If you have any of the following symptoms your Neurotransmitter levels might be out of balance:
- Mood disorders: depression, anxiety, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), panic attacks, ADD,
- Sleep disorders: insomnia, unable to stay asleep, sleep apnea
- Metabolic disorders: fatigue, low stamina, low body temperature, hypoglycemia, diabetes
- Memory disorders: poor recall, unable to focus
- Eating disorders: cravings, lack of appetite control
- GI disorders: IBS with constipation or diarrhea
- Hormonal disorders: PMS, peri-menstrual symptoms, low libido
- Pain disorders: joint pain, headaches, fibromyalgia
In a healthy body, neurotransmitter levels are constantly monitored and kept in check. However, the balance of these biochemicals is subject to many forms of disruption. Because neurotransmitters are comprised of several amino acid building blocks that are supplied through proper nutrition, poor diet-or poor digestion-can rapidly deplete some neurotransmitters, thereby increasing the level of others. In addition, medications as well as illicit drugs may decrease stores, often, resulting in severely elevated neurotransmitter levels which are often evident in urine. Other factors also influence neurotransmitter levels; short-term stress can cause neurotransmitter levels to rise dramatically while chronic stress, on the other hand, can exhaust both neurotransmitters and the hormones they attempt to release. Research has clearly demonstrated that interruptions in the body’s Communication System can have serious health consequences. Today, as the medical, psychiatric, and alternative-care communities grapple with treating chronic physical and emotional conditions that cross disciplinary lines, it is clear that the body’s Communication System lies at the heart of our search for common understanding. Research also tells us that several neurotransmitters are related to mental health problems – Serotonin, Dopamine, GABA and Norepinephrine. Too much or too little of these neurotransmitters are now felt to produce psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and ADHD.
SERATONIN is the neurotransmitter that has been identified in multiple psychiatric disorders including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphic disorder (nose doesn’t look perfect after ten surgeries), social anxiety, phobias, etc. Serotonin is a major regulator and is involved in bodily processes such as sleep, libido (sexual interest), body temperature, and other areas.
Perhaps the best way to think of Serotonin is again with an automobile example. Most automobiles in the United States are made to cruise at 70 miles per hour, perfect for interstate highways and that summer vacation. If we place that same automobile on a racetrack and drive day-after-day at 130 mph, two things would happen. Parts would fail and we would run the engine so hot as to evaporate or burnout the oil. Serotonin is the brain’s “oil”. Like a normal automobile on a race track, when we find ourselves living in a high stress situation for a prolonged period of time, we use more Serotonin than is normally replaced. Imagine a list of your pressures, responsibilities, difficulties and environmental issues (difficult job, bad marriage, poor housing, rough neighborhood, etc.). Prolonged exposure to such a high level of stress gradually lowers our Serotonin level. As we continue to “hang on” we develop symptoms of a severe stress-produced depression.
As stress continues and our Serotonin level continues to drop, we become more depressed. At this point, moderately low or “two quarts” low, major changes occur in those bodily functions regulated by Serotonin. When Serotonin is moderately low, we have the following symptoms and behaviors:
- Chronic fatigue. Despite sleeping extra hours and naps, we remain tired. There is a sense of being “worn out”
- Sleep disturbance, typically we can’t go to sleep at night as our mind/thought is racing. Patients describe this as “My mind won’t shut up!” Early-morning awakening is also common, typically at 4:00 am, at which point returning to sleep is difficult, again due to the racing thoughts.
- Appetite disturbance is present, usually in two types. We experience a loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss or a craving for sweets and carbohydrates when the brain is trying to make more Serotonin.
- Total loss of sexual interest is present.
- Social withdrawal is common.
- Emotional sadness and frequent crying spells are common.
- Self-esteem and self-confidence are low.
- Body sensations, due to Serotonin’s role as a body regulator, include hot flushes and temperature changes, headaches, and stomach distress.
DOPAMINE is a neurotransmitter linked to motor/movement disorders, ADHD, addictions, paranoia, and schizophrenia. Dopamine strongly influences both motor and thinking areas of the brain. One type of Dopamine works in the brain movement and motor system. As this level of dopamine decreases below the “normal range” we begin to experience more motor and gross-movement problems. Very low levels of Dopamine in the motor areas of the brain are known to produce Parkinson’s Disease with symptoms such as:
- Muscle rigidity and stiffness
- Stooped/unstable posture
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Gait (walking pattern) disturbance
- Slow movements and difficulty with voluntary movements
GAMMA-AMINOBUTYRIC ACID (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that is inhibitory. It decreases the ability of other neurotransmitters to work. GABA is involved in our level of excitability. Rather than encouraging communication between cells such as Dopamine, Serotonin or Norepinephrine – GABA reduces, discourages, and blocks communication. This neurotransmitter is important in brain areas involving emotion and anxiety.
GABA is the communication speed controller, making sure all brain communications are operating at the right speed and with the correct intensity. Too little GABA in the brain, the communication becomes out of control, overstimulated, and chemically unstable. Too much GABA and we are overly relaxed and sedated, often to the point that normal reactions are impaired.
Low levels of GABA are associated with:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Poor impulse control, including clinical conditions such as gambling, temper tantrums, and stealing
- Epilepsy or seizure disorders
High levels of GABA produce:
- Relaxation, even sedation
- Slurred speech
- Unsteady gait
- Foggy thinking
NOREPINEPHRINE, a stress hormone, affects parts of the brain where attention and responding actions are controlled. Along with epinephrine, norepinephrine also underlies the fight-or-flight response, directly increasing heart rate, triggering the release of glucose from energy stores, and increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle.
Elevated levels of norepinephrine create a sense of arousal that becomes uncomfortable. Remembering that this neurotransmitter is strongly involved in creating physical reactions, moderate increases create worry, anxiety, increased startle reflex, jumpiness, fears of crowds & tight places, impaired concentration, restless sleep, and physical changes. The physical symptoms may include rapid fatigue, muscle tension/cramps, irritability, and a sense of being on edge. Almost all anxiety disorders involve norepinephrine elevations.
Severe and sudden increases in norepinephrine are associated with panic attacks. Perhaps the best way to visualize a panic attack is to remember the association with the “flight or fight” response. The “flight or fight” response is a chemical reaction to a dramatic and threatening situation in which the brain produces excessive amounts of norepinephrine and adrenaline – giving us extra strength, increased energy/arousal, muscle tightness (for fighting or running), and a desperate sense that we must do something immediately. As norepinephrine is a fast-acting neurotransmitter, the panic attack may last less than ten minutes (feels like hours however!) but you’ll be rattled/shaken for several hours. Panic attacks are strong physical and chemical events and include the following symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate
- Sweating and body temperature changes
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath of smothering sensations
- Choking sensations
- Chest pain and discomfort
- Nausea or stomach distress
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint
- Sense of unreality, as though you are outside yourself
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Numbness and tingling throughout the body
- Chills and hot flushes
IT IS ALL ABOUT BALANCE. We invite you to join the growing number of people who have reclaimed their health and sense of well-being by rebalancing the body’s Communication System.