How to Prevent Serotonin From Making You Fat and Lose Weight
Serotonin has a light and dark side! In your brain it helps you slim down for your bikini, but in your gut it thwarts your body's ability to burn fat! How can this important molecule be both a miracle and a curse? Many things come into play – including brown, beige, and white fat, and your gut's bacteria. Learn how to stay on serotonin's good, fat-burning side by regularly eating natural serotonin boosters.
You know serotonin is the chemical in your brain that helps you sleep, fights stress, and makes you happy – but did you know that's only 5 percent of its job? Research has found 95 percent of serotonin's responsibility is judging how many calories you're burning through brown fat.
“Evil” Serotonin and “Good” Serotonin
Your brain and gut make serotonin. The serotonin made in your gut is called “peripheral serotonin” and accounts for 95 percent of your total serotonin. Researchers found that peripheral serotonin blocks your fat from burning. But, serotonin made in your brain (the other 5 percent) helps you lose weight. Serotonin can't pass through the blood-brain barrier, thus peripheral serotonin can't enter your brain and boost your “good” serotonin levels.
How Serotonin in Your Brain Helps You Lose Weight
The serotonin produced by your brain helps you lose weight in many ways. It helps you get a good night's sleep – and being sleep-deprived lowers your metabolism and appetite control because you have less leptin. It also prevents depression, which is linked to weight gain.
Cortisol, which is more abundant when you're stressed, increases your appetite and food cravings. Since serotonin keeps you calm and lowers your stress, it prevents an overabundance of cortisol.
Serotonin also directly suppresses your appetite, helping stop you from overeating.
Peripheral Serotonin and Brown Fat
Recently, scientists discovered that peripheral serotonin blocks your brown fat from burning your white fat, and even stops your body from making brown fat altogether.
Brown fat, which is found around your collarbones, always burns even if you're not exercising. Its constant burning is responsible for keeping you at 98 degrees, using your circulatory system to spread the heat it creates. Researchers also found that brown fat boosts your overall metabolism.
If you're not physically active, beige fat only burns when you're cold, and white fat won't burn on its own unless your blood sugar is low or it's converted to beige fat. Your brown fat sends chemical messengers to your white fat cells, which convert them to beige fat so they'll burn automatically when you're cold.
But, peripheral serotonin stops your brown fat from turning the white fat around your stomach and thighs into beige fat! It also may halt the production of brown fat altogether. Researchers also found that you make less brown fat as you get older, and that brown fat is found less in obese people.
How You Can Naturally Lower Peripheral Serotonin and Increase Brain Serotonin
If you're trying to lose weight, you want your peripheral serotonin low and the serotonin in your brain high, right? Researchers found that a bad diet that nourishes an imbalance of bad gut bacteria can stop your brown fat from working altogether – why? It turns out that about 60 percent of your peripheral serotonin is made by your gut bacteria – an imbalance in your natural gut flora leads to irregular peripheral serotonin production.
Good news! There are natural serotonin boosters that boost your brain's serotonin levels while lowering the amount of peripheral serotonin made in your gut. Here are a few:
Bananas are rich in B vitamins, which your brain needs to make serotonin. Bananas also promote good gut bacterial growth, which prevents gut bacterial imbalance.
Fish, flaxseed, and nuts are rich in healthy omega fatty acids, which make your brain release more serotonin. Omega-3 fatty acids also regulate your gut flora and lower intestinal inflammation, keeping your gut healthy and lowering risk for overproduction of peripheral serotonin.
Dark leafy greens are rich in magnesium (among many other nutrients), which works with B vitamins to help your brain make more serotonin. These veggies are more alkaline, which promote good gut bacterial growth.
The serotonin in your brain stops you from overeating and binging on junk food, but the serotonin made by your gut stops your body from automatically burning fat. You can boost the serotonin in your brain and lessen the serotonin made by your gut by eating these natural foods or taking serotonin supplements.
Updated January 4, 2017