Serotonin - What's gut got to do with it?
MMany of our patients complain about headaches, fatigue, and insomnia. Chiropractic does wonders for these symptoms. There are of course many times I see children suffering with the same symptoms and when examining the possibilities, I look at serotonin levels. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is stored in the presynaptic vesicles and release by an electrochemical signal. Serotonin plays an important role in mood, sleep and appetite and this secret agent in children is often ignored.
Parents look to dosing supplements by themselves without regard to the body’s process and specific need, which can do more harm than good. Parents need your guidance. As you know, low levels of serotonin can contribute to low mood/depression, sleeping difficulties, compulsions, anxiousness, uncontrolled appetite, and headaches. High levels of serotonin can be due to stress and SSRI medications. Serotonin levels are altered in times of stress and anxiety, which many children face. In today’s competitive world, children have more stress than previous generations and we’re finding out it affects them greatly.
The interesting thing about serotonin is that more than 75% (some sources say up to 90%) is made in the gut, and many children have gut issues and symptoms of low serotonin are just a result of a gut issue. UCC scientists have shown that the “brain levels of serotonin are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during life.” Children are being overprescribed antibiotics, leading to imbalance or lack of proper gut flora and, in turn, low serotonin. This cascade starts simply and in the end is detrimental. The child with “depression” could have been helped naturally by a chiropractor but instead is on SSRIs and still has issues.
If a child presents with clinical symptoms and you suspect a gut and or serotonin issue, do some testing and devise a plan of treatment. The best way to test neurotransmitters is in urine. I also run serum serotonin levels. Using this is a great way to monitor supplements and, in cases where parental expense is an issue, may be your only option.
Whether your parents are able to afford testing or not, a great first step is suggesting a high-potency probiotic, which needs to be changed every 3-4 months. Each probiotic has different strains and the body truly needs a balance of flora and witching the probiotic occasionally is a way to ensure diverse gut flora. In addition, many suggest using 5 HTP, which is the precursor to serotonin in the serotonin/melatonin pathway. You must watch this carefully if you decide to supplement. I don’t suggest doing 5-HTP with those children on SSRIs. You may cause serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening drug reaction that causes the body to have too much serotonin, and 5 HTP increases central nervous system synthesis of serotonin. Some symptoms of serotonin syndrome include agitation, diarrhea, hallucinations, overactive reflexes, nausea and vomiting. For these reasons, I always suggest testing first then prescribing supplements.
NeuroScience does great neurotransmitter testing via urine, offers wonderful support for doctors, including many educational handouts allowing easy explanation of complicated pathways to the parents.
Source: Research published in Molecular Psychiatry, “The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis During Early-Life Regulates the Hippocampal Serotonergic System in a Sex-Dependent Manner.” June 2012.
(Dr. Amber Brooks founded Whole Child Wellness to bridge alternative and traditional medicine by providing individualized and comprehensive approaches to pediatric wellness. She is Board Certified in Pediatrics, specializes in CranioSacral Therapy (CST) and has a love and passion for treating children of all ages. Dr. Brooks assists her patients in achieving optimal health by utilizing chiropractic, biomedical and functional medicine for an integrative approach to help support their growing bodies. Outside her private practice she offers physician consulting, mentoring and is also available for speaking engagements. Visit her at www.mychildwellness.com or www.dramberbrooks.com and follow her on Facebook at “whole child wellness.”)
© 2013 The Chiropractic Journal Website maintained by