What is Tachykinin?
For years, the neurotransmitter serotonin was known to play a key role in regulating appetite, but the reasons for this remained unclear. In an attempt to find out why, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) conducted experiments on C. elegans roundworms and isolated a brain hormone that selectively triggers fat burning in the gut, regardless of the amount of food ingested.
They were able to establish a connection between the neuropeptide hormone FLP-7 and serotonin, which led specifically to fat burning. The mammalian versions of these neuropeptides are called Tachykinins.
Tachykinin peptides are one of the largest families of neuropeptides active in the peripheral and central nervous system. In mammals, the two tachykinins present are neurokinin A (NKA, formerly known as substance K, neuromedin L or neurokinin a) and neurokinin B (NKB, formerly known as neuromedin K or substance P (SP).
Tachykinins are from ten to twelve residues long. They excite neurons, are potent vasodilators, evoke behavioral responses, are potent vasodilators, and contract many smooth muscles (either directly or indirectly).
In humans, the two genes responsible for encoding tachykinins are TAC1 and TAC3. TAC1 encodes neurokinin A (commonly known as substance K) while TAC3 encodes neurokinin B (substance P).
Lavinia Palamiuc, a TSRI research associate, was able to establish a connection between Tachykinins and brain serotonin levels by marking the neuropeptide with a bright red protein, which made it visible in the transparent, living roundworms.
She discovered that the brain secreted Tachykinins in response to elevated serotonin levels, which then traveled through the body to the gut where they activated a receptor cell in the intestines to trigger the contraction of smooth muscles in the gut.
How Tachykinins Facilitate Fat Burning
Before the discovery of tachykinins, scientists had known for long that there is a connection between serotonin levels and weight loss. There had been countless studies where varying the neurotransmitter serotonin was linked to weight loss.
To sum it up, here is how the fat-burning pathway the scientists at the Scripps Research Institute discovered works: a neural circuit in the brain secretes serotonin in response to sensory cues, including food availability. The serotonin produced signals another set of neurons in the brain to start producing tachykinins, which are then transported to the gut.
In all mammals, the tachykinins provoke a contractile response by the gut. These excitory motor effects are evident in all sections of the gut, from the esophagus to the rectum, and in all muscular layers, including the circular muscle, the longitudinal muscle, and the muscularis mucosae. It is the fat deposits in the gut that are metabolized to power these muscles, leading to targeted weight loss.
The researchers also wanted to find out the consequences of manipulating tachykinin levels in the body. It was established that while increasing serotonin levels can have a big impact on the amount of food an animal eats, as well as its movement and reproductive behavior, they didn’t notice any side effects when they increased tachykinin levels downstream. The worms continued to function as normal while simply burning more fat.
How To Increase Tachykinin Levels In The Body
Tachykinins are produced by the brain in response to elevated serotonin levels. While serotonin is usually associated with brain function, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), mood regulation, etc., a surprising 90 percent of our serotonin is manufactured in the intestines, not the brain.
However, serotonin used by the brain for functions such as stimulating the production and release of tachykinins must be produced there since serotonin created in the gut is never transported the brain. Thus, some experts consider it both a hormone as well as a neurotransmitter.
Here are a few reasons why an individual’s brain may be producing less than optimal Tachykinin levels.
- The brain may be making too little serotonin
- The brain may have too few serotonin receptors
- Something may be inhibiting serotonin formation
- The serotonin may be broken down too soon before reaching the receptors
Since there is a solid link between serotonin and tachykinin levels, you can increase tachykinin levels by simply increasing serotonin production in the brain. Alternatively, tachykinin production can be increased by consuming substances that inhibit the breakdown of serotonin.
Increasing the time serotonin stays active in the brain gives it time to attach to neural receptors that stimulate the production and release of tachykinins in the brain.
Some of the other symptoms of serotonin deficiency include:
- Unusual sensitivity to pain
- Carbohydrate cravings and binge eating
- Digestive disorders
- Feeling overly dependent on others
- Hyper vigilance
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Low self esteem
- Poor cognitive function
- Feeling glum from lack of sunlight
3 Ways To Increase Tachykinin Levels Naturally
1. Mood Induction
The link between serotonin, tachykinins, and weight loss is further proven by the fact that people exhibiting serotonin deficiency symptoms such as depression also tend to have excess belly weight.
Hence, alterations in thought, either through self-induction or psychotherapy, could be used to increase levels of serotonin if the interaction between serotonin synthesis and mood is a two-way relationship.
Learn to monitor your thoughts by nipping negative thinking and cognitive distortions in the bud. Uplifting thoughts and positive self-thought can promote brain serotonin synthesis.
Self-directed neuroplasticity is a mood induction technique that involves shifting your attention and engaging in a specific activity with the intention of consciously rewiring your brain.
By using it to help focus the brain on positive thoughts each day, you anterior cingulated cortex (a region behind the prefrontal cortex) will produce considerably more serotonin than if the brain was attuned to negative or neutral thoughts.
This, combined with relaxation, can help you avoid negative thoughts that would otherwise reduce serotonin synthesis, resulting in decreased tachykinin levels.
Arguably, the most obvious way of boosting serotonin is to eat foods that either contain serotonin or its chemical precursors, tryptophan and 5-HTP. After digestion, these substances are transported to the brain via the circulatory system.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in most protein food sources. Foods that have higher levels of these two substances have been linked to improved mood and cognition, most probably due to increased brain serotonin levels.
It’s important to reiterate that we can only increase tachykinin levels by boosting brain serotonin levels. This can be achieved by eating a healthy diet or supplementing food with amino acid supplements like 5-HTP and/or L-Tryptophan, together with a number of co-factors that facilitate metabolic processes in the brain cell’s serotonin manufacturing process. Obtain adequate amounts of these co-factors by taking therapeutic doses of vitamins C, vitamin B6, zinc, magnesium, and folic acid.
Unfortunately, tryptophan is the scarcest amino acid in the proteins humans commonly consume. The protein sources that contain the high amounts of tryptophan include dairy protein, egg whites, white meat, beans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, peanuts, and bananas.
However, these foods yield very little tryptophan compared to what dietary supplements of 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan provide. For instance, it would take approximately 100 gm of sunflower seeds to yield the same amount of brain serotonin that can be provided by a single 50 mg 5-HTP capsule or a single 500 mg tryptophan capsule.
Certain herbs are known to act as natural serotonin boosters, the most effective one being St. John’s Wort. It has been proven effective at easing mild to moderate depression. It appears to work as a natural SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) by preventing serotonin breakdown in the brain and giving it time to perform its functions.
Other supplements that increase brain serotonin levels include SAM-e, l-theanine, magnesium, and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Serotonin activity in the brain can also be increased by adding inositol to your smoothies. Food sources of inositol include lecithin granules, beef heart, wheat germ, desiccated liver, brown rice, lecithin oil, citrus fruits, whole grain bread, green leafy vegetables, and soy flour.
3. Making Serotonin Boosting Lifestyle Choices
Some of the best ways of boosting serotonin levels, as well as its activity in the human brain, is not from the things you ingest, but from the things you do. Beneficial activities range from spending time with friends to getting a therapeutic massage. Notable serotonin lifestyle boosting choices include:
Physical exercise – Research suggests that since exercise has an anti-depressant effect, it can increase brain serotonin function. Compared with indoor activities, outdoor exercise increases enthusiasm, vitality, self-esteem, and pleasure, which all point to enhanced serotonin production and utilization by the brain.
Basking – Sunlight boosts serotonin production with the additional benefits of vitamin D formation. In the absence of sunlight, serotonin levels can be increased by selective exposure to bright artificial light.
Exposure to dirt – There is evidence that certain microbes in the soil can make us happy by increasing serotonin levels. For this reason, gardening is thought to be one of the most effective therapies for well-being.
Tachykinin Final Words
These findings mean that there is adequate proof that serotonin, and by extension tachykinins, increase fat burning in worms, and the effects are similar among humans where higher serotonin levels are linked with increased fat burning.
Interestingly, increasing tachykinin levels doesn’t induce any side effects, as the worms continued to function normally while simply burning more fat. Serotonin is the happiness hormone and the best way to boost its production in the brain is by doing things that make you happy.