Anti-depressants: Hormone of Happy or Hormone of Horror?

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Anti-depressants: Hormone of Happy or Hormone of Horror?

Image credit: Dees Illustration

(PharmacistBen) If you watch the cartoonish commercials on TV about depression and anti-depressants, you would think that the molecule known as serotonin is a biochemical of bliss and if you’re feeling crappy, you can just take a medicine that bumps up its effects and voila, you’ll be happy. On the other hand, if you go to websites like “SSRI stories.com”, which is filled with nightmarish tales about violent behavior, assaults, suicides, suicidal thoughts, murders, and school shootings all associated with SSRIs; or if you read the papers and listen to conspiracy theorists, it’s almost impossible not to be impressed by the link between all of this unpleasantness and drugs that affect serotonin levels. Even the package insert that comes with Prozac and Effexor and Zoloft and other SSRIs pharmaceuticals contain warnings from the purveyors of these poisons about side effects of self-harm and savagery that one would never think would be associated with a drug that’s supposed to make you jump for joy.

So which is it, hormone of happy or hormone of horror? If serotonin is indeed the chemical of calm that you hear about on commercials and if SSRI drugs are indeed the glee-inducing, depression-fighting drugs that your doctor tells you they are, why is that Lilly and Pfizer and all the other manufacturers of these substances are warning patients about side effects like suicide and violent and aggressive behavior?

Well, as it turns out, serotonin, despite what you may have heard, is far from a happiness and joy brain biochemical. While it’s true that serotonin is partially a brain-based neurotransmitter (nerve chemical), it is, involved in far more than cranial chemistry. While 3-4. per cent is located in the brain, in fact, serotonin is found pretty much in all the systems of the body including the blood, skin, lungs, liver, and reproductive organs. And, as it turns out, most of the serotonin, some 90 per cent (or more) is found in the intestines, where it stimulates digestive contractions.

One of the serotonin’s main roles is to help the body eliminate ingested food poisons. Stimulating contractions of digestive tract muscles is the way the body deals with stuff it wants to expel. This is why SSRIs are sometimes used as appetite suppressants; under the influence of serotonin, we just don’t feel like eating. It’s also why one of the most common side effects of SSRIs is digestive disorders, especially cramping, loose stools and diarrhea. And this promotion of intestinal contractions is a clue to the real role of serotonin.
You see, far from being the happy hormone marketers and medical people tell us it is, serotonin is an emergency response hormone. It is involved in helping the body deal with survival threats and challenges; in addition to the ingestion of toxins, it’s protective against circulatory distress, especially bleeding. The term serotonin actually refers to “toning” (tightening) of the “sero” (blood). Sero-tonin is so named because it was first discovered in clotting components that are found in the blood, the little cell fragments called platelets. Thus, serotonin is a major blood clotting and blood vessel contracting chemical. It coagulates the blood and increases blood pressure, essentially preparing the body for an emergency.

So, not only is serotonin not a happy hormone, it is actually a hormone of stress and vigilance. Its main role is to prepare the body to respond to emergency, whether such response requires emptying the digestive tract of poisons by causing intestinal contractions, blood clotting to prepare the body for a fight, hypertension, to prepare the body for a flight or hyper-vigilance to prepare the body for some kind of perceived impending attack.

Contrary to mythology, not only does serotonin NOT signal joy and bliss and happiness, but it actually sends a completely opposite signal, specifically one of preparation for the avoidance of impending doom! Any happiness is associated with serotonin is a result of the body elevating emotional response to prepare its owner for some kind of stress.

Serotonin is a hormone of alertness, and this is what accounts for its link to suicides and violent behaviors which are manifestations of the vigilance response gone crazy. Basically it tells the brain that the body’s survival is at stake; that the digestive tract and the circulatory system (the blood) are being threatened, that the life of the organism is at risk. When you take a drug like Prozac or Effexor or Zoloft or any SSRI type drug you are up-regulating the chemistry of threat and danger. In the short run this may have anti-depressant effects and one of the body’s responses to emergencies is elevations in mood; cortisol which is another stress-related hormone will do the same thing in small amounts. This is one of the ways that the body handles emergencies. Pharmacologically increasing serotonin may in the short run improve affect, but in the long run it will semi-permanently up-regulate the stress response system. In other words, it improves mood by up-regulating the chemistry of threat and danger, which is most certainly NOT a good thing! This is why some studies show that paranoia, aggression, and suicidal thoughts/suicides can be caused by drugs that increase the levels of this stress management chemical. And significantly, this is why rage and aggressive behaviors, violence and suicidal behavior can be associated with drugs that increase the activity of serotonin.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Top Ten Foods For Protection From Estrogen

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Number 1) Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts.  If I was a woman I’d be doing cruciferous veggies on a daily basis.  The one knock and the cruciferous veggies is their affect on the thyroid.  Some folks who are dealing with thyroid health issues may find that raw. Cruciferous veggies may have a negative effect on the thyroid.  If you slightly stem your veggies, for most folks that should take care of the problem.

Estrogen FoodsNumber 2) Citrus lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges.  Chemical in these fruits called flavanoids have some tremendous anti estrogenic affects, especially when it comes to cancer protection.  Especially for female cancer like breast and uterine cancer.   Their tasty cheap and readily available and like the cruciferous veggies, there’s no reason not to be enjoying them on a daily basis.

Number 3) Onion and Garlic.  Like the citrus fruits these versatile veggies are loaded with estrogen protecting flavanoids, especially something called Quercetin.   They support liver health and can boost the immune system too.  They work well in combination with other flavanoids so use onions and garlic with the cruciferous veggies and citrus fruits for a nice immune boosting anti estrogenic salad or soup.

Number 4) Raw nuts and seeds both of which are sources of something called sterols which have protective affects against estrogen and may help promote production of estrogens opposing hormones progesterone.  Sterols can also support testosterone production in men and if you’re a guy and you’re starting to notice that you’re going to the bathroom more than once or twice in them idle of the nite, sterols may be a way to protect yourself from prostate enlargement.  Make sure your using raw nuts and seeds not the kind that are roasted or otherwise processed as these kinds of techniques can  reduce their nutritional value and even produce harmful compounds.

Number 5) Olives are also a good source of sterols that can have beneficial effects on estrogen and may help lower blood cholesterol too.  Olives are a good source of Vitamin E which has anti estrogenic properties.

Number 6) Turmeric, which is the active ingredient in curry.  Turmeric is one of the most medicinally herbs/ spices you could ever use and if you’re dealing with any estrogen issues or you want to protect yourself from cancer you’d be wise to use curry on everything.

Number 7) Fish and seafood which are sources of special compounds called DHA and EPA which have wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits that can offset the pro inflammatory affects of estrogen.  These compounds can also balance out the pro-inflammatory and pro-estrogenic compounds in most grain and cooking oils.  Get ion the Ultimate EFA which is a good source of the protective essential fatty acids.

Number 8) Green leafy veggies are a source of b-vitamin and chlorophyll both of which can help balance our estrogen.  In addition some green leafys like spinach is a source of powerful detoxification substances that help the body process excessive amounts of xenoestrogen.

Number 9) Seaweeds and algaes as mentioned previously are powerfully ant estrogenic.  These kinds of foods are very undervalues in Western cooking although in Japan they’ve been using seaweed as a source of nourishment for millennia.  I like to get the dry seaweed and use it like croutons to add a crunch to salads.  Sometimes I’ll soak my  seaweed in water with a bunch of garlic and onion powder and sea salt and use it as a bed underneath grilled  fish or squid.

Number 10) Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and borsht all have estrogenic properties.  The bacteria that give these types of foods their bite can help process estrogen and can provide digestive benefits too.

Estrogens or Oestrogens, are a group of compounds named for their importance in both menstrual and estrous reproductive cycles. They are the primary female sex hormones. Natural estrogens are steroid hormones, while some synthetic ones are non-steroidal. The name comes from the Greek οἶστρος (oistros), literally meaning “gadfly” but figuratively sexual passion or desire, and the suffix -gen, meaning “producer of”.
From Wikipedia

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition

Zinc’s Powerful Hormone Balancing

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

We’ve discussed all the ways zinc and the lack of it can affect the body: skin health, bone, health and immunity are just some ways this essential nutrient can impact health. taking a daily 50mg dose of Zinc can prevent colds, eliminate acne and improve eczema. Zinc’s powerful hormone balancing properties can help improve prostate health and prevent male pattern baldness. All in all, for hundreds of different biochemical reactions, this stuff is amazing!

Zinc's Powerful Hormone BalancingThis is what I mean when I talk about the importance of nutrition supplementation. Think about the leverage here: one little pill with 50mg of Zinc in it (about the amount of zinc that would fit on the head of a pin) can control and stabilize and spark several hundred chemical processes in the body. Now that is some serious clout! And the most incredible part how little 50mg
of Zinc costs. What would you expect to pay for a (magic) pill that could keep hair on your head, cure your acne, strengthen your bones, build your immunity, enhance your digestion, strengthen your heart and make you think better?

And, with no down side when taken as directed. Would you expect to pay 100 dollars for a month supply? It would be worth it! In fact, for all those benefits, 100 dollars would be an incredible bargain. Well, surprise, surprise! A 30 day supply at a health food store will typically cost less than 5 bucks!

You can tell if you’re deficient in zinc by doing the “Zinc Taste Test”. You can use a solution of zinc sulfate and water (available online) or you can place a zinc sulfate tablet on your tongue. If you are not instantly repelled by a strong metallic taste chances are pretty good that you’re suffering from a lack of zinc.

The best way to get zinc is supplementally in the picolinate and monomethionine forms. These are available in most health food stores, but they are harder to find at drug stores where the typical forms available are zinc gluconate and zinc sulfate. The bioavailability of these cheaper zinc varieties is less than satisfactory and many people find that they can cause nausea or other digestive distress. A good daily dose is 50mg a day. Interestingly the signs of zinc deficiency (such as acne, hair loss, frequent colds and flues) can be duplicated by taking too much zinc (100mg a day or more). It’s also important to note than there is an antagonistic relationship between zinc and copper and it’s probably a good idea to take 2 mg of copper with every 50mg of zinc.

Look for chelate or glycinate forms of copper which are easily handled by the body. For those of you who want to try to obtain zinc through diet, in addition to the aforementioned oysters and the Rocky Mountain variety, the best sources include liver, lamb, venison, and seseme and pumpkin seeds. However, it should be noted than even the highest zinc concentration foods provide 10mg or so per serving.

– Zinc deficiency is relatively common.
– It’s important for hundreds of different biochemical systems to work effectively
– Deficiencies can show up in dozens of different ways including depressed immunity, bone problems, skin rashes and acne, digestive distress and hormone issues.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition