27 Nov Can Microdosing Psychedelics Help Weight Loss?
It’s one of the most talked-about weight loss trends of the year. What is microdosing and how could it help support your weight loss? Is there any scientific evidence behind it? And how do you go about trying it on a practical level? Here, we’ll take a look into microdosing for weight loss.
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A GUIDE TO MICRODOSING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
WHAT IS MICRODOSING?
Microdosing refers to the practice of taking a very low dose of a psychedelic substance regularly, over a set period of time, to facilitate a range of claimed benefits. Typical doses are as small as one tenth of a typical ‘trip’ dose, often even less. A microdose of psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, might be 50mg to 200mg of dried mushrooms whereas a trip dose would require 2 grams plus.
A range of different psychedelics can be used for microdosing, however LSD and psilocybin are the most commonly discussed in online forums like Reddit.
As the dose is low, the effects when you take a microdose are very mild. They can be sub-perceptible. However, cumulatively over time, the beneficial effects can be profound.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Research is being conducted at renowned universities and institutes into the therapeutic effects of psychedelics in macrodoses, minidoses and microdoses. Much of this research has focussed on their potential for improving mental health. An examination of a large international sample of adults published in the journal Nature identified lower levels of anxiety and depression among microdosers relative to controls.
The Harm Reduction Journal published a study looking at the benefits and challenges of psychedelic microdosing. They developed a codebook of microdosing benefits and challenges based on the reports of 278 microdosers. Participants reported improved mood, focus, creativity, self-efficacy and energy. However, some participants in the study reported physiological discomfort, impaired focus and energy. This highlights the importance of recognising how microdosing affects you personally as not everyone will have the same experience.
When we take a look at the benefits reported in this study, we can start to understand how microdosing could support weight loss. Let’s start by considering mood. Many people are driven to eat when they’re not hungry to change the way they feel. Feeling unhappy or stressed can trigger an urge to eat sugary or starchy comfort food. However, a more positive mood can mean we are less likely to turn to unhealthy food as a pick-me-up. Self-efficacy was another reported benefit. The paper outlined that self-efficacy referred to motivation/ambition, productivity, confidence and sense of agency. Feeling motivated with a sense of control over ones actions can certainly support your efforts to lose weight.
COULD MICRODOSING HELP WEIGHT LOSS?
We have previously written about how psychedelics could help weight loss. But what about microdosing? Less studies have been conducted around weight loss compared to mood disorders. However, growing evidence is looking promising.
One study looked at obese rats fed a high calorie ‘cafeteria diet’ and found that both low and high dose psilocybin groups, treated for 27 consecutive weekdays, experienced significantly less weight gain compared to controls. The analysis revealed that when relative weight gain was compared, the greatest weight gain was exhibited by the control (undosed) group. The low dose psilocybin group showed less relative weight gain; a significant effect compared to the control. Researchers wrote that “These overall findings suggest that psilocybin may have modest weight-loss properties, which could feasibly extend to humans.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
So how could psilocybin support weight management? One theory is that it’s linked to the effects it has on the neurotransmitter serotonin, often referred to as ‘the happy hormone’. Psilocybin mediates its effects via serotonin receptors.
Serotonin plays a key role in multiple processes related to eating and has effects on appetite and satiety. Some drugs that increase levels of serotonin have been shown to be effective in promoting weight loss. However, medications of this type have been withdrawn due to safety concerns.
Studies have confirmed that psilocin is an agonist at three different serotonin receptors. The 5-HT2C receptor has been repeatedly shown to play a key role in satiety. (How full we feel after eating). Treatment with 5-HT2C agonists results in weight-loss and may also reduce food consumption in other ways. This includes reducing conditioned responses and impulsivity.
In addition to effects on eating, there is evidence to suggest that 5-HT2C agonists can exert positive impacts on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Interestingly, the non-psychedelic drugs that exert these effects do so at doses well below those needed to reduce food intake. This may be relevant to microdosing. In both cases, the doses shown to exert positive impacts on biochemistry are much lower than those needed to induce a noticeable physical effect.
As well as supporting behaviour change, it is possible that microdosing can support weight loss by affecting metabolism and resting energy expenditure. Ongoing research is being carried out to help us understand more.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY ABOUT MICRODOSING & HEALTH
Rebecca Jacob is a clinical counsellor and co-founder of microdosing company Vellum Health. She is an expert in impact of microdosing on behavioural change. Rebecca says “Microdosing supports changing thoughts and behaviour patterns and shifting limiting beliefs. Clients report it helps them to overcome internal resistance and improve motivation and drive by altering reward pathways and affecting overall mood. These changes are especially beneficial in achieving health goals.”
ARE PSYCHEDELICS SAFE?
Much is still unknown about exactly how psychedelics exert their benefits. What we do know is, they are surprisingly safe. A paper published in The Lancet by drugs expert Professor David Nutt looked at the impact of a wide range of drugs on both the individual user and wider society. Drugs were given an overall harm score out of 100. The higher the score, the more harmful the drug. Mushrooms came last on the list, deemed most safe with a score of six out of 100. LSD was given a score of seven. For more information, see the graph on page four of this paper.
HOW DO I MICRODOSE?
This first thing to highlight here is the legality of psychedelics. While some parts of the world are moving to legalise or decriminalise psychedelics, they remain illegal in many parts of the world. With that in mind, if you’re ready to get started and you are able to, here’s how.
Whatever psychedelic you choose, avoid microdosing every day. This can build a tolerance so that the substance becomes less effective. Therefore, most protocols will incorporate regular days off from taking microdoses.
Two of the most popular microdosing protocols are the Fadiman and Stamets protocols.
THE FADIMAN PROTOCOL
The Fadiman protocol involves microdosing every third day. On day one you microdose, on days two and three, you don’t. Day four you microdose, and so on. It takes about a month to complete ten cycles of the Fadiman protocol. After your first month, you can pause and get a feel as to whether continued microdosing feels right for you.
THE STAMETS PROTOCOL
The Stamets protocol comes from mushroom expert Paul Stamets. Stamets is a hugely experienced and widely respected mycologist. He has studied and worked with medicinal mushrooms for over 30 years. He developed a microdosing protocol called the ‘Stamets Stack’. The ‘Stack’ involves microdosing with three components: psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms), Lion’s Mane (a non-psychoactive medicinal mushroom), and niacin (a B vitamin) in a pattern of four days on followed by three days off. This article from the Microdosing Institute explains the stack ingredients and their benefits in detail.
EVERY OTHER DAY DOSING
Finally, you can dose every other day. Day one dose, day two don’t, day three dose, day four don’t… and so on.
Whichever protocol you decide on, it’s important to listen to your body and take extended periodic breaks from microdosing to review the benefits. Most protocols recommend microdosing for four to eight weeks and then taking a rest of at least two to four weeks.
After carrying out a structured protocol and taking a break, many microdosers choose to dose intuitively. Rather than following a structured pattern, they dose on days when it feels right. This becomes easier as you become more aware of the effects microdosing has on you.
HOW CAN I GET STARTED?
When it comes to acquiring products for microdosing, it’s important to choose a trusted supplier.
Vellum Health is a Canadian company that produces organic microdosing products from an assortment of psilocybin mushroom varieties. The founders, who have a background in mycology, believe in the potential for psychedelics to change how people treat themselves, each other, and the planet.
Vellum offers a diverse line of organic microdosing products including capsules, tinctures, and gummies. They provide clients with a range of doses to fit their individual needs. We recommend this Enhance Micro Mixed pack so that you can try different strengths and find what works for you.
In addition to providing high quality products, Vellum offers unique customer service that guides clients on their microdosing journeys. If you’re a beginner and are looking for personalised advice from an expert before embarking on your microdosing journey, you can book a consultation with a member of the team who can give personalised advice on getting started.
It’s a good idea to take your first microdose on a relaxed day where you don’t have much on. Allow yourself to fully experience the subtle effects. It’s also a good idea to stick to one substance and avoid mixing psychedelics.
It’s important to note that microdosing alone will not result in weight loss. However, it’s the behaviour change microdosing can facilitate that can help you to lose weight. If you’re embarking on a weight loss journey, ensure you have a clear plan in place. A dietary protocol as well as a microdosing protocol.
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