A 2015 study published by Neurological & Behavioral Reviews delved into this problem. Scientists developed a very interesting answer to how and why SSRI work:
- “serotonin transmission is elevated in multiple depressive phenotypes, including melancholia
- the serotonergic system [nerve endings that release and are stimulated by serotonin] evolved to regulate energy
- by increasing extracellular serotonin, SSRIs disrupt energy homeostasis and often worsen symptoms during acute treatment
- symptom reduction is not achieved by the direct pharmacological properties of SSRIs, but by the brain’s compensatory responses that attempt to restore energy homeostasis.” (4)
In other words, SSRI are effective because the body rejects them and re-adjusts to compensate for what they do.
The disrupted energy processes between neurons that SSRI cause makes the brain work harder to restore stability.
What Causes Depression?
The development of SSRI and SSNI was based on the idea that depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. By changing the neurochemicals—poof!—a pill cures depression. We know now that’s not entirely true.
A variety of factors cause depression, and many are still unknown. It is true that people with clinical depression have reduced serotonin at work in their brains but that’s a symptom, not a cause.
We’ll focus now on what may very well be the primary physical cause of depression—and it may surprise you: gastrointestinal health.
Ninety percent of the serotonin in the body isn’t produced in the brain but in the intestines. (5)
A truly effective treatment for depression, therefore, lies not in taking pills that futz with neurochemicals in the brain.