Most people who have heard of #serotonin probably know of it as the brain chemical responsible for regulating mood and are aware that a lack of serotonin is associated with depression. What you may not know is that the vast majority of the body's serotonin (80 – 90%) is not found in the brain at all but in the intestinal tract and that it is responsible for a lot more than just mood regulation.
Because it is a neurotransmitter (i.e. it regulates signals between nerve cells) it is tempting to think that serotonin is primarily concerned with brain activity, when in fact it is involved in a much wider range of functions within the blood, central nervous system and the body as a whole. These functions include bowel motility (the muscular contractions that propel food through the gastro-intestinal tract, a.k.a peristalsis) and the regulation of all of the following: hunger, sleep, libido, blood-clotting, concentration, metabolism, energy, pain response and even bone density. So, if you suffer from chronic depression and/or from ongoing problems involving any of the functions listed above AND you have #vitiligo, you may be interested to know that serotonin is also involved in melanogenesis (the process that creates skin pigment) and that it has been found to be lacking in people with vitiligo.
What are the symptoms of serotonin deficiency?
Certainly, if I look at my own medical history, I can recognise several of the symptoms of serotonin deficiency, in particular, IBS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and insomnia, as well as vitiligo. And I have certainly had my struggles with depression in the past (although, whether this was actually part of the condition resulting in my vitiligo or just a result of coping with it, I don't know).
Of all my health issues, IBS symptoms go back the furthest. I remember suffering terrible stomach cramps from a very early age and firmly believe that digestive abnormalities have been inextricably linked to the development of my vitiligo and other symptoms. Whether or not serotonin deficiency is a factor in this process remains to be seen but I was interested to read an article published in The Telegraph entitled What your gut’s telling you: why your digestion holds the key to your health about a groundbreaking book called The Second Brain by Michael Gershon, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University in New York. The author describes the gastrointestinal tract as being like a “second brain” because it is an autonomous nervous system. Astonishingly, he points out that it is the only part of the body – including the brain itself - that can function in isolation from the rest. The complexities and wide-reaching implications of how the digestive system functions are clearly far greater than anyone realised and Gershon is not exaggerating when he refers to functional bowel disease using the same term Winston Churchill once used for the Soviet Union: 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’ .
Low Serotonin and Gastrointestinal Disorders
An article on Robb Wolfe's website called Low Serotonin and Gastrointestinal Disorders also caught my eye. The author, Kevin Cann, says “The Understanding of IBS and its roots are still up in there. Chances are it is not just caused from one factor. What we do know is that poor gut health can lead to poor mood and vice versa. Our serotonin pathways may be a large player in this part. Due to this understanding, we want to take action in making sure we have adequate serotonin. We do this by getting proper sleep, having proper vitamin D levels, getting sufficient sunlight, not drinking too much alcohol or coffee, and eating high quality protein. We need to make sure we also have good digestive health. Without proper digestion, the tryptophan and the nutrients required to convert it into serotonin may not be present.”
the implications for vitiligo sufferers
Reading this article, it struck me that it should come as no surprise that vitiligo sufferers have lower levels of serotonin because they typically have low levels of vitamin D too (and vitamin D controls serotonin synthesis).
All of this brings me to the reason for researching this particular topic...
I recently started testing a new product – a therapeutic jewellery range, no less, called Enerjii - for Vitiligo Store, that evidently helps to balance serotonin levels (as well as reducing oxidative stress and improving general wellbeing, concentration and energy levels). The jewellery works along similar lines to the more familiar magnetic bracelets that you can buy to help relieve pain but it takes the concept a couple of steps further because it is infused with a total of three natural energies which, it is claimed, work together to improve well-being. These energies are: 1) rare earth neodymium magnets, 2) far infrared and 3) negative ions.
Whilst I have had dramatic success in self-treating my vitiligo using just nutritional supplementation and sunshine, I have also become a firm believer, over the intervening 6 years, that any natural and holistic therapies that can nudge the body towards better over-all health cannot help but have a positive knock-on effect on chronic conditions like IBS, chronic fatigue, etc. and, of course, vitiligo. And since the technologies in Enerjii jewellery are known to reduce oxidative stress at the same time as increasing serotonin levels, it seems reasonable to expect that they could prove effective as part of an ongoing anti-vitiligo protocol.
A good start
So, I have been wearing one of the bracelets and matching necklace for a week now (very stylish they are too - I bought the Sportii set in lime green!) and I actually do feel some benefits already. Mainly, at this stage, these consist of a reduction of aches and pains in my joints and a definite improvement in energy and alertness. Of course, whenever you try out a new therapy it's always hard to know how much to attribute to real results and how much to the famous “placebo effect” but I would have to say I have become generally more upbeat and chirpier since wearing the jewellery too. Could this be partly due to an improvement in serotonin levels and a further reduction in oxidative stress, I ask myself? I will keep you posted ...
A vitiligo blogger since 2011. My name is Caroline. I had vitiligo for nearly 50 years before finding an effective treatment. I created this blog to share my experiences with others affected by this skin condition.