Gut Check: The Surprising Connection Between Serotonin and Your Digestive System

Headshot of Charles Maddix APRN, MSN, PMHNP-BC
Charles Maddix, APRN, MSN, PMHNP-BC
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February 16, 2023

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is often referred to as the "feel-good" chemical because of its role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. While it was once believed that serotonin was primarily produced in the brain, recent research has shown that up to 70% of serotonin is actually produced in the gut. This finding has led to a greater understanding of the link between gut health and mental health.

"recent research has shown that up to 70% of serotonin is actually produced in the gut"

The gut microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. These microorganisms play a critical role in the production and regulation of many important chemicals in the body, including serotonin. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, it can lead to a decrease in the production of serotonin, which can lead to depression and other mood disorders.

Research has shown that people with healthy gut biomes tend to have far fewer bouts with depression than those with imbalanced gut microbiomes. This is because a healthy gut biome promotes the growth of "good" bacteria, which produce the necessary chemicals to keep the gut and brain functioning properly.

There are many factors that can contribute to an imbalanced gut biome, including a diet high in processed foods, chronic stress, and the use of antibiotics. These factors can all disrupt the delicate balance of microorganisms in the gut, leading to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a decrease in the production of important chemicals like serotonin.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to promote a healthy gut biome and improve your mental health. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on eating a diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods, low in carbohydrates. This means eating plenty of  vegetables, whole grains, and proteins, while minimizing your intake of processed foods and added sugars, and be wary of fruit, some fruits are filled with sugar, bananas being one of the worst offenders.

Some people have found that adopting a ketogenic diet can also help improve gut health and reduce symptoms of depression. A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is designed to put the body in a state of ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

One of the key benefits of a ketogenic diet is that it can help reduce inflammation in the gut, which can lead to a healthier gut biome. Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can be damaging to the body, leading to a range of health problems including depression. A ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve gut health, which may help alleviate symptoms of depression in some people.

In addition to eating a healthy diet low in sugar, it's also important to manage your stress levels and get enough sleep. Chronic stress and sleep deprivation can both contribute to an imbalanced gut biome, so it's important to make time for relaxation and rest.

Finally, consider taking a probiotic supplement to support the growth of "good" bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can help restore balance to your gut microbiome, which can lead to improved mental health and well-being.

The link between gut health and mental health is a complex and fascinating area of research. While there is still much to learn, we now know that up to 70% of serotonin is produced in the gut, making a healthy gut biome critical for maintaining good mental health. By focusing on eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and taking steps to support the growth of "good" bacteria in the gut, you can help promote a healthy gut biome and reduce your risk of depression and other mood disorders.

Charles Maddix is the Owner & CEO of The Practice.  A private practice focused on the well-being of the individual as a whole, mind and body.

Among the unique modalities offered by The Practice are:

Ketamine Infusion therapy– Ketamine infusion therapy involves the administration of a series of infusions for the management of psychiatric disorders like major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and acute suicidality.  Working very quickly — in many, often within hours — to ease symptoms.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy - Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) uses hormones that are chemically identical to the hormones naturally produced in the human body. Derived from plant sources and formulated to match the molecular structure of hormones produced by the body. BHRT is used to treat symptoms of hormonal imbalances, in both men and women.

NeuroStar® TMS – NeuroStar® TMS delivers our advanced and unique form of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), a non-invasive therapy that uses targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain that are underactive in people suffering from depression.

Opioid Replacement Therapy - Opioid replacement therapy (ORT) is an effective treatment for addiction to opioid drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), fentanyl and Percocet. The therapy involves taking the opioid agonists buprenorphine (Suboxone). This medication works to prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings for opioid drugs.

Invega Sustena – a once-monthly injection treatment approved by the FDA for bipolar 1 disorder maintenance. This eliminates the need for daily oral medications in appropriate patients.Allergy Immunotherapy -

Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a long-term treatment that decreases symptoms for many people with allergies often leading to lasting relief of allergy symptoms even after treatment is stopped. This makes it a cost-effective, beneficial treatment approach for many people.

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