The Sadder Side of Serotonin

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Are you sad?  Depressed?  Tired?  Crave them evil #$%#ohydrates?  Well hell son you just need you some serotonin!  Serotonin makes you happy!  Whee!!!

The research and cultural status quo on serotonin doesn’t make much sense, and is full of contradiction.  Strangely, everyone seems to be madly in love with serotonin (people even have tattoos celebrating it – I hope they don’t read this post!) and is fully satisfied with the label of “happy juice.”  Serotonin makes you happy, everyone seems to believe, and if you aren’t happy then well, let’s figure out how to get more serotonin in ya.  Buck up little camper, we’ll beat that slump, together.

When everyone in the media, in the health field, and beyond start to collectively believe in a very simple and narrow story about any one thing, you can probably be sure that some kind of Scientific Sasquatch has come into being.  The belief that serotonin is like the biochemical equivalent of Happy Gilmore sharing a Happy Meal with a bunch of Care Bears in heaven holding hands and skipping with Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross is not just Kardashingly shallow.  It’s criminally inaccurate.

In pursuit of maintaining good mitochondrial respiration and keeping metabolism from declining with age, in pursuit of squelching stress hormone production and keeping the anabolic hormones of youth in full swing, and in pursuit of minimizing inflammation and more – what science increasingly leads us towards when it comes to the prevention and cure of the modern world’s most common illnesses, the recruitment of serotonin in that fight is about as productive as (insert clever, sarcastic metaphor).

What I’m really getting at is that serotonin sucks, in a general sense.  And what people think about serotonin – in terms of how to raise it, what it will do for you when it rockets up, and so forth are really kinda dumb and poorly thought out.  But it doesn’t take a whole lot of research to determine that serotonin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that those who think it’s going to cure everything from depression to seasonal affective disorder and help you shed some pounds while you’re at it are some pretty confused people with only a very superficial understanding of the many things that serotonin regulates in the brain and body.

Anyway, I’ll stop playing around.  Let’s discuss 6 sad things about serotonin:

1)      Serotonin is highly involved in hibernation, lowering body temperature and more.  It rises as daylight shortens and helps to trigger many of the metabolic changes that occur with hibernating animals – all of which are synonymous with a reduced metabolic rate, reduced respiratory rate, increased insulin resistance, reduced carbon dioxide levels, reduced energy level, reduced body temperature, increased histamine, reduced peristalsis, and so forth – just to name a few.  If those things were good, we would get progressively healthier with advancing age.  But they aren’t, and we don’t.  Those are all biomarkers of poorer health, lower vitality levels, and increasing risk of degenerative disease.

2)      Serotonin is fattening and triggers insulin resistance.  Knowing serotonin’s role in hibernation, it should come as no surprise that “antidepressant” drugs like Prozac, which increase serotonin levels through sort of a recycling process, are very fattening and known to dramatically increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Wow.  Real shocker there.  Increase the levels of a substance that makes you tired and want to sleep all the time and induces weight gain and insulin resistance and watch it cause weight gain and insulin resistance!

3)      Serotonin plays a primary role in seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  There is a great deal of shocking bull$#@^ when it comes to seasonal affective disorder, as the bass ackwards rumor that seasonal affective disorder has something to do with decreasing levels of serotonin is pervasive, yet increasing darkness and shortened day length causes INCREASES in serotonin, and increases in laying around all day, lifeless, sad, and wanting to shoot your Alaskan self in the face in early January.  Oh yeah, “sunlight raises serotonin” says the brainwashed serotonin lovers.  That must be why serotonin peaks at midnight when the sun is really shining bright!  Both high-powered lights in the morning as well as negative ions have been shown to be effective treatments for seasonal affective disorder, which is interesting when you consider the quote coming up in #4…

4)      Serotonin causes depression.  I was perusing through a pro-serotonin article and found this contradictory gem lying there, plucked from a book on controlling asthma (more on that in a sec).  It says a lot, and is probably part of the reason why I have always found failure to make it outdoors by about 10am to be extremely depressing (modern dwellings are notoriously high in positive ions, which raise serotonin)…

 “Research by Dr. Leslie Hawkins at the University of Surrey, UK, showed that levels of the hormone serotonin in the blood, brain and other tissues seemed to be reduced by negative ions. Serotonin is a substance that plays a part in brain chemistry, and imbalances in it lead to depression and other mental disturbances. Dr. Hawkins suggested that air rich in negative ions has a stimulating effect while too many positive ions, and thus high levels of serotonin in the body, are depressing. This may explain why ionisers help in cases of irritability and stress.”

5)      Serotonin exacerbates and may even cause asthma.  That should be no surprise seeing that serotonin is synonymous with reduced carbon dioxide levels, constricts bronchioles, plays a role in the general inflammatory response (stimulating the pituitary gland), and so forth.  It would also make sense that if negative ions decrease seasonal affective disorder that they would also reduce asthma symptoms if the cause (high serotonin) was the same, which they of course do (negative ions reducing asthma symptoms, that is).

6)      Serotonin may play a causal role in schizophrenia, autism, and countless other neurological disorders.  The bulk of our serotonin supply is produced in the digestive tract.  Serotonin increases with digestive distress.  Serotonin forms somewhat of a vicious cycle with the digestive tract.  Serotonin suppresses metabolism, suppressed metabolism fosters the overgrowth of yeast and bacteria in the small intestine, which in turn produces a much greater outpouring of serotonin produced in the gut, especially when “health” food like whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and raw fruits and vegetables are consumed.  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), a theory that groups many psychological disorders and pins it on digestive abnormalities is most likely related to the increased serotonin activity with impaired digestion.

This is just a short list of course.  Serotonin is involved in the general disease, aging, inflammation, and degeneration process – from hypertension to asthma to schizophrenia to insomnia to diabetes to depression – of which there is tremendous overlap and redundancy between all of them, them, them.  The list easily could have been titled “66 Sad Things About Serotonin.”  More on serotonin to come in the future, including very simple practical measures that can reduce the serotonin burden.

If you see lots of authors, researchers, and even formal studies that seem to contradict what was said here, keep looking, look carefully, and review the breadth of what you find only after thoroughly taking in a comprehensive viewpoint – keeping in mind that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) drugs are some of the top selling drugs on earth, and that the pharmaceutical industry is the primary financier of medical research, medical education, and the media empires that have hardwired you to believe that serotonin is great stuff, and if you are sad or anxious or tired you need more of it.

For further geekage, listen to Josh and Jeanne Rubin’s interview with Ray Peat on serotonin, and some of the links below that provide some validation to the claims made in this post.

Serotonin and Asthma

Serotonin and Hypertension

Hibernation and Insulin Resistance

SSRI’s Increase Diabetes Risk

Serotonin and Schizophrenia

Serotonin and Autism

Serotonin and IQ, ADD, ADHD, Downs Syndrome, Depression

Asthma and Positive and Negative Ions

Bright Lights and Negative Ions for Winter Depression

Serotonin and Hibernation

Dawn Stimulation and Ionizers for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Negative Ions Lower Serotonin

Histamine and Serotonin in Hibernation

Ionizers as an Anti-Depressant

Serotonin, Aggression, and Depression

Tryptophan, Serotonin, and Aging

Serotonin: The Misery Hormone 

128 Comments

  1. I think the proper term would be “Kardashianly.”

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  2. For serotonin, against serotonin. When you start debating these chemicals, I am no expert and I am not even sure how important it is to be an expert. On the one side, you have the pro-serotonin people. On the other hand, you have Ray Peat who go to great pains to avoid anything-even certain fruits like pineapple-to avoid serotonin. I think both are full of shit. Rather than concentrating on this or that chemical, and getting anal about it-what we need to do is learn how to live, avoid stress, be happy, have a meaningful life. Instead of tackling the real problem, we hope to find a chemical cure. These people are taking “The Matrix” way too seriously. We are not brains in a vat. We are bodies that inhabit a world. If we take care of our relation to the world, the body will take care of the rest. I am not saying that there are not instances when some type of chemical might be necessary, but what I am saying is that we need to get away from the chemical (that includes nutritional) paradigm of life. I don’t care if it’s the chemical paradigm of your Kaiser psychiatrist or Ray Peat.

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    • lol!
      “we are not brains in a vat..”
      cracks me up.
      True though.

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    • Great point, I still think it’s important to educate people that serotonin might not be the happy chemical that they believe it to be. Thomas, what you said regarding learning how to live, avoiding stress, live a meaningful life, etc are deep down essential factors to a healthy life. Unfortunately, the way we are swayed by Pharma and our doctors, they make it seem necessary to go on some sort of anti-depressant. I think showing the negative sides of serotonin is completely necessary to help round out the completely biased “good” side.

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    • Bingo!!!!! Although, I still like Matt’s in-your-face, contrarian articles, because that’s what is necessary to get people’s attention. I’m more interested in this not really for the sake of telling people how to eat, but for the sake of conspiracy theory– getting people to stop trusting the establishment!

      I think the fact that austistics have weird gut issues and eating habits is a significant point, but instead of the cause of autism, is a reaction to it. Often people need serotonin to cope with stress, such as with a damaged brain. I myself am no doubt high in serotonin. I have the symptoms of slowness and coldness. Long-term, it’s probably not healthy, but until I eliminate my source of stress, that’s just how it has to be. Negative emotions cause harm to the body, so it’s a natural reaction to shut them down with serotonin. I also think this is why people tend to come awake at night who have stressful, unfulfilling days (most people).

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    • Serotonin, like insulin needs to be viewed in context. Serotonin is neither magic or evil. It is simply a neurotransmitter that has physiological affects. When serotonin is low (or functionally low) various undesirable symptoms prevail. When serotonin is elevated to a functionally beneficial level – the undesirable symptoms of low are reduced.

      Serotonin does not work in a vaccuum. It is influenced by opposing neurotransmitters dopamine and the adrenal catecholamines. When neurotransmitters are sufficient in amount and in balance with each other mood issues resolves.

      Some people have mood issues and assume that they are low in Serotonin when they may in fact be low in catecholamines. The use of neurotransmitters pre-cursors can alleviate symptoms but need to be used judiciously the address the deficiency. Taking 5-htp or Tryptophan is only helpful if Serotonin is low and the catecholamines are not. If the catecholamines are also low then Phenylalnine, Tyrosine, or Mucuna can also help. While relatively safe taking the amino acid neurotransmitters precursors should be used wisely under some form of medical guidance.

      The intake of the catecholamine precursors (Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Mucuna) should probably be taken with anti-oxidants and balanced to dome degree with Serotonin enhancing aminos (5-htp or Tryptophan) to decrease excessive neuronal firing of the catecholamine neurons.

      Finally, as this site has discussed previously, the ratio of protein to carbohydrate in the diet has a profound effect on the amount of neurotransmitter that is made physiologically. The ratio of Large Neutral Amino Acids (LNAA) to Tryptophan and Tyrosine have a profound effect on how much serotonin and dopamine are made. How suseptible a person is to fluctuation in the ratio of LNAA’s to Tryptophan and Tyrosine is an individual experience.

      Research by Richard Wurtman demonstrates that a dietary ratio of 7:1 of Carbs to Protein maintain the most stable ratio of LNAA’s.

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  3. This is all well and good, but until you have been debilitatingly depressed and OCD and have had an SSRI fix it up, please hush. Or at least give me YOUR solution. What should I do when I want to kill myself because I can’t stop thinking about my kids dying in a fire, or my husband being tortured to death, or whatever perverse fantasy my mind locked onto this time around. I mean I would really like to get off Lexapro and lose the 20 pounds I gained but I’ll take the weight gain over the crazy.

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    • Tierney, I went on a rant above, and I will, for the most part, stick by it. However, I don’t want to be insensitive and I also don’t want to pose as a know-it-all on the subject. I cannot say for sure there are not instances when it is appropriate to use these chemicals. However I do think they are way over-prescribed AND that the chemical model tends to overlook what caused the depression in the first place.

      Now there have been studies that show that SSRIs are little or no better than placebo. However, the truth is that I am sick of studies. Everybody has one to support their position and most of the time I do not have the time or qualifications to judge.

      That said, it might be interesting for you to at least entertain an alternative point of view from a psychiatrist who is very vocal in this opposition to anti-depressants and the like: http://www.breggin.com/ Dr. Breggin makes the interesting point that the chemical model is popular because it makes money for big pharma AND because it fits into the framework of managed care. No way Kaiser is going to allow you the 50 minute hour with a psychiatrist. You’ll be lucky if you get 10 minutes and that is just enough time to write a prescription.

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      • What caused the depression in the first place (the family history, besides any genetic tendencies that may be present) is not something I can change now- I have had years of therapy and, if you’ve never been in therapy it might be difficult to understand, but there can be a point you reach where although you know everything “intellectually” you are not able to realize it in your daily life.

        Just because SSRIs may be overprescribed doesn’t mean that they don’t work for people with true clinical depression.

        Sometimes, I think depression is the only rational reaction to this fucked up world… but who wants to live like that? Who wants to waste years and years dragging from one psychoanalyst to another, trying different diets and supplements and stress reduction techniques, when the agents of stress are for the most part beyond our control?

        I can do a lot to manage stress- I can do hypnosis tapes (currently my fav), eat right, get some exercise, have quality time with my family, have a good sleep schedule… but I cannot do these things when my mind is so out of control that all I can do is lock myself in the bedroom so my kids don’t see me crying and shaking wanting to kill myself. I’d RATHER take a little pill every day and make that go away and then I can get on with having a pleasent life. If Big Pharma is getting rich off me I guess they deserve it, because they saved my life.

        Now invent a pill to take off the 20 pounds and I’m set :)

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        • Fair enough. I agree. If you aren’t at least a little bit depressed by this f**cked up world, it can only mean that you are a sociopath! I am at least half-serious about that.

          Anyway, this is a complex question, and despite appearances I don’t mean to get on my high-horse about it. It’s only fair that your position be addressed by the nay-sayers. I am certainly not the person to do so. You are right that even if they are over-prescribed that does not mean there aren’t instances where anti-depressants are useful.

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          • I am mostly in agreement that drug companies are not really interested in our well-being, and our care system leaves much to be desired. I have benefitted too from other modes of dealing with these problems, but nothing has been as clear cut, night-and-day response as SSRIs. I know some people do badly with them, because there isn’t some magic test to see exactly how all the levels of your neurotransmitters are doing, so doctors have to guess a lot- but when SSRIs work, they work.

            At any rate, I recently read a biography of Darwin. He was quite ill most of his life with weird psycho-somatic symptoms. It is still a mystery just what was wrong with him. I found it very interesting to speculate on how he might be treated now. An SSRI would have been a possibility. Maybe he would have been happier, but not able to work. Who knows these things. We all just muddle through the best we can.

          • Well, I read Darwin’s autobiography a long time ago. There was a statement that he made that stuck out. He said that when he was younger and had not yet started ANALYZING and CATEGORIZING everything, he was able to appreciate art and beauty, but since taking up his life work that was no longer the case. In other words, it would appear that, at least for Darwin, an over-emphasis on logical, right-brain activity in which objects are reduced to their components might have played some role in his problem. Of course, if he hadn’t done as much, our knowledge would be much less. So thanks for the sacrifice Darwin. Glad that you went to the Galapagos islands instead of that weekend workshop on “Getting in touch with your Intuition” :)

            By the way, I hope that I am not the only one who addresses the issue that you have with Matt’s (and my) statements. Fly-in-the-ointment!

          • Interesting, right? Whenever he took a vacation, his symptoms went away for a while. But he was also driven to work hard- obsessive, really. Of course there was probably a lot of stress from knowing he was going to publish an earth-shattering theory that would change history entirely ;)

            I personally agree with your theory though- I have a degree in molecular biology but before that I studied horticulture, and I can see how I was happier having a much more holistic, broad view of nature. I am trying to get back to that, in fact, and quit the reductionist mindset. So I guess in that way it doesn’t matter how SSRIs work. It would be nice to know, and I really hope I don’t get diabetes in the future. But I am sure that just lowering all the stress hormones that my anxiety and OCD were producing, and breaking that vicious cycle, outweighs these drawbacks.

            thanks for your comments Thomas.

          • Or, maybe Darwin was suffering from mold, fungi, or heavy metal poisoning that was relieved from changing his geographical location, and perhaps his obsessive tendencies could have been treated and his hyperfocused habit of ‘categorizing’ things was a way that he employed his left brain to help himself cope with the emotions or anxieties he found troubling. I have often used word games and puzzles to cope with anxiety.

          • Hi Tierney
            I was reading your comments and felt the need to respond. I’m really sorry to hear that you have been suffering like that – I sincerely hope you find some peace one day. I want to say I really understand how you feel, and maybe my story will be hopeful to you, if not really providing any true answers. I am 38 now, and have had severe and recurring depression throughout my entire life (clinical depression). I have been on SSRI’s and other medication since I was 20. I had very serious trauma in my childhood and began putting on weight when I was 8, and then started daily using weed when I was 12. I was drinking heavily by the time I was 14 and suffering depression regularly. This all led to some serious self-medication (meth, heroin, x, acid etc – hey, they actually kept me alive strangely enough!). I only tell you this to show you that I well and truly punched the shit out of my body and mind for well over 15 years. I was a total mess, and by the end had some nice addictions, severe depression and a brain and body pushed to the edge. I really turned myself around in my early 30s (started in my 20s, but actually got somewhere in my 30s) – lots of therapy, legal medication and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. But there was nothing I could to do to stop my regular bout of depression. No matter how good things were going, I could not will myself to not get depressed at some stage – for no apparent reason – even with some serious medication and professional “help”. I was at a loss. And then….some more bad news. When I was 35 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and before I could say wtf my thyroid was removed and I was on thyroid medication. Now, I won’t go into how fucked being on T4 meds only is, but something amazing happened. That depression – that feeling inside me that I feel that you are speaking about – that ball of pain I used to carry with me every where – what I feel like was my depression – it went – immediately. In nearly 3 years I have not felt depressed, not once, not even close. I’m not on mood medication, I’m not like “oh I got cancer, so I need to be happy/love life” whatever the fuck people say, it just went all on its own. Why? I have no fucking idea, but, there is no way that my thyroid and my depression were not connected somehow. All those years of therapy and mood medication could not achieve what happened after surgery. And just to add, my life ain’t shit hot – I’m a poverty-stricken student, I’m still struggling with my weight and my cat has cat AIDS. But, no depression. I used to think it was just me – I was just too damaged or hadn’t found the right form of therapy or something like that. But it’s actually been something completely unexpected. So anyway, my hope for you is that there is a physical answer that can help you on top of all the other stuff that you do, and you find it. Best of luck, I sincerely wish you well.

          • Thank you very much Tanya, you and I have very similar stories. I had childhood trauma, alcoholic parents and lost our house due to natural disaster. I was binge-drinker and bulimic throughout most of my teens and 20s although I never used other street drugs too heavily, just once in a while.

            I was diagnosed hypothyroid at age 30 (I am also 38 now). Started on Synthroid and it helped me some. For the past 8 years I have been convinced that my remaining problems were due to some mysterious thyroid factor. My fT3 is always a bit low, but taking T3 was a nightmare for me (I have written about it on other threads here.) I got rid of all my thyroid anti-bodies with LDN- no change in how I feel. I have given up looking for a thyroid answer. I have tried everything- well, except for having the thing removed!

            So why do you feel like T4 meds are so bad when you feel so much better?

            And just to be clear- the SSRIs HAVE given me peace (and Xanax lol). My remaining problems are chronic fatigue, (which I have had since teenage years, doesn’t matter if I am on/off anti-depressents/thyroid meds or not), a weight gain of 20 pounds mostly due to the Lexapro I think, and my hair falling out.

            Yes I would love to not be dependent on drugs but on the other hand, maybe I should look at it like I live in a really amazing time where it is possible to take a simple pill and have really serious problems just dissolve.

            My therapist had a good way of looking at it, which was that Lexapro would give me the space to be able to make the other changes I can make, so that is how I am trying to look at it, like an opportunity to turn some other things around, now that I have the strength and clarity.

            thank you for your kind note. I’m glad you have found peace. Maybe I should look at thyroidectomy (jk).

          • Hi Tierney

            Although I’m no expert on thyroid treatment, I only just
            recently went on natural T3 but my (excellent) doctor had me working on my adrenal dysfunction first – said you could get into real strife if you have T3 without your adrenals working correctly. I had super low cortisol in the mornings and it was peaking (although still not high by normal standards) late afternoon/early evening. stop the thyroid madness talks about
            this also here: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/adrenal-info/

            sorry if I’m telling you stuff you already know!

            as for the T4….for me, they worked in terms of well mainly keeping me operating on say 60%, but they alone are not they key for living an optimal life. I’ve been fatigued for most of my 30s. And by optimal I mean working full-time, being social, having relationships etc. Sure, I can get out of bed, but I’m shagged
            after like one or two days of work, and then I’m at home, lying around all day like a sloth because I’m too tired to get out and live. But I since I’ve started addressing the adrenals, taking T3, and also
            addressing other deficiencies i.e. testosterone, DHEA, chromium, iodine etc. etc. – I can feel myself coming to life. Long way to go though.

            I think of terms taking Lexapro, or anything else, you go with what you feel works for you. You know in your gut what works for you and what doesn’t. Nobody knows that truth. I’m sure I wouldn’t have got through certain periods of my life without pharmaceuticals. But don’t stop looking for answers – you never know what might be round the corner. Like a thyroidectomy lol. Take care x

          • you mean left brain – that’s the non-arty and musical side.

    • Tierney I agree. I really love this site, but, I don’t think that the decision to take medication should become a moral issue. Just as people pursuing the ” perfect diet”, or ” perfect health” has become. Unless you have been in someone’s shoes, do not judge. You never know what life will throw you!! I am all for the eat what ever the hell you want diet. I also believe that for some of us, we may also need to take medications to help us live the life we want. Medication bashing is a symptom of orthorexia. Another form of OCD, which is an anxiety disorder. Like I said, we need to not judge a person’s choice to take medication. That is the problem with society today, the shame behind mental illness. Look at country singer Mindy McCready. She took her own life last week leaving behind two young children. Why? She killed herself after leaving a hospital where she was going to get treatment because the press found out . Judgement and shame resulted in her successful suicide. Mental illness is a disease, and some diseased need medications.

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  4. So would you recommend getting plenty of sun by or before 10am to help avoid depression, Matt?

    I know that in the place I used to live, we had terrible natural light, and it always messed me up. Now I live in a tiny space but have a big east facing window that gets me up by 7 or 8am most days on my own, and it feels much better.

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  5. So, why do SSRIs work for some people? I know multiple people who say they’ve helped with depression, anxiety, OCD. I will say, I am not pro-drug in any way, I would make all efforts to avoid them. In my friends, they cause weight gain and some erratic behavior, IMO, but they did stop the depression/anxiety. One of of friends has been on meds twice. When she came off last time, she lost 20 pounds effortlessly and in my opinion just acts way more sane now (on them, she was hyper/restless and rather irritating all the time and now she’s a pleasure to be around, much more calm). BUT they did stop the depression, which to her was unbearable.

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    • According to Ray Peat, it because the SSRI’s increase cortisol, which makes you feel good. But, it is stressful when chronically elevated and probably relates to the long term side effects.

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      • This doesn’t make sense. A lot of people who are depressed have anxiety disorders and have elevated cortisol levels. If I even take something-like an anti-itch remedy with a bit of cortison in it, I get insomnia. So I wouldn’t expect that from something that raises cortisol levels. I might be wrong, and maybe there are a number of mechanisms at work in how the SSRIS work, but it’s a suspicious position, in my mind, to claim that SSRIs make you feel better by raising cortisol.

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        • Sorry, somehow something got deleted from my intended posts. SSRIs, for better or worse, tend to numb people out. That doesn’t sound like an effect of cortisol in my book.

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      • I don’t think Ray says that actually. I remember hearing him say in an interview that SSRIs sometimes work because they in fact do the opposite of what they’re told to do and that is in some cases, decrease serotonin from being used. I have no idea how accurate that is and I’m probably paraphrasing. My opinion is that we still have a lot to discover about how things work in the human body. It is a completely vast and complex system and the way things interact and work mixed with endless variables make it almost impossible to pin down.

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  6. You surprise me! I was just reading some “pro-serotonin” articles/books and they were making sense to me. When I eat, for example, a low-carbohydrate diet, I can feel a) never full b) depressed c) low-energy. One book talks about research with serotonin and how we need to eat carbohydrates to produce it and how it helps with those things I experience on a low-carb diet. And, this book was mentioning that you shouldn’t try to get it from fruit, as fructose doesn’t convert to serotonin. I was thinking that it made sense from what I experience on the GAPS diet (where carbs are allowed- fruit and honey and such), but not starches. I totally thought it was up your ally! And now you write this…..Another interesting point is that woman suffer more from low-serotonin, especially on a low-carb diet.

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    • I’m sure there’s probably a happy medium for serotonin like for all other substanced. You don’t want too little or too much. To me, at least, that makes sense.

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    • that book “Potatoes Not Prozac”

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  7. How interesting. Looking forward to reading more. Have to say though, Dr. Abram Hoffer has a pretty convincing explanation for Schizophrenia, and a wildly successful treatment protocol. :P But I don’t really know enough about it all to see how serotonin might fit into his ideas. XD

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  8. Nice post always love the stuff about hormones and how to bring those in balance. though, I’m sure serotonin isn’t bad/ sad, just like I think cortisol isn’t bad. Just that most people might have too much of it, and to restore the balance in most people they need less of it.
    But whats this stuff about negative ions? It sounds a little weird to me. But maybe thats beause I read the explanations they give to grounding (negative electrons from the earth that act like antioxidants) which sounded like BS scientific whohoo to convince people. (I do feel like it works though, just that the explanation seems like BS).

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  9. Nice post matt. My brother had serotonin syndrome thise summer. scary stuff for sure. Just simple stress induced it, with a past history of poor health (low carb, vegan, schwarzbein etc). Its a vicious cycle, and way to complex to understand. thankfully I am adept at my favorite prevention technique for depression- denialism.

    I know several people on SSRI, one being my alcoholic aunt, and the other being my completely insane cousin. Both got markedly worse after introducing the pills. My aunt has attempted suicide while on SSRI. If I had to treat depression it would be complete stress free life, lots of food, maybe some cigarettes and good high proof liquor. I have yet to see a problem that is not solved by dumbing down and eating the food.

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    • He had Serotonin syndrome without being on any SSRI? I’ve never heard of that- is he ok now?

      My husband practices denialism and it works quite well for him. He eats what he wants, smokes, dips, and drinks beer while watching football in the evenings. He is overweight but in good shape ( he can do a lot of physical labor around the yard, chopping wood etc) and he seems to be happy most of the time. Wish I had the knack for it.

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      • after eating a lot of good food and cutting out stress he is fine. Until you ditch the stress and worry you will never ditch the serotonin. They go hand in hand and cause each other. All Rays other crap plays in as well. Unfortunately culture and society is so thoruoughly fucked I never give advice to people just because of all the shit going on. I cant tell someone to drop the SSRI and relax if they are on illegal drugs and were abused as a child or killed people in a war. the problems run too deep.

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        • There is no such thing as a stress-free life. Do you have kids?

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          • There is such a thing as a life without unnecessary stress. Once you get to a certain point, you can become resistant to stress. Life would still stress someone else out who is prone, but not necessarily someone who is stress resistant.

  10. “The belief that serotonin is like the biochemical equivalent of Happy Gilmore sharing a Happy Meal with a bunch of Care Bears in heaven holding hands and skipping with Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross is not just Kardashingly shallow. ”

    Damn son, had to take a break after that one.

    Reply
  11. how do omega 3′s fit in to this? i think that’s how the traditional peeps in northern environments kept from suicide – they ate plenty of fish. methinks it helps my mood also – esp in the winter.
    i grew up deprived of fat – esp omega 3s, and was emaciated, depressed, asthmatic, and allergic.
    somehow the sunshine is stored in these fats – Dr Johanna Budwig and her flax oil and quark is another example. basically, i crave salmon, sardines, quark….. yum.

    Reply
  12. “Increase the levels of a substance that makes you tired and want to sleep all the time”
    makes me wanna add that serotonin probably doesn’t help you get restorative sleep. You *want* to sleep, yet don’t feel refreshed when you wake up

    Reply
  13. Interesting,as a child,until about my 5th,i was lean and grew up on fresh croissants with fillings such as ham/cheese,chicken curry,mackarel salad etc. I was always daydreaming and drawing a lot,yet i also had a very systematic way of playing with for instance my playmobils. Id line them up and then would start dressing them one by one. Then next step transporting them one by one etc. I was also a quiet&shy child. So thinking of it now, that does sound like autistic tendencies,though i was happy.

    Years ago,my former therapist once bluntly stated that i ‘just had a chronic serotonin deficiency’heritage,just like for instance other families have a heritage for heartdisease,and that i should stay on antidepressants for the rest of my life. I didnt like the idea of trying. Them but decided to give it a shot….so it immediately kicked in and i felt as high as a kite!however after a couple of weeks it really started to mess me up emotionally so,against my therapists advice,quit with it.

    Now,years later im still not doing gr3at at all and seems im emotionally&mentally/energetically am falling even into worser extremes,despite like tierney mentioned,having had/done so many therapies&techniques in life already. Im just at a point where id wish they just put me in a coma,erase my entire memory or preferrably replace my brain for a simple dumbdowned version.

    Reply
    • That sounds like the effect SSRIs will have on someone who is so-called bi-polar, even if you have not had manic episodes before, being pushed into one by an SSRI is a good indication. A mood-stabilizer like Lamictal might be a better choice for you since it works for depression but will not induce mania if you are prone to it. …If you want to go the pharmaceutical route. I think Lamictal is one of the safest mood-stabilizers out there.

      If you want to go into a coma and erase your memory… can’t beat Xanax, lol.

      Reply
      • My body doesn’t handle antibiotics/medicine in general well. As a child,whenever I was sick,I always refused to take medicines for instance aspirin,paracetamol,even the ‘kids-flavoured’-versions etc.

        Reply
  14. SSRIs f***ed me up. When I was on them I was emotionally numbed, tired, had trouble getting anything done around the house, and was a nightmare to be around. The withdrawal was even worse.
    Something that people may not be aware of is that SSRIs can cause withdrawal syndrome:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSRI_discontinuation_syndrome

    I suffer stress a lot more intensely now since being exposed to SSRIs. My immune system is shot from all the stress and I have trouble digesting food.

    Reply
  15. When I was a young child suffering with stomach aches, my doc jumped at the chance to drug me out of my mind. When I then started developing emotional problems out of nowhere, of course the only solution was to either increase the dose, switch antidepressants and attempt to unlock the hidden psychological trauma at the root of it all.

    I’ve done much better since dropping the drugs, getting diagnosed coeliac, and accepting mood changes and the thoughts they create as a symptom of my body as a whole. Still suffering from some hosed up ‘side effects’ seven years later, though. Dag.

    Reply
  16. I knew it! Enjoying yourself is bad for your health. Now it’s official.

    Reply
  17. Well, judging from this thread, it would appear that maybe we should not be so quick to condemn the SSRIs but rather limit ourselves to condemning their over-use. Obviously Big Pharma has hit the jackpot and have convinced Doctors to hand them out like Halloween candy. Some people do feel worse and some people even commit suicide on these things. For other people-maybe a minority (I don’t know) they work. What do you know….one size does not fit all. Who would have thought it?! :) No doubt in a perfect world, we would never have to see these things prescribed, because there can be little doubt that even in the best case scenario there are side-effects. However, sometimes in life you’ve got to take your best shot and hope for the best.

    Reply
    • Thomas-

      I completely agree with you. I have been on SSRI’s for the past 15 years, and I have nothing bad to say about them. I have always been pretty slim, and they never made me gain weight. I went from having daily panic attacks, depression, and anxiety to feeling like my old self and like I should. Believe me, I would much rather NOT be on them, but I would rather feel well and able to live my life than tinkering around with a milllion diets and natural remedies, to most likely never find one that truly works. Maybe I am one of the people that are truly lacking in the chemical production in my brain?

      And, I do agree that anti-depressants, and many other drugs, are simply handed out like candy. It is so sad the # of pill “cocktails” people are on these days- even some of my friends who are only in their 30′s.

      Reply
      • Melissa: I can see from your photo that you are slim and attractive. If it significantly improves your quality of life, why not? Thanks for speaking up. I was getting on my high horse there in my first post. I’ve come down from it now (probably not for long though ;).

        Reply
        • Thomas-

          It’s just amazing to me how our bodies are all so different- such a mystery. I love reading this blog because it really makes me think, and has gotten me away from orthoexia. There are a lot of thinkers on here who are willing to buck the system of Big Pharma and what the gov’t thinks we should eat, take, etc. Good stuff!

          Reply
          • That’s true Melissa. I am happy that this blog is here, but as should be clear from this thread, it is important not to react to Orthorexia/Big Pharma, etc and believe that the opposite must be true. Let me clarify that. You see some people who have had their eyes opened about Big Pharma, so they jump to the opposite extreme. They completely reject all drugs in all instances and put their money on “Alternative” medicine, whose practitioners quite often lack scruples and will bleed your bank account dry. The point is that one should not jump from one extreme or the other but find their center. This also goes for the “trend” on this website. Some people are going to benefit from eating mass quantities of food and others are not. That leaves us all responsible for figuring out which works for us, experimenting and possibly failing. As you say, Melissa, our bodies are all so different.

          • I believe ALL people benefit from eating mass quantities of food. The key is not deciding consciously how much that mass quantity of food is for oneself beforehand. It may be less or more than Joe Smoe but it will be a massive amount nonetheless by someone’s standards. Only in a world dominated by dieting can a concept of “mass quantities of food” even be thought of as strange or opposite let alone translate into being ” too much food” and therefore it’s not for everyone. For some one living a few thousand years ago the idea of eating too much would be foreign. they ate until they were full regardless what amount that ended up being. The preconceived notion of what a proper portion/meal should be is a modern concept developed out of a few things such as business models to sell food, media/marketing, people fearing their appetite due to dumb ideas spreading word of mouth like EAT less/burn more (it’s all about calories in and the calories out) as well as an evolution of cultural norms that morphed into a pre packaged McFake-world matrix where people have a tremendous difficulty wrapping their head around anything that isn’t spoon fed or status quo.

            We aren’t all that different to the point that eskimo style paleo works for this type of person and raw veganism works for that type. Scientist postulate that we are all 99.9 % the same as every other human regardless of race, color, creed or time to adapt to western food, shit we share 60% of our genes with fruit flies!

            You might need to tweak things here and there in order to get the results you desire because of the 0.1 percent differences but the basics apply across the board. Nobody has an xmen like mutant ability to digest cellulose like a gorilla or cow for instance but everyone requires water to exist. It might be easier in our modern lives, for most to pop a pill or just avoid carbs but outside of rare disorders from a health standpoint we aren’t as unique as people would like to think. It’s destined for failure believing this or that won’t work for them because they “feel” they are so different so they only “half try it out”. In my experience training people the path might be drastically different depending on where they are coming from but at the point of success the final approach is all nearly identical with only slight differences in personal preferences in lifestyle because at the end of the day we are all …kinda the same living in ……kinda the same world.

          • Kinda unrelated though estrogen is usually linked to depression/serotonin too,but today I read in a recommendation of an anti-estrogen diet that it’s best to eat most of your food at dinner. That’s basically what you do,if I’m correct?

            Doesn’t that Warrior Diet also advocate such a thing? I wonder how that might affect blood sugar imabalances/adrenal fatigue.

          • Yes Dutchie, I eat most of my calories at supper time. When you feast properly with a fast blood sugar and adrenal issues improve drastically.

          • What do you exactly mean by ‘feasting with a fast blood sugar’? :)

          • “When you feast and fast properly, blood sugar and adrenal issues improve drastically.”

            Dutchie, jumping right in to the fast/feast routine may not work given that you have other things going on. So gradually working up to it is probably better.

  18. The first time I used Prozac it was amazing, my moods were level for the first time ever (been depressed most of my life…mostly about my weight – “thanks mom”). But because I didn’t want to be taking pills all my life, when I ran out I just didn’t take anymore. Years later I thought I’d try them again and they just seemed to make me cry all the time so I stopped. Since finding Matt’s blog and ETF I only seem to have some depression in relation to my cycle, but never more than a couple of days a month! Between getting off dieting and being at peace with what my body needs I don’t think I’d call myself depressed anymore even ‘tho my weight problem is still there I don’t have the constant anxiety about it.

    Reply
  19. I had a brief spell of anxiety/crippling fear last winter (cold connection), the kind a doctor might prescribe these drugs for. The fear stemmed from my hobby and (closest thing to) profession which is working in the woods dropping trees with sharp things. I worried about slashing my leg open or a tree falling on me. What I did to treat was pretty simple, I stopped working in the woods. I ate tons of food, paid more attention to my daily life, like cooking, making coffee, reading etc. and I felt better. Once you break the cycle you are free, at least as long as you dont fuck yourself back into it again. SSRI and that shit make it worse and you can never break out of your slump. Drugs and alcohol are the same. Most people dont believe they can do what they want in their life and most problems stem from that.

    I dont agree with Ray on everything but I do agree on culture. Andrew (proline) used to talk about culture in the same vein as PUFAs and stuff. If you are surrounded by assholes and hate your life, your life will be shitty (big surprise here).

    Reply
    • “SSRI and that shit make it worse and you can never break out of your slump. ”

      Yes, that is actually my #1 reason for never wanting to take meds (and I’ve been through periods of crippling anxiety in my life). I think that they make you content with the status quo instead of dealing with the root cause of the anxiety/depression, and making necessary changes in your life. Depression/anxiety can be important signals to listen to rather than medicate away. Yes, I’m sure there are some people with chemical issues or extreme trauma, and then the SSRI helps, but for what is IMO the majority of people prescribed meds, the SSRI becomes a band-aid for the real problem. I know someone who took them for depression, because his business and marriage were in trouble. He later said they were the worst thing he ever did, because while he felt better about stuff, in reality it allowed him to ignore the problems and both the business and marriage failed. Would have been better off just dealing with the issues head on. That’s what I did with my anxiety, and while it’s not perfect I’m functional, self-aware and in a million times better place than I used to me. I understand for people like Tierney this didn’t work, but I do think for 90% of people on the meds it would. Drs push the meds as a first step, not last resort, and it should be the opposite.

      Reply
      • SSRI might help some people, I dont know. I *very strongly doubt* that the mechanism is what it says it is. most drugs do things they arent supposed to do. But in general, I see people get worse on SSRI.

        Reply
  20. Of course a lot of this discussion is predicated on the idea that the goal of life is to be happy. I guess that most materialist philosophies would say that life doesn’t care if you are happy or not. New Age philosophy-an epiphenomenon of consumer culture- would say that Life wants you to be happy. More genuine religious sources (in the largest sense of the term) would suggest that we open to all experiences. I just saw a lecture about “The Happiness Advantage” on PBS. Scary, very scary. We are surrounded by a plethora of “Happiness Technologies” which are scarier than SSRIs and remind me a bit too much of Huxley’s “Brave New World”.

    Reply
    • “Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology.”

      care to join me at the Feelies?

      Reply
      • So, Tierney, you’ve read the book! Whatever criticisms one might cast at Jung, his notion of “A Shadow” seems spot on. Given that, I get the sneaky feeling that it might be horrifying to peer into the living rooms of these “Happiness Gurus”. I am pretty sure they torture their pet cats….and worse.

        Reply
        • I just re-read it and it’s fresh in my mind! It’s been a long time though since I thought about Jung and the shadow side. You just took me back to my first formative years in therapy, haha.

          I’m sure you’re probably right about New-Age Happiness gurus.

          I am not sure I truly believe in Happiness, maybe all we can expect are some fleeting moments here and there. I’m looking for normalcy. Lexapro doesn’t make me jump out of bed singing every day, it just lets me be normal and not tortured by anxiety and horrible intrusive thoughts (it’s a form of OCD, I just don’t have any compulsive behaviors that go along with it.)

          Reply
          • Tierney, I like happiness, too. However, there are lots of emotion and we shouldn’t get stuck in just one, be that one emotion happiness or sadness. Life is just so much richer than that. That’s my point.

          • Haha. XD Reminds me of this movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1187041/

            It’s about the miserable author of a best selling self-help book. :P

    • Thomas, so spot on. I used to believe in that New Age stuff and after I realized how miserable and anxious it made me feel, I also realized that it’s just another delusion to keep people shielded from *real* life and dependent on the ‘benevolence’ of the hand that feeds us (crumbs that is).

      Reply
    • Ha I agree. http://youtu.be/gZ0BQUufUpE XD

      We need to provide space and acceptance for mourning, and anger, and disgust, and peace, and puzzlement, and so forth. Life is much richer with many emotions. I used to have depression, and it was pretty awful. Couldn’t be happy when it would make sense to be so, and couldn’t feel sad at times I needed to. Was probably as bad as it would be to be happy all the time, except that might not make me suicidal I dunno.

      Reply
  21. What about 5-HTP?? I took 50-100 mg daily for 30 days. Stopped shrieking at everyone. But 6 months later, I’ve put on 25 unexplained pounds, have cortisol levels double the average, and high estrogen levels. DHEAS levels are high too.

    Reply
    • That’s basically exactly what Ray Peat says will happen if you take 5-HTP.

      Reply
      • Great. My worst fears confirmed. So I am unclear how I change this. Any suggestion?

        Reply
        • Today I happened to read about an anti-estrogen diet,which claims that high estrogen is the fatstoring hormone. Maybe look into that ‘diet’?

          Reply
          • Thanks, Dutchie. I’ve looked at the diet and it seems to push low fat, no red meats, etc. I don’t buy it. We farm and raise all our own dairy, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, and pork. Grassfed/pastured. Potatoes, homemade bread (yes, “soaked”), and fruits & veggies in season, mostly homegrown and organic. I’ve changed nothing in my diet save to take some supplements to reduce the results of stress. Then suddenly, the weight gain in a very short period of time (6 months). I’ve always been on the thin side so this is a bit of a shock. I am taking Seriphos to reduce the cortisol and a cruciferous vegetable extract to help with the estrogen. Sounds like I may need some of the stress back to reduce the serotonin.

          • Kristin, right there with you. I started 5-HTP almost a year ago to deal with chronic, intense stress. I think it worked at first, that’s my memory. But I’ve gained 20lbs since then, became narcoleptic, before finally realizing in May – 6-7 months later! – that it was in part the 5-HTP. Granted i was already gaining weight steadily after I stopped pumping breastmilk for my son. But I’m pretty sure I’d plateaued before teh supplements.

            I did the cortisol/hormone saliva test and have an appt with the naturopath end of Oct. I am hoping she can help me undo some of the damage.

            And still, I rely on a tiny dose of melatonin to sleep through the night…

          • At least it isn’t me! I never had a problem with weight and usually got too skinny when breast feeding. The high stress started after my 4th child (hubby’s job loss and difficulty find work for 3 years). With my 5th (and last) pregnancy, I put on an extra 10 lbs that I never lost. I was over 40 so wasn’t too concerned. I kept that weight for the next nearly 3 years. It was specifically the taking of 5-HTP that put on the weight….just since this past Christmas. I had suspected it was the 5-HTP then Matt posted this! Good luck straightening it out. I will likely start working with a natural m.d. soon myself.

          • Health food stores sell 5-HTP in the weight loss department. WTF

  22. An SSRI made me a zombie and an SNRI made me an obsessive panicker.

    My whole life, I was that person in the crowd who was so overly happy and carefree that you are sure they must be high. People used to look at me in disbelief that it was physically possible for someone to be as happy and positive as I was. That is, until . . .

    I went through a very stressful period when I was 30. Miscarriage, job change, lost friends, mentor abandonment. Went from being on top of the world to the bottom. My first panic attack awoke me from a dead sleep. Went to the doc, who gave me some Lexapro. when I questioned it, he said “It’s like those kids who have an insulin pump. A part of their body doesn’t work anymore, so they have a pump to keep them regulated. Something in your brain doesn’t work anymore, and this med will keep you regulated.”

    Fast forward through 4 years of living zombie. I wasn’t non-functional, just no highs or lows. Not happy, but not sad. Not panicked, but not carefree. I was . . . robotic.

    After 4 years, I slowly started feeling more anxious all day, every day. I went back to the doctor who upped my dose. Then I became a SUPER zombie. I was sleeping all the time. I had no desire to do anything. My alarm clock would go off in the morning, and a dialogue would happen in my head:

    ME: “hey, your alarm is going off.”
    OTHER ME: “yeah, I know. So?”
    ME:”You need to turn it off. ”
    OTHER ME: “yeah, I know. So?”
    ME: “It’s going to keep going until you turn it off.”
    OTHER ME: “yeah, I know. So?”

    I had to force myself to do the things I needed to do, like go to work, eat a meal, go the bathroom. It was like my drive/motivation/importance was turned completely off. I went back to the doctor who switched me to Savella, an SNRI.

    Enter the worse 1.5 years of my life. Panic attacks, anxiety, heart palpitations, many ER visits because I was sure I was having a heart attack, feeling like I was going crazy, fear of leaving the house, driving my husband to brink of insanity, finding myself laying on the front lawn at 2 AM just trying to make it through the night. My thoughts raced, I was irrational, obsessive, and sure that the whole world thought I belonged in the loony bin.

    I decided I needed to wean off of the new meds, but I was panicked about the withdrawal symptoms. I searched for months and finally found a psychiatrist who was willing to help me wean even though she made it clear that she didn’t think it was the best course of action for me.

    So here I am, 6 months off all the meds, and I finally feel somewhat normal again. I still obsess occasionally, and I have slight anxiety which seems to get worse right before my period. Also, if I don’t get enough sleep, the next night I wake up in a panic, but I’m able to calm myself down with deep breaths and relaxation techinques.

    SSRIs and SNRIs really messed me up, and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel completely sane and carefree again. I’ll never take them again – I think I’d actually rather be IN a loony bin than on those meds. It’s exhausting feeling so out of control of yourself.

    Reply
    • I think it’s malpractice for your doctor to give someone meds in your situation and say a part of your brain doesn’t work anymore. Clearly your panic attacks were due to your unusual stresses at that time, not a brain malfunction. The sad thing is, therapy would have been a wonderfully appropriate prescription, or even things like meditation, exercise, some cognitive behavioral or breathing techniques. Sorry you went through this.

      Reply
      • Oh, and also, I think you should tell those two doctors (the one who put you on first, and the one who helped you wean off) about your experiences. Maybe it will start to change their way of thinking.

        Reply
        • The first doctor did not ask me anything about my personal life. He ran some bloodwork which came back normal, then put me on the Lexapro.

          I did at some point seek out a therapist on my own, ended up seeing 3 different ones, and none of them really helped. One wanted me to do all the talking without offering any advice/help/comments whatsoever, one wanted to examine all my past childhood traumas starting at the age of 2, and one gave me standard psychology diagrams copied of out a book and told me to study them and figure out where I fit in the diagrams.

          What finally got me in the right frame of mind to believe that I could live without the meds was a book called “Hope and Help For Your Nerves” that I found on Amazon. It’s sad that after 5.5 years, 2 doctors and 3 therapists I had to figure it all out for myself in order to get some semblance my life back.

          Reply
          • Those are some bad doctors/therapists!

  23. Off topic:

    A study that says drinking water can cause increased adrenaline.

    Water Will Help You With Weight Loss
    Dr. Michael Boschmann found that by drinking 500 ml of water
    …dilutes the blood, promotes the release of adrenalin and norepinephrine to handle this demand.

    Most studies say positive things about drinking more water.
    Is there any information about how much water intake has changed over the years?

    Reply
    • How much does he recommend? My energetic therapist told me to drink at least 2lit. a day to flush out toxins. Some days I’m really thirsty and can drink even more,other days I kinda have to force it down.
      However most of it comes out as pee,it sometimes seems my gut doesn’t absorb it though I eat lots of fibrous veggies.

      Reply
      • Dutchie, what your energetic therapist has recommended is actually pretty much the normal recommendation that you find for water in general – 2 L or somewhere around 8 * 8 ounces. The fact that you are peeing it all out is not a good sign. Forcing water down when you are not thirsty doesn’t sound like the best plan. Check out this note:
        http://180degreehealth.com/2012/02/how-much-water-should-you-drink

        Reply
        • Thanx, I’ve read the post a while ago:)

          Reply
        • Also seems that my heart pounds heavier when I peed,especially at night.(Also weirdly seem to notice that I get anxious/scary like dreams afterwards :s )

          Reply
  24. Great article Matt
    I was listening to Dr Kalish the other day about neurotransmitters and he was very interesting on the seratonin thing, mostly how when seratonin is pushed up dopamine in pushed down and the huge imbalance that occurs is not good
    also that SSRI’s actually lead to a reduction in seratonin production in the long run, which is a little scary for those on the things for legitamate reasons
    We live in the tropics so lots of sunlight and doors open to fresh air is the norm for us, but the days when I can get the wash on the line before 10 am are definately the days when everything just goes better and feels great.
    keep up the fantastic work

    Reply
  25. It’s most refreshing to finally see people seriously questioning the mainstream ideas about serotonin. I’ve been on many SSRIs (Prozac, Cipralex, Effexor, Cymbalta) as well as other types of antidepressants (Buspar, Wellbutrin, Imipramine, St. John’s Wort, SAMe) and not one of them ever did much of anything except numb me into sort of a stupor (with some unpleasant side effects depending on the drug). The whole experience has left me frustrated and seriously skeptical of the validity of psychiatry as a legitimate form of medicine (I won’t even go there).

    Still, I’m surprised to see Matt, usually an appreciator of nuance, totally and unequivocally dump on a hormone. Cortisol, for example, can have some nasty effects in excess (see Cushing’s Syndrome), but it would be plain wrong to say “cortisol is bad”. Hormones exist for a reason and serve a purpose and I’m sure serotonin is no exception. My impression is that there are optimum ranges for any hormone and it’s when balance is lost that things go awry. I picture serotonin’s mood elevating effects as a curve: highest in the middle (the optimum range), lowest at either extreme.

    That said, I do completely agree that the story we are fed with regards to serotonin is grossly oversimplified. While SSRIs clearly do help some people I, like Dr. Peat, am not convinced that this is conclusive evidence that depression is simply a matter of low serotonin (if it were why would some people commit suicide on them). I personally wonder whether this is not because they simply “blunt out” the pain rather than restore a healthful and vibrant emotional experience of life. But that’s just my belief, based on my own experiences which are subjective.

    But there are objective factors such as the evidence Ray Peat presents of serotonin antagonists relieving depression. Among them is drug called Tianeptine which is an SSRE (selective serotonin reuptake enhancer) which has the exact opposite effect of the SSRIs and is also a strong antidepressant. I wonder if Dr. Peat knows about it. He didn’t mention it in his article. I think it would interest him to know that some pharmacologists have taken an interest in anti-serotonin agents for mood disorders.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianeptine
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_serotonin_reuptake_enhancer

    Reply
    • He knows about Tianepitine and mentions it in one of his articles.

      Reply
  26. Most people don’t know, but serotonin receptor antagonists actually prevent and reverse UV-induced sun damage. I assume this is related to some sort of general inflammatory property of serotonin. Antagonists also promote deep sleep, but most people know that from Peat.

    Reply
    • Ok, it is one thing to say that we shouldn’t be putting SSRIs in our body, it is quite another thing to say that we should be blocking or radically reducing serotonin in our body (by avoiding some common foods…this seems to be Peat’s approach, I believe, and I am not accusing you John of promoting such a position). So there might be some benefits to reducing Serotonin, but what are the side effects? When we start tinkering with these hormones we are not playing with toys. This is serious stuff. I know that Matt’s post corrects the propaganda campaign in favor of SSRIs, but serotonin is not an evil, though sometimes reading Ray Peat’s stuff, one could conclude that it is. A cursory search on the Internet shows that Tianepitine- the Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor-has side-effects, too. Just as the SSRIs seem to be working for some people here, maybe the Serotonin Reputake Inhbitors-like Tianepitine-can work for others. For better or worse, you can only order it from one of those Off-shore pharmacies.

      Reply
      • I mean Serotonin Repuptake Antagonist above when talking about Tianepitine. Sorry.

        Reply
        • I don’t know how much you’d want to reduce it, but it was an interesting study in hairless mice. Tryptophan restriction does slow aging, and there is much “traditional” support for bone broths made from collagen/gelatin rich animal parts. While you probably shouldn’t take a nuclear bomb to serotonin, there are certain chemicals that tend to be in excess nowadays, and serotonin may be one.

          Reply
          • John, what would be the sources of excess serotonin today, in your opinion?

          • If it is in excess, I would say it is mostly due to hyperinsulinemia and/or hyperestrogenism, which are easier to quantify and see. Both insulin and estrogen are “encouraging” of serotonin, and it’s also noteworthy that our meat intake mostly the worst cuts, health-wise, being highest in tryptophan and iron.

            From a dietary standpoint, I’d say the linoleic acid and hfcs all day long are the main factors, with tryptohphan, iron, etc, and “environmental toxins” being other factors.

            Vitamin A (and D) has some anti-serotonin, anti-estrogenic effect. I have stumbled upon lots of internet anecdotes of people with skin problems or very low carbers with problems that sound like vitamin A deficiency symptoms. I don’t know if that’s the case, but I personally don’t think very low carb per se should be a problem: there are lots of factors to consider like salts, amino acid intake, iron, vitamin A, fat kcal %, etc. Maybe some of them could just try eating salted raw liver–or they could just increase carb foods…whatever works.

  27. There are do many different factors to depression. One major one is magnesium deficiency. depression is a sign of low energy. Most people with depression have either adrenal fatigue our thyroid issues. If you can increase energy production then depression disappears. Many people when they go on a low carb diet are no longer putting their adrenals into over drive with stimulating them with sugar and refined carbs which give you a temporary lift but you have to keep eatting more to keep that glucose going up to the brain. A properly working blood sugar level doesn’t do this. it will keep blood sugar stable no matter what you eat..so rather than looking for a quick fix,, you gotta fix the, mechanism that got broke from too much sugar, high ress and lack of minerals.

    Reply
    • I struggle with this. I usually use sugar as my main energy source, but it leaves my blood sugar yo-yoing all over the place. I know it’s not good for me, so I’m trying to up.
      I’m hoping vitamins and magnesium will help with this.

      Reply
      • I use a magnesium with chromium and it helps my sugar cravings better than anything else

        Reply
      • I find my blood sugar stays more stable if I consume it with fat (which is a nice surefire way to get physically fat:(…..or eat some proteine with it or drink some apple cider vinegar before(&sometimes after). However this doesn’t mean by trying to stabilize it,I’m not destroying myself.

        Reply
        • What the fuck are you all jabbering on about haha. Fat doesn’t make you fat, and sugar doesn’t wear out the adrenals. Go hit up buffets every time you are hungry for at least a week, eating whatever you want and tell me you don’t sleep better, feel better, fuck better ;)

          Yes, you’ll probably gain weight initially. This is wear the mental part of it comes in. You need to say “Fuck it”, or, “This is an experiment to see how I feel at the end of 7 straight days of buffet eating” which is to say, remove the emotion from the physical changes that may happen to your body. The focus should be on feeling better, of which I will shit my pants if you don’t feel at least 1% better by the end of a week.

          This is sad for me to read these people’s comments because of how much they remind me of my mom’s thoughts on this crap. She’s not a good spot although she claims she is.

          Reply
          • Yes,in some ways I do feel better,yet I’m not doing myself any favor at all ‘by wanting to shut my eyes&follow all your advices bc I just like the food’. My funghi/yeast are loving it,I’m addicted,am getting even further astray of normal eating pattern and is leading me into serious financial troubles…..and actually (rested) sleep varies very much,just like it did years prior to all this health stuff,when I was still naive.

  28. People who have been abused usually got stuck in sympathetic dominance in their nervous system, which causes high Cortisol. You need to turn that off and rest before you go into a low Cortisol state

    Reply
  29. Jus reading some stories on here make me sad, and yet in a way, positive, because the pain that ppl go through and yet start coming through the other side is nothing short of amazing.

    what isnt amazing is the attitude of drs that if you can tick a few questions on a questionaire, youre clinically depressed and are handed meds. If youre really losing it, then you get placed on a looooong waiting list to see a psych, who you may or may not gel with, in which to bare your soul and deepest darkest thoughts to…..but if you dont want to talk to them, its your prob for being avoidant yet not theirs for being well…unfriendly, uncaring, untrustworthy, sly and patronising, quite frankly.

    end of june this year, I was taking prozcrap, I KNEW about big pharma, but i also knew about my depression in the past, and well, i had always just used them as a crutch for a month and then binned them, and got on with life. I felt I needed to try that again cos this depression was getting one over on me this time….so as the usual drip feeding of bullshit was issued by my lovely doc, along with the boringly predictable prescription of prozac…i didnt want to take them, but figured “hey its just a month and you didnt get bad effects other times…”

    hmmm…its safe to say i was WIPED…yawning constantly, peeps thought i was just a lazy oik, some chav on the dole, but what they hadnt realised i had dragged myself out of bed to run my son to school, and everything was this battle against staying awake and motivated “against these pills not the depression!!. Yet the kicker was not being able to sleep when it was bedtime. The odd hour I managed i had nasty dreams, and then alarm would go off and Im comatoast having pretty much the same kinda convo to myself as wrote above.

    I tried zoloft for a day …but couldnt stand it….and so I marched into the drs pharmacy, and handed back them pills. They were gobsmacked but I was fucked…so their reaction passed over my conscience. I did start myself off on solgal Ltheanine on the advice of a friend and they did lift me but also glad to get off them too.

    Im SO much better just a few weeks later. However, my temp is still low (36.1 basal) but better than the 35. it was. I did RRARF it, but the weight gain is depressing me further and it wont budge :( …but i shall just keep on, get some studies done out the way with so i can just flit around on my days off work. I have it better than most tbh.

    As was said on here…balance is the key.

    But matt you do make even us happy dodgers laugh :D

    Reply
  30. Damn! Maybe I should have purchased that Groupon for the Ionic-Crystal Natural Salt-Lamp! But seriously, I thought negative/positive ions were just New Age crap. They really *do* affect your health???

    Reply
  31. “There is no such thing as a stress-free life.”

    “No doubt in a perfect world, we would never have to see these things prescribed, because there can be little doubt that even in the best case scenario there are side-effects. However, sometimes in life you’ve got to take your best shot and hope for the best.”

    “I like happiness, too. However, there are lots of emotion and we shouldn’t get stuck in just one, be that one emotion happiness or sadness. Life is just so much richer than that.”

    “I’m surprised to see Matt, usually an appreciator of nuance, totally and unequivocally dump on a hormone. Cortisol, for example, can have some nasty effects in excess (see Cushing’s Syndrome), but it would be plain wrong to say “cortisol is bad”. Hormones exist for a reason and serve a purpose and I’m sure serotonin is no exception. My impression is that there are optimum ranges for any hormone and it’s when balance is lost that things go awry.”

    http://letyourselfbe.com/problem-reaction-solution/

    Reply
    • Well he did say “What I’m really getting at is that serotonin sucks, in a general sense.”

      Reply
    • Corena,
      Your web site is really kooky utter nonsense, but strangely very entertaining. Keep the posts coming!

      Reply
      • Haha! Hey Troy :)

        Glad you find it entertaining. And hey if that’s what helps you justify why you’re strangely drawn to it, and be open to new information and possibilities, awesome! I’m happy to share AND entertain! :)

        And the time will come when you see that it has much much more than entertainment value and will make utter sense to you :)

        Speaking of which, here’s a new one for ya. How’s this for entertainment? :)

        http://letyourselfbe.com/time-to-break-free-from-your-cocoon/

        Reply
        • It is very “out there.” But hey, I don’t close off the possibility of anything being true (people probably think Matt is crazy for pushing saturated fat, carbs and salt, and I’ve learned that truth firsthand; not to mention stuff like accupuncture and homeopathy which sound “crazy” but work). Either way, I like your messages about approaching life with love, compassion, passion and positivity.

          Reply
  32. I dont get it… serotonin levels, or the lack of it, causes cravings so we eat those cookies? Or, is it the drugs that eff people up, not foods that rise serotonin? i dont get it… usually matt talks about food. That language i know well. But now im just lost…

    Reply
    • This post isn’t about drugs, although they were mentioned. It’s more about serotonin, and how harmful it can be in excess.

      Reply
      • High serotonin bad.. how does one avoid this?

        Reply
  33. Looking forward to the ‘simple practical measures’ follow-up post.

    Reply
    • It’s gonna be eat the food and don’t be afraid of junk food…

      Reply
    • me too!!

      Reply
      • Yes, more, more,m

        Reply
  34. Ore, please!

    Reply
  35. I’ve never seen any long term positive results from anyone who took medication (all medications, not just those for depression). Most either resort to other substances (alcohol, pot, etc…) or become depressed/super irritable if they decide to forego medicine. That whole, “there’s nothing wrong with some breathing room” is among the most ridiculous ways a person can rationalize drug use. Unless you are INCREDIBLY bad (I’m talking hearing voices in your head or horribly horrible OCD or depression so awful you try to kill yourself weekly), you are much better off doing what you can lifestyle/diet-wise and riding out the tough times.

    And to those who yell GENETICS, the fact that 100 years ago the mental and physical diseases so common today were damn rare says that there is something wrong with how the society of the USA (and probably industrialized nations in general) has developed, and fuck all to do with genes.

    Reply
    • Who are you to judge me? I need to be trying to kill myself “weekly” before I find something that gives me some relief? FU! I have two little kids who depend on me for everything, I can’t be locked in the bedroom crying under the covers every evening.

      Also- and my degree is in molecular biology/genetics- genetics in complex disorders has mostly to do with susceptibility. It’s not an on/off thing. It’s not the same as “blue eyes or brown eyes” it’s a continuum. Maybe if I lived 100 years ago I’d be fine but you know what? I don’t live 100 years ago. I have to find a way to have a normal life in 2012. And by the way there were plenty of mentally disturbed people 100 years ago, they just became recluses or suicides. They didn’t have therapy and self-help groups and drugs.

      get off your high horse.

      Reply
      • Did somebody say Emily Dickinson? People absolutely suffered from depression and anxiety 100 years ago and before. There are plenty of examples from literature. It may not have been called depression. If you look back at the great Renaissance philosopher/physician Marsilio Ficino, you will see that he wrote a lot about his own “melancholia”.

        It may be true that depression, etc. are more prevalent today than before. However, we can’t be sure of that. This “Minniver Cheevy” mythology of modern health fanatics that there was a golden age in which people enjoyed robust health and hardly ever got depressed is just bullshit. What we know of those ages is for the most part limited to a very small percentage of people, the privileged educated classes who could write. What was going on with the lower classes? Well there’s not a lot of literature on it, but if we read a historian like Fernand Braudel who has researched it, things don’t look so pretty back then for the laboring classes. Let me ask you, do you think spending almost all of your waking-hours laboring in a field or in a factory, being subject to all kinds of disease (no EVIL antibiotics to take care of simple infections), the threat of drought and crop failure (possible death sentences) might not lead some people to get depressed? Highly improbable. These people weren’t made from some different cloth than we, so can you imagine yourself in that situation? Wouldn’t you get depressed?

        My suspicion is that Tierney and others on here who take anti-depressants have tried natural methods and therapy for relief and did not benefit sufficiently from such methods. I don’t doubt the people who have suffered from taking anti-depressants. However, let’s not be puritans about this. It would appear there is a place for these drugs for SOME people, even if I agree that they should be a last resort.

        Reply
  36. “Buck up little camper, we’ll beat that slump, together.”

    Heh heh. Nice.

    //What? You didn’t think I’d miss a Better Off Dead reference, did you? :)

    Reply
    • It’s about time you read this. You know that reference was there exlusively for you.

      Reply
  37. I’ve been reading these posts on serotonin (and several of the references you linked to) and can’t come up with a real actionable plan. In the past I thought I might be sensitive to low serotonin levels because I get “winter blues”, and I also experience a low mood in the luteal phase of my cycle. The change in my mood/energy level etc are dramatic the day after I ovulate and stay low until the first day of my period, when I feel radically better.

    Right now I’m getting a hiatus from the cycle because I’m nursing a newborn, but would love some advice on dealing with this once Aunt Flo returns. Unless I’m on the wrong track and it’s not low serotonin at all….

    I also think my 11 year old son is sensitive to serotonin changes because he experiences “sundowning” and will come to me complaining of an unexplained feeling of sadness at around 4 PM.

    Before reading about the cons of serotonin (and before I got pregnant) I tried tryptophan but it made me feel a little drunk. Me no likey.

    Any advice from you or your commenters?

    Reply
  38. For every problem there is at least one simple, easy to understand, easy to implement INCORRECT solution. Great to see people that there are people who question generally accepted truth.

    Reply
  39. What about red light therapy for depression? I have been trying to find some info/ protocol for trying that.

    Reply
  40. All I know is that 5-HTP which is the precursor to serotonin stops me from getting invasive suicidal thoughts and for me these thoughts are hellish even though i would never act on them, they are gruesome and can be non stop throughout the day and night. 5-HTP has really blocked and diminished these thoughts to such an extent that I prefer the risk of the chemical to the alternative. I still get depressed at times but I can live with that. Interesting article and I do agree that there is no such thing as a wonder drug. It is all about cost benefit analysis and for me it is a calculated decision to take medication.

    Reply
  41. Serotonin reducing peristalsis ?!?

    Reply

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