Looking After Your Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers used by the brain to communicate with itself and other organ systems in the body. While these essential biological ingredients operate automatically and are largely ignored, they are responsible for regulating almost every function of human life. Your neurotransmitters affect all elements of cognitive and physical performance, meaning they have a huge influence on mental ability, emotional state, sleep patterns, weight regulation, and pain perception among other things.

While we have many different neurotransmitters, the most important ones include serotonin, dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine, and histamine among others. All neurotransmitters fall under one of two different types, with inhibitory neurotransmitters calming the brain and excitatory neurotransmitters stimulating the brain. Serotonin, GABA , and endorphins fall under the inhibitory category; norepinephrine, epinephrine, and histamine are excitatory; and dopamine and acetylcholine can be either inhibitory or excitatory.

 Neurotransmitter deficiency or imbalance can cause a wide range of symptoms, including depression, addiction, obesity, chronic pain, insomnia, autism, mood swings and many more. In fact, the sheer number of symptoms that can arise when your levels are out of whack make these conditions difficult to recognise and diagnose - with people often suffering symptoms for years before treating them. Neurotransmitter testing is often needed to help identify specific biochemical imbalances, with complex health conditions that involve your brain requiring an integrated approach that view nervous, endocrine, and immune functions as an integrated system.

If you're tested and specific imbalances are recognised, it's normally possible to fix or regulate them through a combination of nutrition and lifestyle changes.  Proteins, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, and fats are the essential nutrients that regulate your body, with your brain needing these nutrients every day to manufacture proper levels of the neurotransmitters that stabilise your mood. It's amazing how many unwanted symptoms can be treated or managed through nutrition alone, with other factors that influence neurotransmitter levels including genetics, stress, exercise, and sleep.

There are lots of steps you can take to look after the production and function of your neurotransmitters. If you have a specific imbalance, it's generally important to avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs - either indefinitely or while you recover. Depending on your levels and symptoms, it may also be necessary to avoid caffeine, chocolate, gluten, and junk food. Eating lots of animal protein is generally advised for people with neurotransmitter problems, along with moderate amounts of fat and specific dietary supplements.

Amino acid therapy may be required for people suffering from extensive neurotransmitter depletion, including things like GABA, tryptophan, tyrosine, glutamine, DPA, DLPA, and 5-HTP. Because neurotransmitters work in conjunction with hormones and adrenal glands, it's also helpful to evaluate these levels before starting a treatment plan. If you're concerned about your neurotransmitter levels or want to get them checked out, general practitioners are able to evaluate levels with a simple urine test. While neurotransmitter depletion can have a genetic component, most conditions benefit greatly by making simple adjustments to nutrition and lifestyle.   

Image Source:  Joey Chung / Shutterstock.com


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