The Only Two Ways to Raise Brain Serotonin Levels

The following article was written by Dr. Gary Kohls.

Serotonin is probably the most important neurotransmitter in the brain because it naturally and effectively treats depression, anxiety and insomnia, as well as symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, agitation, anger, aggression, hostility, impulse dyscontrol and a variety of other mood issues.

Serotonin’s role in neurological, bowel, vascular and mental health issues has been known for decades and, since the approval by the FDA (in the late 1980s) of a handful of expensive, dangerous and addicting drugs known as the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), has been heavily exploited by the pharmaceutical industry (hereinafter known as BigPharma).

Serotonin was first discovered in the bloodstream of animals in the 1950s or 60s as an important natural vasoconstrictor (causing constriction of blood vessels) and blood coagulant. Several decades after those discoveries the serotonin molecule was re-discovered in the brain, where it was found to function as an important neurotransmitter (a natural biochemical, one of as many as 60 others – most of them still a mystery to neuroscientists - in the complex brain, that allows nerve impulses in various brain neurochemical systems whose transmission is otherwise electrical).

Serotonin was ultimately found by basic science neuroscientists to have only one common precursor in the human diet. That precursor substance is an amino acid (the basic small molecule building blocks of proteins) known as l-tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of the eight amino acids found in the proteins that humans can normally obtain only through their diets. These eight amino acids (of 20 amino acids commonly found in dietary proteins) cannot be manufactured from other sources and are thus is known as “essential” amino acids. (Amino acids such as tyrosine, the precursor of the natural antidepressants dopamine, norepinephrine and adrenalin can be metabolized by humans from phenylanaline - which is one of the other “essential” amino acids.)

It is important to re-emphasize that the natural antidepressant serotonin can only be increased in the body and brain by the ingestion of one of it’s two precursor amino acids – tryptophan (which is found in protein, protein powder nutritional supplements or as an amino acid supplement) and/or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), an amino acid that is extracted from a bean from Africa.

The claims of BigPharma that the SSRI drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain is really only a clever partial truth (a plausible “white lie”). In actuality, SSRI drugs only temporarily and momentarily increase the levels of serotonin in the gap between serotonin nerves (called the “synapse”) while – long term – they actually decrease and wasting the stored-up serotonin in the pre-synaptic nerves. The serotonin is actually depleted by the SSRIs well-advertised and, at the same time, poorly explained function: the inhibiting (= disabling) of the reuptake pump’s physiologically normal recycling of the neurotransmitter back into the pre-synaptic nerve, which allows repeated reuse of the same serotonin molecules for future nerve impulse transmission. Thus, the unadvertised result of repeated inhibition of the reuptake mechanism is the long-term depletion (and destruction by synaptic enzyme systems) of serotonin directly because of the drug’s major mechanism of action. - Your Mental Health Is Affected Every Day By This!

This depletion of stored-up serotonin helps to explain the phenomenon of “Prozac Poop-Out” which commonly results in the need to increase the dosage of an SSRI to obtain the same artificially stimulating effect or to avoid the common withdrawal symptoms that happen when the drug is stopped abruptly, the dose decreased or the synapse function altered and/or damaged.

Patients on any number of prescription or illicit brain-altering drugs commonly develop withdrawal symptoms by just staying on the (increasingly ineffective) initial dose (a “poop-out” phenomenon also known as “tolerance”). Tolerance happens with the regular use of dependency-inducing drugs such as dopamine/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor psychostimulants such as cocaine, the amphetamines (including Adderall), methamphetamine, Ecstasy, Effexor, Wellbutrin and the cocaine-like drug Ritalin) or the GABA agonists such as the tranquilizers/anti-anxiety drugs/hypnotics/sleeping pills such as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Restoril, Ambien, Lunesta, etc.

The basic science realities of the amino acid-derived dopamine and GABA – and the dangerous synthetic drugs that BigPharma uses to exploit basic neuroscience and cunningly market their patented, highly profitable and addictive products - will be dealt with in forth-coming articles.

But the important issue of this article (especially for people who want to take control of their own emotional and mental health issues) is that synthetic brain-altering drugs, which are all lethal at a certain dose (as opposed to the benign and healthy neurotransmitter precursors), never, never cure mental ill health. At best, they only mask symptoms that are often misinterpreted as representing “mental illnesses”. Indeed, neurological dysfunction caused by psychotropic drugs is almost universal. These unintended adverse effects commonly cause symptoms that mimic mental illnesses. (See the extensive lists of adverse neurotoxic and psychotoxic “adverse” effects of any prescription psych drug in the dispensing pharmacy’s product insert or in the PDR [Physician’s Desk Reference] to confirm this reality for yourself.)

Amino acid therapy for a variety of emotional issues has been proven to be an important adjunct in the cure of uncounted numbers of patients fortunate enough to know about brain nutrient therapy before getting on drugs. 

Again, it is important to reiterate that serotonin can only be increased in the brain (or body, since 90% of the serotonin in the body is in the intestinal system – accounting for the many gastro-intestinal “side effects” caused by the SSRI drugs) by eating the proper food or supplementing the diet with the amino acid supplements L-Tryptophan and/or 5-HTP, along with various co-factors that facilitate the metabolic process in the serotonin brain cell’s manufacturing process. Adequate amounts of these co-factors are best obtained by taking therapeutic doses of magnesium, zinc, folic acid, vitamins C and B6.
Unfortunately, of the amino acids in the protein foods we humans commonly consume, tryptophan is the scarcist one of them all. The proteins that contain the most tryptophan include white meat, dairy protein, beans, egg whites, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, lentils and bananas. The amounts of tryptophan in those foods still contain only a fraction of what are found in the dietary supplements L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP. As an example, it would take 100 grams of pumpkin seeds to yield the brain serotonin that could be derived from one 500 mg capsule of tryptophan or one 50 mg capsule of 5-HTP.
It needs to be noted that this basic brain science report about holistic mental health is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a prescription for any given person, especially for people who are already taking psychotropic drugs. 

For patients who want further information concerning dosages of the mentioned supplements, they should consult a nutritionally-oriented health practitioner or books such as Depression-Free for Life (Cousens), Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Balch), 5-HTP: Nature’s Serotonin Solution or Mind Boosters (both by Sahelian), Heal With Amino Acids (Sahley and Birkner), The Mood Cure (Ross), among others. For advice on information about the toxicity of, and the problems concerning withdrawal from, psychotropic drugs, it is advised that people read books such as Prozac Backlash and The Antidepressant Solution (both by Glenmullen), Your Drug May Be Your Problem, Medication Madness and Toxic Psychiatry (all by Breggin), Madness in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Maltreatment of the Mentally Ill (Whitaker).

I close this article with an important excerpt from a book entitled The War Between Orthodox Medicine and Alternative Medicine, obtainable for free at and authored by R. Webster Kehr of the Independent Cancer Research Foundation, Inc.

“While the major job of the FDA is to suppress all scientific evidence for alternative treatments for cancer and heart disease prevention, that is not all they do. It is also their job to suppress the availability of alternative medicines. They are masters at that too."
“As it turns out, there are alternative medical treatments for depression. Foremost among these is L-Tryptophan, a critical amino acid the body cannot manufacture for itself. Both L-Tryptophan and Prozac work with serotonin, a chemical that has to do with how we feel."
"Elevated levels of serotonin in the body often result in the relief of depression, as well as substantial reduction in pain sensitivity, anxiety and stress. Prozac, as well as other new anti-depressant drugs such as Paxil and Zoloft, attempt to enhance levels of serotonin by working on whatever amounts of it already exist in the body (these drugs are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). None of these drugs, however, produce serotonin. In contrast, ingested L-Tryptophan acts to produce serotonin, even in individuals who generate little serotonin of their own. The most effective way to elevate levels of serotonin would be to use a serotonin producer rather than a serotonin enhancer."

Dean Wolfe Manders, Ph.D. in

“Thus it is clear that L-Tryptophan and Prozac are in competition with each other. Prozac is a drug that fools the body and L-Typtophan is an amino acid that creates more serotonin. Prozac, and similar drugs, have been shown to have deadly side-effects. But I won't get into that."
“So what is the FDA going to do? It is deadly Prozac versus harmless and far more effective L-Tryptophan. This is what they did: 
In the fall of 1989, the FDA recalled L-Tryptophan, an amino acid nutritional supplement, stating that it caused a rare and deadly flu-like condition (Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome — EMS). On March 22, 1990, the FDA banned the public sale of dietary L-Tryptophan completely. This ban continues today.” (Ed. Note: The ban was eventually lifted about a decade later.) On March 26, 1990, Newsweek featured a lead article praising the virtues of the anti-depressant drug Prozac. Its multi-color cover displayed a floating, gigantic green and white capsule of Prozac with the caption: “Prozac: A Breakthrough Drug for Depression.” 

"The fact that the FDA ban of L-Tryptophan and the Newsweek Prozac cover story occurred within four days of each other went unnoticed by both the media and the public. Yet, to those who understand the effective properties of L-Tryptophan and Prozac, the concurrence seems unbelievably coincidental. The link here is the brain neurotransmitter serotonin — a biochemical nerve signal conductor. The action of Prozac and L-Tryptophan are both involved with serotonin, but in totally different ways."

“You need to understand that it takes far more than 4 days to get an issue of Newseeek out the door. Thus, the magazine was working on the Prozac article weeks before the FDA issued their order. You should also understand that the FDA did not prove that L-Tryptophan was dangerous. They banned it because a drug company issued a contaminated batch of L-Tryptophan."
“Normally, when a drug company issues a bad batch of a product, which is quite common, the FDA fines the company and may have some other punishment for the company. But the FDA does not ban the product! But in this case the FDA banned the harmless and useful product. Its real crime? Competing with Big Pharma."
“This "double standard" is standard operating procedure for the totally corrupt FDA. Thus we have a situation where Congress has allowed for several decades for tobacco products to be manufactured and sold, which are known to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, but at the same time Congress has allowed the FDA to ban L-Tryptophan." 

"The public availability of L-Tryptophan is too important an issue only to be argued and shrouded within a scientific debate that remains, ultimately, mystifying to the vast majority of Americans. There are many obvious facts worthy of public attention, and public concern. For example, consider the following: 

On February 9, 1993, a United States government patent (#5185157) was issued to use L-Tryptophan to treat, and cure EMS, the very same deadly flu-like condition which prompted the FDA to take L-Tryptophan off the market in 1989. 

Notwithstanding its public ban and import alert on L-Tryptophan, the FDA today allows Ajinomoto U.S.A. the right to import from Japan human-use L-Tryptophan. Distributed from the Ajinomoto plant in Raleigh, North Carolina, the L-Tryptophan is then sold to, and through, a network of compounding pharmacies across the United States. Purchased by individuals only under a physician's order, L-Tryptophan emerges as a new prescription drug in the serotonin marketplace; one hundred 500 mg capsules cost about $75 — approximately five times more than if they were sold as a dietary supplement. 

Since the FDA holds the political mandate and power of a public regulatory agency established, ostensibly, to protect people from raw corporate interests in drug production and distribution, the actions of the FDA in concert with Ajinomoto U.S.A. are illuminating. By publicly banning L-Tryptophan from its dietary supplement status and price, while allowing L-Tryptophan to be sold as a high-priced prescription drug, the naked duplicity of FDA L-Tryptophan policy is revealed. 

During and after the 1989 EMS outbreak, the FDA did not totally ban the use of L-Tryptophan in humans — then, as today, the FDA has granted the pharmaceutical industry the protected right to use L-Tryptophan in hospital settings. Manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, the amino acid injectable solutions Aminosyn and Aminosyn II contain as much as 200 mg of L-Tryptophan. (Moreover, L-Tryptophan has never been removed from baby food produced and sold within the United States.)

”While the FDA has banned the public sale and use of safe, non-contaminated, dietary supplement L-Tryptophan for people, the United States Department of Agriculture still sanctions the legal sale and use of non-contaminated L-Tryptophan for animals. Today, as in the past, feed grade L-Tryptophan continues to be used as a nutritional and bulk feed additive by the commercial hog and chicken farming industry. Additionally, L-Tryptophan is now available for use by veterinarians in caring for horses and pets. Outside of the United States, in countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, England, and others, L-Tryptophan is widely used. Nowhere, have any serious or widespread health problems occurred."

Dr. Kohls, prior to his retirement, practiced holistic mental health care utilizing non-drug approaches to treatment. He observed in his patients countless examples of neurotoxic, psychotoxic, addictive and withdrawal effects from many of the commonly prescribed psychotropic drugs, which had often been prescribed in various combinations, none of which had been approved by the FDA for any indication.