One might not expect depression and gut health to influence each other, but the two are surprisingly interconnected. In a study done by the Touch Research Institute on how massage can affect neurotransmitters, scientists found that after at least a 20-minute massage session twice a week, there was an average:

massage and depression

What Research Tells Us

  • 31% decrease in cortisol, a hormone correlated with high stress levels
  • 31% increase in dopamine levels, which is known as the pleasure hormone
  • 28% increase in serotonin levels, which is believed to help regulate:
    • social behavior
    • appetite
    • digestion
    • sleep
    • memory
    • sexual desire
    • and sexual function

All of this only after two 20-minute massage sessions twice a week! Low levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body are often directly related to the cause of depression and anxiety.

Massage and Depression

Massage has been scientifically proven countless times to increase the levels of these two neurotransmitters, which is the major reason massage has been seen to also combat depression and anxiety (which I will blog about specifically in regards to pre- and post-natal clients in another post).

massage and anxiety

Why is this so important? Well, according to Lara Honos-Webb, who has a PhD in Psychology, it is expected that depression will become the second leading cause of disability worldwide in the next decade and the most costly of all illnesses. And when you compare the cost of depression medication to receiving a 20-minute massage twice a week, it’s interesting to note:

Depression Medication Side Effects

  • Medication used to treat depression ranges in cost from $30 to $200 per month
  • Two 20-minute massage sessions twice a week average about $100 per month

In addition, the common side effects for depression medication include:

  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • skin rashes
  • diarrhea

While depression medication may be targeting your depression it is simultaneously creating other problems—ones like headaches, joint pain, and muscle aches— which, ironically, massage helps directly. So, if massage can do both these things with little to zero side effects, and for possibly half the price, which would you be more likely to choose?

depression medication side effects

Massage as an Alternative

Now I am not saying in certain cases depression medication is not necessary, or that massage is the only answer, although I truly believe, in the light of the new scientific research on alternative ways to fight depression, there are healthier, better ways to approach it— ways that leave you less depressed without the side effect of nausea and diarrhea!

If all this is really true, you say however, why has massage not been given more recognition in this matter?

Your local pharmacy does not want you to know, firstly. Sadly, they are making a lot of money off of your depression and would like to keep it that way. The annual costs (and, therefore, profits) associated with major depression in the U.S. are an estimated $44 to $55 billion.

The lack of education, secondly. And that is the purpose of my blog posts, to speak the truth that the pharmacists have tried to hide. And it is not merely in the matter of massage— but all forms of alternative health that are, in reality, much less expensive and much more powerful than any drug they can sell.

serotonin and depression

Serotonin and Gut Health

Now as we have looked at serotonin’s link to depression, there is a powerful sub-link here that has been barely discussed. It is estimated that 90-95% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. That means what’s going on in your gut is going to affect your mood— anxiety, depression, focus, and vice versa.

The topic of gut health has been on the rise. Yet the connection of serotonin with gut health has been totally overlooked today— probably because we always assumed it was only produced in the brain! Not so.

In fact, according to the Scientific American, due to the high levels of serotonin produced in the gut, altered levels of it have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.

Massage and Serotonin

How, though, does this all circle back to massage? Well, being that we know massage increases serotonin levels in the body, this would then also mean massage not only helps with depression but can indirectly affect your gut health for the better as well. Now is it the only answer? No, indeed! There is still much information coming to the surface, and we’ve merely scratched it.

According to Psychology Today, there are actually four ways to boost serotonin activity, which are:

  • sunlight
  • massage
  • exercise
  • remembering positive events
massage and depression benefits


I hope you all take the time to do more serotonin-boosting activities this week, perhaps something like taking a bike ride in the sunshine, as I had the opportunity to do today.

Joy can be found in the smallest of moments, don’t miss them. If you’re curious about how scheduling a massage with Hands That Hear might improve your mood, check out some of our client testimonials. They’re as glowing and joyous as I hope you will be while keeping in mind one of my favorite Bible passages:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

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