serotonin and the gut brain connection

Trying to make heads or tails of all the chatter about the gut-brain connection is enough to make one want to run screaming from the room. Much information is available leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, IBS, Chron’s and Celiac’s Disease.  Thankfully, many medical practitioners are now opening up about the obvious link between gut health (or the lack thereof) and Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD, hormonal imbalances (think estrogen dominance), and even auto-immune disorders (think Celiac’s Disease). There are also links to many mood disorders just as depression and anxiety affected by gut health.  In fact, the mainstream medical community along with the pharmaceutical companies kind of ran with the assumption that if serotonin was partly responsible for mood regulation than more must be better.  Since serotonin is manufactured mostly in the gut, you can see how the connection should have been examined years ago.

{For more information on serotonin and the effects see What is Serotonin and is “More” Better?}

So why is the gut-brain connection so important?

The gut is responsible for the digestion of food and assimilation of its nutrients.  It is also a key factor in detoxing endotoxin, used hormones and medications. From the mouth to the anus, the digestive system is meant to help keep toxins, viruses, parasites, bacteria, food particles and proteins out of the blood stream.  Yes, it’s even they key manufacturer of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that is responsible for a myriad of bodily functions with mood regulation being the most well known (and most lauded) function. And to further the illustrate the point think about 70 to 80 percent of your immune system relies on your gut being healthy.

The gut is so important to the health of the body that if there is dysfunction present it can cause some serious issues in the body. Too much fiber, too many pharmaceuticals (including antibiotics), chemicals, chronic inflammation and even food intolerances (think gluten intolerances) can lead to an unhealthy dysbiotic or porous gut. When that happens havoc occurs with large proteins, food particles, viruses, parasites and other toxins escape into the blood and cause a cascade of symptoms including skin problems, depression and anxiety, joint and muscle pain and autoimmune responses.

So how does this all affect serotonin (and other neurotransmitter) production?

First off cofactors such as zinc, B-vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin C are needed to manufacture these neurotransmitters. These are often the first nutrients to be dramatically affected by a porous or dysbiotic gut.  Most depression and anxiety cases can be traced back to gut issues and many studies have shown that these mood disorder sufferers are also deficient in the aforementioned nutrients.   As gut health gets further out of kilter, hormonal issues such as estrogen dominance which  can be exacerbated by a leaky gut (conversely a leaky gut can release more endotoxins and histamine which, generally, lead to even greater liver detoxification dysfunction leading to even more estrogen dominance.  This will lead to greater hormonal imbalance and thyroid dysfunction.  It is a self-perpetuating cycle.

When the gut is so porous or the microflora is way out of balance the body does not make the correct amount of serotonin which will have a negative effect on mood balance such as increased depression and/or anxiety.  (Note:: I am not suggesting serotonin be boosted as high as SSRIs tend to artificially elevate it in the blood stream rather restore it to “normal levels” for normal mood function.)

We will be discussing more about how nutrition affects gut health and serotonin and other neurotransmitter production in our next feature.  Stay tuned!

4 replies
  1. Wendy G
    Wendy G says:

    Looking forward to future posts. In the meantime continuing the delicious gelatin full cream hot chocolate and LOVING the improved sleep. Thank you for your sanity in a world gone mad. Wendy xxx

  2. Gennifer
    Gennifer says:

    Hello, what is your opinion of the serotonin power diet???? Do you think eating carbs as a snack, at a certain time of the day helps serotonin reach the important parts of the brain, therefore, helps not over eating? Sorry I don’t have the book in front of me, but I think that is the basic notion of the diet. I love your blog.

    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      I really don’t have much of an opinion about the serotonin power diet because it, in my view, is pretty much murky science. Serotonin reaches the brain by binding to receptors. Carbohydrates have little to do with that process because the number of the receptors has nothing to do with the gut. Balancing carbs with healthy fats with proteins is a much saner way of eating. Carbs don’t boost the ability for your brain to uptake serotonin and, even if they did, what about the other neurotransmitters? Be careful about all these diets that SOUND amazing on paper but really don’t have much basis in actual science. Catchy name though. What a way to make you buy the book!! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.