Starved for Serotonin?
The Weight-Loss Series
With 30-40% of men and 50-60% of women dieting and starving their way to skinny, it’s a wonder that two-thirds of Americans are still overweight! How can this be? Doesn’t the simple equation of burn more calories than you consume equal weight-loss? Once again the uniqueness of our bodies must be factored into the equation. One of the ways our bodies have outsmarted dieting is through a neurotransmitter called serotonin.
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin influences regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and some cognitive functions including memory and learning. Our bodies make serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan. When you go on a low-carb diet (which is low in tryptophan), your serotonin levels drop and the brain interprets this as starvation. Uh oh! The body doesn’t like to starve, so what does it do? The brain sends out an S.O.S. for carbs, you know that overwhelming ravishing feeling of wanting to suddenly use your bread machine and eat the whole loaf? Okay maybe a different carb vice, like pizza, but you get the point, the body’s urges can be powerful when it wants its way!
What is the Solution?
Well when you don’t want to carb load just so you can get your serotonin fix, you must slowly drop the grams of carbohydrates, while at the same time slowly building up a dosage of 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5HTP). 5HTP is a precursor to serotonin. It’s a great way to keep your serotonin levels up and carb cravings down, preventing diet sabotage! Since L-tryptophan is a cheaper supplement and it’s on the same metabolic pathway, many people wonder why they can’t take that in place of 5HTP. The main reason is that L-tryptophan can’t cross the blood-brain barrier without a transport molecule. Once it does get across, it must be converted to 5HTP using an enzyme (tryptophan hydrolase) that can be inhibited by stress, insulin resistance, vitamin B deficiency, magnesium insufficiency, and oxidation associated with age. So, it’s easier and more effective to use 5HTP.
Remember: let your doctor determine your dosage! It can be tricky and optimal doses for weight-loss are on the high-end, so getting your dosage into optimal range may take some time and should be done under a doctor’s supervision. Also, 5HTP in combination with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc., could potentially (though never documented) cause serotonin syndrome. This can manifest as agitation, confusion, delirium, fast heart rate, sweating, and blood pressure fluctuations. Just because you can buy it over-the-counter doesn’t mean you should self-medicate as all medicine (even natural) has the potential of backfiring if improperly used!
See you weren’t being rebellious towards another diet by binging on carbs; there was a reason why your body put up a fight when you engaged in the latest “no carb” diet! Stay tuned for more enlightenment on how the body works in relation to weight-loss and how to breakthrough those weight-loss barriers!
Lakeview Family Wellness is your #1 Eastside and Seattle Wellness Center. We are a naturopathic medical clinic located at the very northern tip of Lake Washington between Seattle and Bothell in the city of Kenmore. At Lake View Family Wellness, we specialize in integrative medicine for the whole person. We emphasize people and not diseases while offering practical, real solutions to conditions and concerns such as: Diet, fitness, preventive care, women’s health, men’s health, cancer, chronic pain, common colds, autoimmune disease, and genetics.
Naturopathic medicine provides alternative, natural solutions for the most stubborn conditions. The doctors at Lake View Family Wellness utilize individualized nutrition strategies, pharmaceutical grade supplementation, intravenous (IV) therapy and a host of lifestyle modifying tools to make sure you reach your health goals. Creating opportunity for your body to overcome disease and surge in health is our number one priority. We hope to encourage and enable you to reach untold heights in your health journey. We look forward to serving you here at Lake View Family Wellness!
Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at 425-219-4325 (HEAL)
Dr. Jeff Thomas, ND
Dr. James Pendleton, ND
Dr. Carrie Miller, ND
Dr. John Catanzaro, ND