Natural Serotonin: Alternatives to Anti-Depressant Drugs such as Prozac,
Effexor, Zoloft, etc.
One out of every 10 Americans has been on an SSRI drug (Prozac, Effexor, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox and
Paxil to name a few) for depression. Serotonin, the primary neurotransmitter influenced by this class of drug,
has many influences on mood as well as pain, sleep and intensity of cravings. Deficiencies in serotonin can lead
to depression, anxiety, low pain thresholds, sleep disorders, sugar cravings and cause weight gain.
How does Serotonin affect the brain and prevent depression?
When you eat protein, an amino acid called tryptophan will absorb into the brain to be processed into serotonin.
If sufficient nutrients (Iron, SAMe, Magnesium, and certain B-vitamins) are available, tryptophan will be converted
into a substance called 5-HTP. If an activated form of vitamin B6 (P5P) is present, 5-HTP will be converted into
the feel good chemical known as serotonin.
Certain brain cells will release serotonin in order to communicate with a neighboring brain cell (target cell). When
the serotonin is released into the space between the cells (the synapse), some of it is bound to the target cell,
therefore transmitting the message. A small amount of serotonin is lost in the urine, and the rest (80%) is re-
absorbed by the original cell to be reused. When there is normal re-absorption (re-uptake) of the serotonin,
feedback will tell the first cell that appropriate amounts of serotonin has reached the target cell, and that no more
serotonin production is required. When plenty of serotonin is available, a small amount is converted into another
important chemical called melatonin, which helps one achieve deep, restful sleep.
How do Prozac-like drugs work?
SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reutake Inhibitor) drugs such as Prozac, Effexor, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, etc. block
the re-absorption of the serotonin that does not bind to the target cell, forcing the serotonin to stay in the
synapse for a longer period of time in hopes that more serotonin may bind to the target cell. Some serotonin will
be bound but much more than normal will be eliminated through the urine.
Are there side effects of Prozac and other SSRI drugs?
There are some problems that are associated with the use of these drugs and if you read the first three
paragraphs again, you can probably figure them out.
- First, If the drug is blocking the re-uptake of serotonin, there is a larger amount being excreted in the
urine. This is very wasteful, especially if the person was low in serotonin to begin with. These drugs
actually deplete the body of it's own serotonin stores which can be very dangerous since those taking
the drug were often low in serotonin to begin with!
- Second, if the receptors on the target cell were resistant to serotonin to begin with, abnormally high
amounts of serotonin will only make the receptors more resistant to serotonin. Higher doses of the drug,
or a different drug may then be required to achieve the desired effect which means increased risk of side
- Third, since the feedback loop is blocked, the first cell thinks that the target cell did not receive enough
serotonin. The first cell must then try to release even more serotonin, further depleting its serotonin