Is it all in your head?
What are Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in the brain that control how you think and feel. They directly affect your mood, how you make decisions, and your ability to handle stress. These naturally occurring chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and histamine. Each chemical, manufactured from amino acids in food, has a different effect on behavior and makes us feel happy or sad, anxious or calm, and emotionally stable or not.
Neurotransmitter imbalances have been linked to:
- Low mood irritability
- Sleep difficulties
- Changes in appetite
- Sudden weight loss/gain
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Brain fog, memory, attention, and ability to concentrate
- Inability to enjoy favorite activities
Neurotransmitter imbalances are associated with many of today’s most common and recurring health conditions. Because neurotransmitters are functionally integrated with the endocrine system and the immune system, neurotransmitter imbalances can cause widespread health problems.
|Neurotransmitter||Results of Imbalance|
|Serotonin||Depression, anxiety, carbohydrate cravings, over-eating, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, difficulty sleeping.|
|Dopamine(Precursor to epinephrine & norepinephrine)||Memory issues, problems staying focused, lack of motivation or zest for life, depression, extreme behaviors, over-eating, weight issues, and addictions.|
|Epinephrine||Anxiety, hyperactivity, and difficulty losing weight.|
|GABA||Pain, anxiety, IBS, reflux, sweaty hands .|
|Histamine||Sleep disturbances, inflammation, and allergies.|
Causes of Neurotransmitter Imbalance
So how do we get out of neurotransmitter balance in the first place? In our fast-paced society there are two primary causes for neurotransmitter deficiency: chronic stress and a poor diet. Those who live life in “flight or fight” burn through neurotransmitters faster than their bodies can replenish them. This can signal the body to over-produce or under-produce levels of the various neurotransmitters. The result is the body’s inability to maintain a healthy emotional state.
Eating nutritionally depleted foods (think processed) and not getting enough quality protein also affect your body’s ability to produce and maintain appropriate neurotransmitter levels. Regular calorie cutting, meal skipping, and emotional eating can also lead to neurotransmitter deficiencies. Just like chronic stress, a poor diet starves your body of the nutrients and amino acids essential for optimal health and emotional well-being.
Other causes of neurotransmitter imbalance, genetics and pharmaceutical drugs also affect neurochemical balance. Have you ever noticed how emotional traits seem to run in families? Your genes determine your body’s ability to produce certain mood-enhancing chemicals. And certain medications can deplete your body’s nutritional reserves, causing chemical imbalances that affect all metabolic functions of the body. Be aware that some medications can cause depression, such as antihistamines, anti-hypertensives, anti-inflammatory agents, birth control pills, corticosteroids, tranquilizers, and sedatives.
A proper balance of neurotransmitter levels helps achieve optimal health.
Don’t guess, test! So often a patient will go to a traditional doctor with fatigue, depression, moodiness, anger and are prescribed an SSRI, antidepressant, anti-anxiety prescription, most of those only work on serotonin. The RX may or may not work. It’s often truly a guess. And serotonin may not even be the brain chemical out of balance! In our office we run a neuroscience test through urine as well as look at hormone levels in saliva testing if needed to determine exactly what is out of balance. Testing gives us the starting point with each individual as to what nutrients need to be balanced in order to help the brain balance itself.