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Osteoporosis: Serotonin in the Gut May Be Key to Bone Loss

By HERWriter
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Osteoporosis  related image Photo: Getty Images

Osteoporosis is a disease of low bone density. Bone is constantly being broken down and built back up throughout our lives.

Your skeleton is actually considered an organ, according to the Journal of Cell Biology, and you may be surprised to learn that your skeleton is the only organ in your body that dismantles and rebuilds itself. The process for this is called bone modeling.

After about age 20, our bones are doing more breaking down than building up and over time, our bone density decreases. For women after menopause, bone density shrinks more rapidly due to the drop in estrogen levels. As bone density diminishes, the bones also become porous and vulnerable to fractures and breaks.

According to a release from EurekAlert dated November 26, 2008, research from Columbia University Medical Center discovered that bone growth is regulated by serotonin by way of the gastrointestinal tract. We knew that this is where 95 percent of our serotonin is produced, and that the other five percent is produced in the brain. What we didn't know was that serotonin played such a crucial role in the health of our bones. This data was published in the November 26, 2008 issue of Cell.

In a study on mice, scientists discovered that cells in the skeleton are directed by gut-derived serotonin to slow bone production. When scientists stopped the release of this peripheral serotonin by the intestines, osteoporosis was stopped in the mice.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptophan [5-HT]) performs a variety of functions from a couple of locations.

From the brain, it acts as a neurotransmitter which aids in increasing bone density, enhancing bone formation and restricting bone breakdown. It regulates cardiovascular function. It affects primary hemostasis (platelets forming a plug at an injury site), mood and behavior, as well as bowel regularity.

It had been assumed that gut-derived serotonin would major on the regularity issues but this peripheral serotonin is more versatile than was previously thought. Gut-derived serotonin acts as a hormone to curb bone formation.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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