Simply Health ME E75 – Serotonin

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What is Serotonin?

Neurotransmitter (allows nerves to talk to each other). biological function is complex and multifaceted, modulating cognition, reward, learning, memory, and numerous physiological processes

Produced in the GI tract primarily but also the brain (Hello gut health influences brain health!!!!!)

Serotonin is produced, does a job and then then is cleared by reuptake. Various agents can block re-uptake and increase serotonin:

SSRIs (a kind of antidepressant e.g. sertraline (zoloft), cocaine

Regulates mood, sleep (improves sleep), appetite, highly involved in behaviors requiring high cognitive function, learning and memory

From a weight loss perspective

  • Serotonin stimulates the same pathway as Leptin
  • Increases the thermogenesis of brown fat
  • Increases lipolysis
  • Increases subconscious activity
  • Increases overall energy expenditure
  • Decreases food intake (by blocking the Ghrelin led pathway)

The weight loss drug Belviq or lorcaserin stimulates serotonin receptors in the hypothalamus

Why do we want to naturally increase serotonin?

Positive mood is linked to longevity and decrease risk of all cause mortality

Ways to increase Serotonin

Sunlight (or bright light (3000 lux)?) exposure (at the right time of day)

Bright light during the night hours might disrupt serotonin levels

           “Light cafes” pioneered in Scandinavia have come to the United Kingdom

GET OUTSIDE for a walk (lunch break/morning etc.)


Anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects of exercise have been documented over and over.

      The most consistent effect is seen when regular exercisers undertake aerobic exercise at a level with which they are familiar

We think this is due to increase serotonin


  Tryptophan is an amino acid which is a pre-curser for serotonin. Unfortunately it’s hard to get that tryptophan you eat in your diet to your brain due to the meal you are eating it with. Due to interactions too complicated to go into here, it does not reach the brain easily.  When eating foods with other amino acids, they compete for access to your brain. Its very hard to get things past your blood-brain barrier (the semi-permeable barrier between your blood and cerebrospinal fluid). Not everything you put in your blood (or gut for that matter) reaches the brain.   

*** this is the problem with MANY supplements that you waste your money on. Supplements promising better mood / sleep etc. may not actually make it to your brain.

Scientists have been trying to figure out how to manipulate the meal make up so that more tryptophan makes it to the brain

A few studies showing eating foods high in dietary tryptophan can improve memory and mood

You can google what foods have lots of tryptophan (eggs/salmon/almonds/ etc.).


Make sure you eat these things with a little carb as studies show this improves the ability for your body to use the tryptophan

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