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No, massaging your toes won’t treat depression

A graphic posted on Facebook claims that massaging the top of each toe will promote the secretion of serotonin, or “the happiness hormone”.

The post suggests this simple treatment could treat depression.

Since it was posted in January 2019, the post has been shared 1,400 times and garnered almost 6,000 reactions.

But will giving yourself a toe massage really help produce serotonin? We checked.


Serotonin not produced in feet

Hormone Health Network, a public education affiliate of the US-based Endocrine Society, describes serotonin as a key chemical compound the body produces to stabilise moods, control bowel movement, blood clotting and other functions.

Goke Akinrogunde, a medical doctor at the Nigerian Airforce Hospital in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria, told Africa Check that serotonin was mainly produced in the brain as a neurotransmitter and as a hormone in the digestive system and blood platelets. 

“Serotonin is not known to be produced appreciably in the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, so that claim cannot be correct,” Akinrogunde said.

“In summary, the claim that massaging the tips of the toes aids serotonin production to improve the mood cannot be true,” he said.

Depression or depressive disorders are not the same as mood swings or emotional reactions to everyday life challenges, according to the World Health Organization. Depression “results from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors”. 

Akinrogunde said a number of factors could lead to depression and urged people with prolonged phases of low mood to seek medical help for a proper diagnosis.

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