anxious with excessive beta wave production.  But as a general rule, the modern world and environment triggers a lot more low brain wave activity, with a lot more passive brain use.

The worst offender is probably television, which puts the body into a high serotonin, depressive, extremely hypometabolic low alpha wave state.  The average American watches something like 4 hours of television per day, and television watching is one of the most closely-tethered activities to obesity and diabetes (both associated with excess serotonin) known.  But even activities that would seem to foster more active brain use like video games or internet use still have a tendency to shut down the nervous system, due to the way that cathode rays from any glowing box interact with our biology.

Activities that use real problem-solving brain power and concentration like reading, research, crossword puzzles, conversing, and writing, just to name a few common ones, are much better serotonin killaz.  These activities of course build the proficiency of your brain, while serotonin is known to be directly involved in learning disorders and other varieties of cognitive impairment.

5)      Tweak your aminos

Serotonin is made from tryptophan.  Tryptophan is an amino acid – one that has been found to be directly anti-metabolic, which should be no surprise if it is the precursor to the anti-metabolic serotonin.  You can’t avoid tryptophan.  That would be more or less impossible, and you might omit some really excellent foods like milk in the process of trying to cut it out completely.  But you can favor a few low-tryptophan sources to offset the high tryptophan foods that you eat.  The most substantial thing you could do would be to add some broth/gelatin to your diet.  Gelatin contains amino acids that seem to directly oppose the actions of tryptophan, and contains no tryptophan.  Tryptophan is concentrated in muscle meats, but is not found in the bones and collagen, which are often discarded and not consumed in modern cookery (though almost always used in traditional cookery).

So eating less muscle meat and more gelatin and broth by cooking meats on the bone, roasting whole birds and consuming the juices that come out of them, and so forth is a great practice, as is making homemade gelatin candies and desserts.

Another thing you might consider doing is supplementing with branch chain amino acids, an increasingly trendy practice.  The branch chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are commonly used to prevent muscle breakdown and trigger anabolism – effects that may have something to do with their role as a serotonin antagonist.

Anyway, those are just a few interventions.  Don’t get too serotonin-ed out on me.  The emphasis should be on the basic health practices that we all know to be beneficial to our mood, energy levels, and overall life quality.  And that is basically getting up early, going outside and doing something active, interacting with others, using the brain actively and creatively instead of having it babysat by a television, and not eating a bunch of food you don’t like that upsets your stomach.

That’s the one sentence summary.  If that still seems too complicated, the one word summary is “LIVE.”

And trust me, I know how hard that can be sometimes.  Our whole society and life design is one that fosters low grade depression and lethargy, characteristic of serotonin excess.  But there are simple ways to break outside of that, and forming some simple new rituals and following them with daily adherence can be very powerful.

84 Comments

  1. Great post!

    Step 1 and 5 have made a huge difference in my life, as an ex-vegan “unprocessed” foods type of guy. Strained orange juice, thoroughly cooked vegetables, potatoes and white rice, stewed fruit and salt have all greatly improved my digestion.

    Bone broth – the best whole food supplement I’ve found. A cup a day keeps the doctor away. It’s great stuff but unfortunately does take a bit of effort and preparation. Drinking it with meals helps even more as it’s a great digestive aid.

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  2. Exactly what I needed go read today. Thanks Matt!

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  3. First????? How is that even possible, the other comments must be missing.

    So, my desire to eat pressure cooked potatoes, carrots, and cabbage is not necessarily a bad thing? I like them best with bone broth, a little bit of good wine, and tamari sauce (I know its soy, but whatever.) What about sushi? Is that good? How about the occasional green smoothie (its all cut up of course), I like mine with frozen blueberries, coconut milk (the fatty kind), parsley, and some sort of greens. I found that I started to feel better after I began drinking them (just 1 a day). That said, I did have a tooth pulled earlier this year, and eating has become a bit of a chore. They pulled my favorite big molar on my left side. I miss my tooth.

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    • The protein content of soy sauce is very low, ESPECIALLY if it’s fermented. The protein content of lecithin is almost non-existent. Same goes for soy oil, though it’s a PUFA and should be restricted for that reason. So relax. No need to worry about the consequences of eating these, unless you have a REAL (i.e. not health guru induced) allergy to soy.

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  4. Are gums and culters/enzymes hard on the gut? Things like guar gum, cargeenen, probiotics, yogart cultures, cheese enzymes, etc.

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    • Supposedly very hard on the gut. Yes.

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      • I think yogurt cultures/probiotics should be considered separately from gums and carageenan. In my experience, yogurt and kefir are helpful for the digestion (and many people who have trouble drinking milk can consume yogurt, because the good bacteria pre-digest the lactose). Cheese enzymes are supposedly helpful to digestion, too. Gums/carageenan are rough on the belly.

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        • Hey Amy,

          Sorry this is a little off topic but you mentioned a few interesting things about salt and hypoglycemia in the sodium article a few weeks ago. Your experience with unnaturally forcing either salt or fluid intake sounds similar to what I’m going through and I was wondering if you could listen to my story and maybe see if you can relate and help me.

          My email is kamrank@cox.net. Hope you see this. Thanks!

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  5. Loving this de-loving of the once loved serotonin.
    Just wondering, is the balancing 5-HTP with L-Tyrosine as a brain supplement combo to keep the 5HTP in check, have any validity? Is dopamine the cuddly monster to Mr. Evil Serotonin, are they both bad news, or is that another story for another day?
    I only wonder because I go through phases of REM sleep overload, and don’t get refreshed at all, feels like my head is buzzing all night. I am trying to kind of map my triggers, go more natural in terms of no TV, PC late night, lights on and off at the right sort of times, de-stressing, high sugar diet with lots of digestibles. I feel totally great, until I have one of those sleeps and I am pooped all day! Get weird digestion, headache, fried feeling. Supplementing was an angle I hadn’t explored. Anyhoo- your serotonin gibber just got me thinking. Keep it up!

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    • If one is doing a little weight training, is there a proper time to take the branch chain aminos in relation to the lifting?

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      • The best time to take branch chains seem to be right before and right after working out. They are also commonly used with fasting during the fasting period.

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    • sorry that wasn’t supposed to be a reply to Abbie!

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    • I can relate to the “REM overload” type of sleep. Funnily enough I seem to experience it more after consuming a lot of sugar.
      Do you take the 5htp and Tyrosine? Have you noticed any difference in sleep quality after taking them?

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  6. Thank you…was looking for this after the last post… I want gelatin candy recipes now….and maybe I can sneak in some min-col so my kids can get it that way…

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      • Thanks, Thomas!!

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    • Turkish Delight. Easy (my 12 year old daughter makes it), quick, and really just gelatin, water, sugar, and a bit of lemon or rose essence. Let me know if you want the recipe.
      For non-fans of gravies and stews and slow cooked stuff, a way to get your gelatin in savoury form – Portuguese chicken – marinated chicken portions overnight in olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, buckets (!) of lemon juice and as much cayenne pepper as you like. Next morning the marinade is a firm jelly so all that acidic stuff seems to draw out the gelatin. Then you bake it.

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      • Yes, please post it! I can make it and then pretend I’m in Narnia.

        I’d love the chicken recipe too! My hubby is sick of crock pot chicken and scorns my broth making attempts.

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        • Ok! Will find the book with the turkish delight. Meanwhile, the chicken: the recipe (slightly adapted from Sonia Cabano’s ‘easy simple and delicious’) says 12 chicken portions, ( I just cut up a whole chicken); marinade: half a cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper (this makes it very mild, so use more, as much as you want) 1Tablespoon crushed garlic, 3Tablespoons tomato paste. Cut gashes in the chicken portions, coat with marinade and leave to marinade overnight. You can barbecue it (would be lovely but then you’d lose a lot of the gelatin rich sauce) or bake it in a hot oven (200 C) for 30 – 40 minutes (that’s what the recipe says but I think it takes longer) and you baste with mix of melted butter, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup lemon juice. And all those quantities are flexible, you can add more lemon juice and cayenne for example (I do). And you can serve with rice cooked in broth, onion, garlic, green pepper and a bit of white wine. (Fry the onion, green pepper and garlic, add the rice, then the wine, when absorbed, add the broth and as much water as still needed after that). The wine is nice but not crucial. Another good way to use broth for people who don’t like to know it’s there!

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          • Wouldn’t the chicken gelatin be high in PUFA though?
            I still havent managed to make decent bonebroth,always ended up flushing it down in the toilet,let alone getting gelatin-like substance.

  7. “But eating a ton of raw fruit usually makes people freezing cold and feeling pretty crummy, probably due to its high water content, and low sodium content – factors that I am discussing in a book I have due out in a few weeks.”

    I can’t wait for your discussion on this. Have you read “Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports” by Tim Noakes? (The same author who busted the custom orthotic myths) It’s tremendously eye-opening. His book coupled with your posts on the subject helped me stop compulsively drinking 64-96oz of water a day. I’m now down to around 32 oz a day (I drink only when I’m actually thirsty!). I lost four pounds almost right away (!!!!) and am so much more clear headed/energetic.

    Anyways, looking forward to your findings, as always.

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    • Yeah I feel so cold always…if I feel any colder I run around naked in winter.

      I am/was hypo and all that stereotyping makes me roll my eyes.

      Saying fruits make you feel cold and to eat low on fiber and empty calories is just as bad as the advice from the docs who tell me my hormone levels were normal and just further take T4.

      Sure, sometimes I drink lemonade or eat refined baked goods, but telling people that this is the golden grail..no way.

      Especially when you tell them they should keep that up for the rest of their life.

      Just like docs tell me to eat on low fibre with crohns disease…but oh wonder, in the worst phases they cram fibre supplements on you to stop the runs.

      I was on that ‘low fibre-easy digestible’ wave for years and sure..it helped for some years. And at first it feels like the golden grail. But sooner or later your body can not be kept in such a state.

      A race horse will break down when you force it beyond its possibilities, but a race horse also will get weak and ill when you don´t exercise it at the optimum.

      Let us see it that way..you broke your leg and because walking with a broken leg is painfull, you get on bedrest..and because that feels so good,you decide to stay this way even when you are fully healed.

      Because you fear the pain you remember..but what is the consequence?

      Your body gets weaker and sooner or later there is a bunch of problem, then you try to jump out of bed and run, but you can not, hurt yourself and think..better back to bed(the low fibre, ‘easy digestible’ diet).

      Instead you could train yourself slowly back to the optimum..small steps, not big jumps.

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  8. Not sure this is what you mean by high fiber foods being staple food in traditional cultures, but I have difficulty finding examples of whole grain consuming societies. Just looking through Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods and other similar sources, the rule seems to be that traditionally, refined flour was used and often fermented (and then cooked) as that increases digestibility quite a bit.

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    • I’m thinking he probably means more the starchy non-grain tubers like potato, sweet potato, taro, etc, which are widely common.

      When it comes to grains, it does seem like refined is preferable. Heck, even a lot of the tubers were refined by pulverizing, souring, etc.

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      • Refined normally means a flour where the outer hulls are taken away when they are edible and also the germ and other parts of the grain that would ‘taint’ the white flour/grain and turn rancid through longer storage.

        Pulverizing per se is not refining.

        Also making a sourdough from whole grain meal is not really refining because you do not take away big parts of the grain/tuber/legumes.

        But for example, taro and maniok(tapioka) are refined, ground down, treated with acids and washed to take away the toxic substances that would make them useless as food.

        Especially tapioka is extremly refined, just like white wheat flour where the hulls and the germ is taken away.

        Tapioka is first ground down, than washed, cooked and fermented to make it edible..this is refined..to take away impurities as it is defined.

        Maniok tubers provide starch, the calories..to get vitamins,minerals and protein the leaves are eaten as a vegetable(maniok leaves contain 30% protein in dry mass)

        As the opposite, potatoes are not toxic, therefor they do not undergo a big process to make them edible..you can eat them baked in the skin, peeled, ground down and fried as a sort of pancake. If you don´t let them turn green, there is nothing toxic in a potatoe and no refining.

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    • The studies that were done in Africa that later led to our modern day glorification of fiber consumed something like 140 grams of fiber per day. Estimates at more primitive stages of human development suggest at least that much fiber consumption, and much more crude food processing devices and practices.

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    • If you study archaeology or read some refined historical books you will find also ancient recipes.

      Those recipes are mostly from noble, rich people..who ate refined flours.

      Refined flours, no matter if greece, ancient egypt, japan or european middle ages, were a food for the nobles because their making needed a bigger workload.

      Refined flour also was touted as a food for the ill who were than weaned from it and back to the normal food after they were healed.

      We shouldn´t forget that the poor folks ate mostly sorghum, milo, buckwheat, oats, spelt..the rich ate wheat which needed more care, better soil, better wheater.

      Modern nutrition makes the mistake to forget that.
      Wheat was not only refined because it is a great refined flour, but it was refined because even in sourdough fermented state the whole wheat flour breads were less good digestable..why is still speculated.Most blame the high gluten content, the antinutrients content that seems different than in other ‘grains’.

      Historicans, mostly cleriks, monks, who wrote down what non-noble people ate, are the only source for us nowadays what our ancestors ate.
      People cared less about the cuisine of the poor and therefor we have more noble kitchen cookbooks with their refined cuisine(white flour, sugar, meats)

      Nowadays we can see traditional ‘ancient’ cuisine still in some native tribes in africa, india, america.

      Whole grains and the meal made from it, fermented and baked or cooked into a gruel.

      Buckwheat, milo, spelt and rye gruel was the main food source for non nobles..even more so than bread. Bread needed an oven and most poor did only have an open fire place.
      Bread was easier to get for the poor(non nobles) when they lived in cities, because the baker there would let them use the oven for their own needs in exchange for a couple of coins or naturalias(flour, milk, eggs).

      Also the healers who tended to the nobles, wrote down their aliments.
      Very interesting when you can get your hands on such a text..and that the nobles had the same ‘modern’ diseases as modern humans.

      Their diet of refined wheat bread, together with lots of dairy, sugar(or earlier honey), only cooked foods, because raw was deemed unhealthy, resulted in the same diseases we call modern nowadays.

      I think we could avoid many digestive tract issues(together with the triggering of antibodies), if we would rely more on the ‘forgotten grains’ which are not only more nutrient rich(minerals/vitamins), but also easier digestable.

      ‘poor’ tribes we see nowadays in more natives states of living not only have less digestive issues as we have, but they also have a distinct lack of wheat products.
      Depending on where the tribe is originated you see them eating rice, milo, buckwheat, oats(and also legumes)..but not wheat.

      That tribes who lack digestive issues also lack the use of wheat, should make people question the overall use of wheat, refined and non refined …and instead check out the ‘old stuff’

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  9. For those of you who do need to work at the computer after sundown you might want to look into a free program called f.lux. You can find it at: http://stereopsis.com/flux/. It is free to download and it will automatically dim your screen as the sun goes down according to where you are on the planet. I have found it very helpful and gentle on the eyes. The screen dimming is not noticeable and happens gradually. The program runs silently in background.

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    • Or you can buy some amber vision sun glasses for that cool sunglasses look at night. I can’t use that software on my ipad.

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      • I have a pair of those. The proper kind are the amber ones that are used for people with macular degeneration. They’re not cool-looking. They make you look like a douchebag from Planet X.

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  10. “And that is basically getting up early, going outside and doing something active, interacting with others, using the brain actively and creatively instead of having it babysat by a television, and not eating a bunch of food you don’t like that upsets your stomach.

    That’s the one sentence summary. If that still seems too complicated, the one word summary is “LIVE.”

    Yes. Love it! :)

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  11. “be open about eating a highly-digestible diet featuring well-cooked, soft foods ” -> totally open and love to eat such foods when available !

    Matt, what is the new book you are writing about? The perils of fruit over-consumption or maintaing water-sodium balance ? The latter would be good !

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  12. Great post Matt. I have a few questions though – what is the beef with yoghurt? surely it would improve digestion and be easy to assimilate… I know Ray Peat is not a fan but I find many people benefit from it and its something I myself crave when I go for periods without it.

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    • Yes, and I’ve heard of many people whose digestive systems healed on kefir.

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    • I do pretty good with yogurt too, but only the regular thickness kind. I sometimes get turkish yogurt, and love the texture but it messes my stomach up big time. Not sure if it’s the higher concentration of fat (10 vs 4) or the stronger culture (my regular is mild).

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      • But I should add that if I eat yogurt at night before bed for a few nights in a row, I get a bad stomach and nasty depression.

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        • Yes, actually I have the same issue with greek yogurt. The best is my own homemade yogurt, which is awesome and always good for my stomach.

          I think the issue with the thick yogurt is the amount of milk protein.

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          • Isn’t the protein in the whey?

            Yeah, I do great with homemade yogurt too. Can’t wait to get back to making my own! Not easy finding raw milk in these parts.

  13. I would add avaoiding late night eating/snacking to item 1)
    In general, see that you stomach is as good as empty when falling asleep, this seems to have an good effect on sleep/day after mood.

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  14. Before going on the GAPS diet, I intuitively ate easily digestible “junk” foods – sugary snacks, chocolate, simple starches…stuff like that. But when I went on GAPS I became horribly constipated.
    I think I’ll listen to my body from now on..

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    • Haha. XD I’ve had similar experiences.

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    • For me I’ve noticed a worsening of constipation/diarrhea after I stopped entirely with flour based sweets. My diet is otherwise fairly similar to before.

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        • I should write an article about why people get permanently worse on a gluten free or casein free diet, haha.

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          • Yes, please do!

          • Definitely would be interested in reading that. I’m still trying to work my way back to eating wheat. But given how severe the reaction is when I eat at a restaurant, I’m not pushing it until my temperature is up.

          • I would also be interested in hearing your recommendations for how to reintroduce gluten and casein back into the diet. I mean should I go slow or all at once?

          • Look into immunotherapy for dairy allergy…apparently, if you add very tiny amounts slowly, the body doesn’t have as bad a reaction to it. Totally avoiding it can make the reaction worse when you do have it.

            Personally, I’ve noticed I seem to do ok with very small amounts of milk.

            http://www.medpagetoday.com/AllergyImmunology/Allergy/15603

          • Thanks PC. I’m doing ok with casein now. I broke out in hives for the first couple of months and had sore joints, but it has subsided. I’m still limiting lactose though. I tried to push it for about a month and increase my tolerance and I just felt like I was making myself sick with nothing to gain. Slowly increasing my tolerance to gluten might be a good idea.

          • So long as you manage to mention that some of us really do need to be gluten free. I wish I had known that about myself years ago.

          • I forgot to say please, and thank you. Where are my manners!?

          • You’ll make those of us with a legit autoimmune reaction to it cry, though! T_T

          • Yes you should LOL, or have you done that now? I can’t imagine why anyone would need gluten? Or is it to do with how their diet changes as a whole when they go gluten free?

            Personally, if I eat gluten, I go to the bathroom 10 times a day. That I don’t need LOL. I don’t know if I have a “genuine autoimmune reaction” and don’t really care.

        • Oh no, not an NTA article!

          Well, according to the author I should have been feeling much better a long time ago. I didn’t notice any health improvements after I got off it. It’s been a couple of years now.
          While bread seemed to mess up my digestion, sweet goods never caused any problems. Just the blood sugar effect, which is why I’ve avoided it.

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    • The problem is that the digestive tract is like any other ‘muscle’ if you don´t train it and than want to run a marathon, you feel like crap and injure yourself.

      With the so called ‘easily digestable food’ which you get since shortly after weaning, you turn your digestive tract into a couch potatoes.

      Than you read something about healthy food and want to cram all the so called healthy stuff down your gullet and think your body can take it.

      If you are a couchpotatoe and want to run a marathon you will fail without steadily improving training.
      So will your digestive tract.

      Contrary to what is often touted, this isn´t changed in some weeks or months.

      Depending on your health it may need years to change to ‘better food’.

      Your gut dislikes fibre and complex foods because it is a 400 pound guy on the couch who doesn´t want to run around in the park and therefor prefers easy exercise, like opening chip bags.

      Sure, that is an easy, tasty life..until you get older and the problems don´t go away with easier and easier exercise(food) and you get so tired you don´t want to get out of bed.

      An easy metaphor..it might be a long way and tiresome until you are able to run a marathon because you need to take it easy to feel good during training.

      But in the later years your body may thank you when you are able to get out of bed.

      I like so called junk foods, chocolat, lemonades. But after 10, 12 years on the diet promoted here…for some earlier, for some later..your body will no longer react well to it.

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  15. A while ago I studied for a semester at a folk school in northern Sweden and during the first two months (Sept and Oct) we spent a lot of time outdoors harvesting material for our crafts, especially during the morning hours. I’m normally very comfortable in my home space, and for long period of times, rarely get outdoors, let alone the first thing in the morning!

    I remember coming home to visit my family over the fall break and my mother said I had never looked so healthy. We joked about the pristine nature in the least inhabited place in Sweden. Unfortunately, it was also there I experienced some real health set backs when darkness by noon set in a month later.

    When I lived in the States, I used to hang outside for hours taking my kids to homeschool gatherings in the park. But nowadays, I’m mostly inside. I like having things to do, like messing in the kitchen, cleaning, reading. I often fantasize about having most of my living space outdoors, cause I think that’s the only way I’d spend any length of time outside.

    What do you do when you’re outside for long hours? Just hike? If I have someone to chat with, I can stay for a while, but I usually get all anxious/jittery after a couple of hours just doing that. I do like being surrounded by nature, but it feels a little like visiting a museum. Cause most I do is just ‘look’.

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    • Play basketball, walk around neighborhoods, ride my bike, sit in the sun with friends and talk. Those are my go-to outside engagements.

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      • Not much sun where I live:(. They do some weather modification stuff around here so it’s been cloudy most days for the past year. But I suppose it’s still beneficial to be outside even with the overcast.

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  16. I love being outside and I really experience lots of (extra) anxiety/uneassiness during the current rainy fall days over here. What to do about that,apart from going outside anyway getting soaken wet? (and I can’t hang out at the gym all day walking on the threadmill…..well,actually I can but that’s becoming boring after a while too.). I really don’t have the rest anymore to stay at home and do whatever…..I can’t even eat at home anymore,which is becoming a really big problem.:(

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  17. I love this! but what would this look like if your grain and oil intolerant I kinda feel I need the beans and other whole foods since I don’t do the oil or high fat thing. That being said I would just love to eat white bread again!

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  18. I’ve been taking small amoung of melatonin before bed most nights for the past 2-3 weeks. It’s been the only thing stopping my 3:39am wake up/insomnia.

    Anyone know if this will have long term effects similar to it’s precursor seratonin?

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  19. Serotonin levels can fluctuate and are affected by environmental factors, diet and any medications might be taking. Excessively high serotonin levels can be a very dangerous one can affect mentally and may cause issues with sleep disturbances, insomnia, irritability and mental confusion.

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  20. Can someone clarify the connection between carbs and serotonin?

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    • There is a lot out there about carbs and serotonin, because insulin is known to increase serotonin, and many presume that insulin and carbohdyrates are synonymous, which is absurd. Having said that, I do believe there is validity about eating carbs in the absense of protein causing a quick increase in serotonin, particularly high-glycemic starches. Supposedly in the absense of protein, a quick spike in insulin allows more tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and form more serotonin. Especially at night, which is the premise of Kathleen DesMaisons Potatoes Not Prozac. Perhaps why nighttime carbs have such an association with fatness, and there are so many health philosophies that minimize carbs in the evening in particular.

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      • Thanks! Same for sugar/fruit without protein?

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        • Supposedly sugar has less of an impact, but I know eating a very high fruit diet I had many excess serotonin symptoms, like waking up feeling completely unrested. Eating really heavy at night seems to have the biggest impacts, and triggers some of the known symptoms of SSRI drugs, like crazy dreams and waking up feeling hungover.

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  21. It looks like the comments on this post are over, but I’ll post this anyway…

    I’ve been casually following a GAPS diet blogger, and just today went to see how her first six months panned out, and she mentioned depression and needing serotonin, which reminded me of this here very post at 180DH that I had just read a few weeks ago. Here’s her post:

    http://www.plantoeat.com/blog/2012/10/gaps-diet-6-month-update/

    How does someone go about telling her about the truth of serotonin with out sounding, uh, I don’t know, you know, uh…
    ?

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  22. So Matt what you’re saying is that they should produce antidepressant that reduce serotonin rather than increase it? :-)

    btw, what’s your take on uvexposure/vitamin D in regards to all this?

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      • my serotonin level was high via a neurotransmitter test…and the doc recommended Serene(from NeuroScience)…but reading about it…it is supposed to RAISE serotonin levels…my GABA was low and I have been supplementing with Gaba 500mg 3-4/x per day..what is your thoughts on the Serene?

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  23. Good luck convincing health care and drug industry they’ve been doing the opposite of what’s good all along :-P

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  24. I must admit I’m a little surprised by some of your info/logic in your post. You are right that most seretonin(about 90%) is made in the small intestine, but that seretonin does not enter the brain/CNS, it is used in the body. Seretonin used by the brain is made in the brain, and Depression as a clinical dis-ease/condition literally means low seretonin or problem regulating it. Meaning if exercise/diet etc fixed your depression then you were not clinically depressed, just fatigued, depressed mood or whatever. So real depression is not a symptom, but an actual disease. Same goes for ADD/ADHD, some claim it’s caused by food allergies, additives etc, again completely false. ADD is a problem regulating dopamine in the brain, it can affect different parts creating diff symptoms. Food allergies can cause hyperactivity, impaired concentration etc for sure, but that is not ADD. And I don’t understand how eating raw foods/fiber slows digestion, raw food has enzymes that help break down the food for absorption. Our intestines are not meant to do all of the digesting, so eating a lot of processed/refined/cooked food is harder to break down and slows digestion. Enzymes are not hard on the body! Lots of sugar is not good for you lol, it’s acidic and creates oxidative stress on the body, as well as increases lactic acid which is no good. I agree that one shouldn’t sit around and watch tv all the time, we need to be active and outdoors, and many people take anti-depressants who don’t need them, but the blame there is on the pt and the Dr. The drugs were developed for the right reasons and the science is there, but ofcourse the Pharm companies don’t mind making a ton of $ from people using their drugs. Sorry to rain on your parade but there was just a lot of BS in your post. Oh yeah, Ive never heard of a seretonin antagonist, I’m fairly positive that there is no such drug, as there is no use other then maybe seretonin syndrome which is easy to prevent in the first place.

    Reply
    • There are dozens of seratonin antagonist drugs. Processed/refined/cooked food is easier to break down. We absorb a much higher percentage of it which is why stool volume is reduced by eating lots of such foods. Sugar, as far as I know, decreases lactic acid because it lactic acid is not produced as much when glucose is available, and the higher the respiratory quotient (which goes up with a high sugar diet) increases carbon dioxide levels which further suppresses lactic acid production. There are lots of things to consider other than the viewpoints you so boldly and confidently speak of.

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      • Alrighty, you are right about there being several serotonin antagonist, apparently they are used for vomiting & nausea, I hadn’t heard of them as most of my drug research has been about psychoactive meds. Also you are right about my bold and overconfident position, I was pretty depressed then and less then rational. I also was pretty pessimistic about naturopathy/wholistic type medicine and thinking, as I recently had wasted alot of money and energy(will explain in a bit) with a naturopath MD who claimed; 1. I had systemic candida~false, 2. I had adrenal fatigue~false, 3. My cholesterol was low because my liver was “sick”~false, 4. I needed glutathione iv’s 2x’s a week for 6 weeks( $150 per iv)~false, I had 2 done before I got my lab results(taken pre-iv’s) showing a very good glutathione level. And a host of other things he said that were complete BS. I was mad to say the least because I was in a very messed up place, ADHD(undiagnosed) led to painkiller addiction, led to a slow but steady deep depression. I take responsibility for my choices and actions but have no guilt nor shame, ADHD has hindered me in so many ways, and when I found painkillers enabled me to feel normal(via DA release rather then opiate high) I (although I wanted to and tried) had a very difficult time getting off of them. So after I quit(via ibogaine, bad idea!) I was so depressed that I didn’t even know it, just a confused mess. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me, everything from pyroluria, copper toxicity, etc etc, so I spent a lot of time worrying about this candida nonsense, untill I realized I was depressed. I did not want to take an AD as I had in the past and they did nothing for me, but I realized that all my physical symptoms(constipation, pain, tinnitus, tingling lips and hands were depression related. So I know first hand how bad depression can be and that AD’s do work. Without meds for my ADD and depression I would be in a psych ward right now, I’m truly grateful to live in a time where science has produced meds to treat conditions like mine. I’ll give you that there are still unknowns about how AD’s work exactly and it’s more complicated then just increasing serotonin. Since quitting opioid analgesics(with the aid of ibogaine) I have experienced the wonders of several different neurotransmitter ratios, such as psychosis, bipolar swings, anxiety, panick attacks, mania, dementia, fibromyalgia, akathesia and of course depression and ADD. I have also found that taking amino acid precursors cause more disruptions in neurotransmitter balance(side effects) then the prescription meds I’ve taken/take. So I can attest that there is a method to the madness, I was once of the opinion that Pharm co’s were full of s#!%, and that psychotropic meds were just treating the symptoms that were resultant of other physiologic origins. And yes, sugar is converted to lactic acid via ATP production in anaerobic metabolism, not that lactic acid is detrimental to your health though. But consuming too much sugar is not healthy, it does cause oxidative stress/damage to our system, if only through causing a more acidic environment. Also it feeds the pathogenic bacteria in our digestive systems and many diseases start in the GI system. How often do we crave foods that are good for us? If you eat to satisfy the first 6 inches of your digestive system your health will suffer. Anyways, I apologize for my first post, I don’t have an ego to protect and I always seek the truth, therefore when proven wrong I humbly accept it.

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  25. Hi Matt, I liked this article a lot. I wanted to know if you have any recommendations for those like myself who have a computer job which requires spending lots of time in front of a computer screen.

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    • You can dim the screen a little as evening approaches, and hopefully avoid too much screen time after dark in the evening.

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      • I use the free program F.lux, which adds a red screen filter as sunset approaches, better approximating late day light.

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      • Really? I have heard Peat say its good to have bright light on you until bedtime.

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  26. Can over-seratonin makes weird eyesight problems even though the eyes are physically normal? Is it permanent? How can it be corrected? What books can I buy with info to reduce seratonin?

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    • Wil [anyone answer my question?

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  27. I am a little confused about branch chain amino acids. What types of supplements? I get killer headaches and my abortive medication uses selective seratonin inhibitors. Apparently they just build up and misfire at times. Just looking for simple, minimally invasive support. I also have the IBS issue and am guilty of overusing the tv and nighttime lights.

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  28. Frankly, I find this article a little counterintuitive and a bit misguided. How can a pathology like depression with low serotonin as an implicated etiology be remedied by lowering it even further?

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    • I don’t think low serotonin is an implicated etiology in depression. Most of the research shows low dopamine as more causative, among other factors.

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  29. Thank you for this article, but I would like to point out that it is entirely unnecessary – and unhealthy – to eat processed foods, refined grains, or over-cooked foods in order to achieve the goal of sticking to relatively easy-to-digest foods that don’t leave a residue. On the animal food side, most animal foods do not cause this problem to begin with to it’s not really an issue there. On the plant food side of things, fruit is only problematic if it is unripe; as long as it is ripe, there should be no digestive issue (unless one has fermentation that is being fed by the fruit sugar, in which case one may need to let the fermentation die off, and/or do a colon cleanse, before eating fruit). Regarding vegetables, mesclun salad mix and other small, light, leafy greens (microgreens) are easy to digest and full of nutrition and don’t leave a residue; other vegetables need to be cooked but if something needs to be cooked for a really long time then it is probably best to just avoid it, there isn’t a huge need for such hard-to-digest vegetables or grains in the diet. There is no need to resort to heavily processed foods, though.

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