The Brain Game, Balancing Neurotransmitters and Hormones

By Wendy Wells, NMD.

Here's one of my favorite talks about how to improve our brain chemistry for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia. The presentation aims to provide a simple framework to help understand the complexities of brain chemistry. We'll also cover testing and treatments to easily diagnose, and re-balance our brain chemistry.

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Brain and Nerves Controls Behavior

The brain is the master controller of nervous system, using chemicals called neurotransmitters to "talk" with itself. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of the nervous system, made by nerve cells.

Hormones

Hormones are chemicals secreted by endocrine glands, regulating the function of a specific tissue or organ. Some nerve cells also produce hormones.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of when you hear someone has a "brain chemistry" health problem? Symptoms? Manifestations? Chemical imbalance? In fact brain chemistry affects the entire human being, including:

How Does The Brain Work?

The brain's 100 billion neurons connect the various organs and brain regions into a complex network of circuits that control specific functions within the body. These circuits serve as on/off switches for the millions of messages and processes carried out on a daily basis. For example, the perception of DANGER "turns ON" the brain, inducing a fear response, which may send the body messages such as, "tense up muscles, palms sweat, increase heart rate, and breath faster."

Neurotransmitters - Excitatory and Inhibitory

Neurotransmitters control the on/off switches of the nervous system. Some neurotransmitters are more likely to facilitate the transmission of certain messages and are considered "excitatory" = ON. Likewise, some neurotransmitters are more likely to impede the transmission of certain messages and are considered "inhibitory" = OFF.

Excitatory

Excitatory neurotransmitters increase the likelihood that a neuron's signals are sent. How does this work? Activation of excitatory neurotransmitters chemically change an electrical message. Excitatory neurotransmitters are responsible for providing energy, motivation, focus, they rev up the system.

Low Excitatory Levels - Do you have LOW LEVELS excitatory neurotransmitters ?

High Excitatory Levels - Do you have HIGH LEVELS of excitatory neurotransmitters ?

Inhibitory

Inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease the likelihood that a neuron's signals are sent. This opposes or balances the effects of excitatory receptor activation. Inhibitory neurotransmitters are responsible for calming the mind and body, by filtering messages, slowing down the system, and inducing sleep.

Low Inhibitory Levels

High Inhibitory Levels

Which type of neurotransmitter stores do you have to little of? Which do you have to much of? Family? Friends? Children?

It's All About Balance

A balanced nervous system is necessary to maintain optimal health. When the critical balance between the excitatory and inhibitory systems is lost, it creates a situation that increases the likelihood of a neurotransmitter-related condition developing. BALANCE = optimal health

Symptoms of Neurotransmitter Imbalance:

The Gas Line Is Running Low

Similar to a gas line that runs from a propane tank to a furnace, the gas is like a supply of neurotransmitters. When the gas line is full and functioning, the furnace runs well, and keeps the house warm. If the supply runs low, the furnace loses efficiency, or it might stop functioning altogether, leaving the house at the mercy of old man winter. The same logic applies to neurotransmission. Without enough neurotransmitters in the system, the system as a whole does not function properly. This creates a situation ripe for the onset of disease. Neurotransmitter related conditions can manifest due to an imbalance between the excitatory, and inhibitory systems.

Handling Fear

An individual who sees a stressful, but non-threatening situation, sends an excitatory neurotransmitter signal from the eyes to the brain. Fear is excitatory. With a healthy nervous system, inhibitory neurotransmitters will filter out the excitatory message, thereby preventing an unnecessary fearful response to the non-threatening situation. Fear (inhibitory filter) can handle fear with ease. If the individual has a compromised inhibitory system, then the excitatory stimulus will override the weak inhibitory message, thereby activating an unnecessary fear response.

Excitatory Neurotransmitters
  • Aspartic acid
  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine
  • Glutamate
  • Histamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • PEA
Excitatory Effect
  • Motivation
  • Focus
  • Rev up the system
Inhibitory Neurotransmitters
  • GABA
  • Glycine
  • Serotonin
  • Taurine
Inhibitory Effect
  • Calming the mind and body
  • Relaxing
  • Filtering excess messages (monkey mind)
  • Slow down the system
  • Inducing sleep

How Does Imbalance Happen? What Is The Cause?

A healthy nervous system is characterized by meeting two basic criteria. First, it must have sufficient levels of neurotransmitters. Secondly, the excitatory and inhibitory systems must work together.

An imbalanced system is characterized by low levels of neurotransmitter supplies, with an excess of certain neurotransmitters. This is where natural medicine plays a role to correct imbalances and low stores of neurotransmitters that are linked to:

Causes of Neurotransmitter Imbalance

Have you been labeled with a disease name?"I have been told I have depression and will have this condition for life," or do you just have an imbalance that simply needs a correction?

Due to stress, and eating poorly, excitatory neurotransmitter stores are depleted, resulting in a lack of focus, and motivation. When stress is reduced, along with healthy eating, neurotransmitter stores are replenished and balanced, eliminating depression.

What Causes Depression Symptoms?

Low excitatory neurotransmitter stores

High inhibitory neurotransmitter stores

Causes of ADD/ADHD Symptoms

The brain uses neurotransmitters to maintain focus and concentration. Imbalances in brain chemistry can lead to inattentive and hyperactive behaviors, making it of difficult to focus when performing tasks.

Causes of Anxiety Symptoms

Causes of Insomnia Symptoms

At bedtime:

Cause of Uncontrolled Appetite and Difficult Weight Loss

Cause of Addictions

What Can I Do To Resupply and Rebalance Neurotransmitter?

First, find out exactly which neurotransmitters are out of balance. Neurotransmitter testing is available. Urine sample and saliva samples identify exactly which of your neurotransmitters are out of balance.

Why Is It Important To Test?

Example - Anxiety

This is why medications MAY or MAY NOT work. Testing can tell us why.

Example - Anxiety symptoms

Example - ADHD

Example - Depression

What Causes Imbalance?

Imbalances in brain chemistry are caused by:

These imbalances can lead to changes in behavior.

Hormone Imbalance - Low estrogen

Hormone changes cause brain imbalance. Estrogen, when in balance in the body increases:

Hormone Changes Cause Imbalances

Low testosterone?" Look out. He's gonna blow." You're not sure why you're angry. You used to be at least a little laid back, but now you get frustrated more easily, are depressed and not fun to be around. Why? It's called Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS), and it's caused by hormonal imbalance.

Toxins Cause Imbalance

Recreational drug use interferes with proper manufacture of brain neurotransmitters and can prematurely kill brain cells

Poor Diet Causes Imbalance

These foods DO NOT PROVIDE the brain with the needed ingredients to make proper amounts of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are made from protein containing foods in our diet. Sugar can lead to depletion of certain neurotransmitters. Avoiding large amounts of sugar helps prevent the rapid loss of neurotransmitters that eventually leads to low levels.

Hereditary Causes of Imbalance

Stress Causes Imbalance

Stress DEPLETES stores of neurotransmitters, which causes imbalances as a result of various challenges, including:

Prevalence of Neurotransmitter Imbalance

Research shows that 80% of the US population has an brain chemistry imbalance. Yikes. Remember, you are driving next to these folks making it important to determine if the brain is sending messages properly.

Treatment Options - Be Aware

If you are currently taking medication for imbalance, then I strongly recommend you see a naturopathic physician. Taking some natural medicines can be dangerous in combination with prescriptions.

Lifestyle Habits

Making Our Own Neurotransmitters

How do we make neurotransmitters in our body? - AMINO ACIDS + VITAMINS + MINERALS = NEUROTRANSMITTERS

The reason we have low neurotransmitters is due to low supplies of high quality protein, vitamins, and minerals. Amino acids come from properly digested protein in our diet:

Stores Running Low

Balance Your Hormones

Bio-identical hormone replacement can be safe and natural. Testing must be done to determine which ones need balancing. Testing available:

Supplements

ADD/ADHD Treatment

With children - testing is HIGHLY recommended. To correct imbalances:

Testing Provides Specific Treatment Protocols

All the neurotransmitter are tested, can include hormones. Highs and Lows neurotransmitters are determined. Specific, amino acids, vitamins, minerals. hormones, are given based on YOUR sample. Once your stores are built up again, and causes are determined if possible. Supplementation can be slowly discontinued over time.

Anxiety in Scottsdale? Depression in Phoenix? Learn more about getting neurotransmitter testing.

Patient Examples

Following are 3 cases. Each had neurotransmitter testing while correcting imbalance with supplementation. Underlying causes were also addressed

Patient example: 23 year old female
Symptoms of imbalance include, uncontrolled bingeing, drug use followed by reckless impulsive behavior and then Depression. neurotransmitter test results revealed High (+) norepi, epi, dopa, glutamate and Low (-) serotonin, low gaba. After 2 days on supplementation Patient reports clear decision making, Improved mood, No desire to binge. Behavior modification also supported by counseling

Patient example: 7 year old male
Imbalance: He has very poor diet, hotdogs, mac n cheese, candy. Can't sit still at school, up from seat every 5 minutes, with inability to control impulses. Hits other children, and pushes. Child put on Adderall where symptoms got WORSE. Testing revealed, High - excitatory neurotransmitter - all of them. Child given amino acids and vitamins that support the calming neurotransmitters, herbs that calm nervous system. Strict dietary changes to support his body. Post treatment, teachers report, "like a totally different child"

Patient example: 45 year old female
Imbalance: severe depression and panic attacks while driving. Taking Effexor 75mg 3x/day. Testing revealed, Low serotonin, High dopamine. Used increasing dose of natural supplementation as she slowly discontinued medication. One month follow up patient reports "feels like herself again"

IMPORTANT Points About Psycho-Active Fluoride-Based Medications

SSRI's such as, Prozac, Effexor, Zoloft, stops the body's removal of serotonin. However, if your amino acid stores are low, will you be making any serotonin? No. So your levels will not increase on medication, resulting in poor response to medication.

For medication side effects see:rxlist.com

Are you given Lexapro and Wellbutrin for depression symptoms? Lexapro slows the breakdown of serotonin. Wellbutrin slows the breakdown of norepinephrine and dopamine. If you do not have sufficient stores of these will you feel better? Absolutely not. Furthermore, If you do not need more norepinephrine and dopamine, or there's too much norepinephrine and/or too much dopamine, then as with ADHD you'll feel hyperactive, and not able to focus.

Recap




Wendy Wells

Author Wendy Wells is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Arizona.
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