Have you ever wondered why some people truly feel happy, calm, composed, and well-adjusted in their own skin? Or why others, for no apparent reason, feel depressed, anxious, apathetic, and reluctant to engage in their life fully? Here at Natural Balance Wellness we see it and treat it every day. There is always a reason why a person loses their zest for life, or experiences a gray mood in the winter, or just can’t bring themselves to engage in the same activities they used to love so much. Usually, if you look closely, you will also find these individuals are also fatigued, have trouble keeping their blood sugar stable, suffer aches and pains, headaches, insomnia, loss of sex drive, hormone imbalances, allergies, and the list goes on and on.
The importance of brain chemistry
So what then is the common link to all these seemingly unrelated observations? Brain Chemistry! Yes, your feel good neurotransmitters are either out of balance, depleted, or even fully collapsed.
There are two main categories of neurotransmitters, those that stimulate and those that inhibit. It is this delicate balance between the two that largely determines your conscious experience of the world around you, the sensations coming from your body, or the extent to which you emotionally engage, react, or interpret the various events in your day to day life.
Your brain is made up of literally thousands of miles of microscopic wiring. The number of times these wires connect with themselves in a regulatory way is in the quadrillions (comparable to the same number of sand granules spanning miles of white sandy beach). This is an area of the human mystery that will always remain somewhat out of the reach of scientific inquiry. It is just too complex. But as it turns out, at each one of these junctions a chemical (neurotransmitter) crosses to illicit a signal (simply stated a stop, go, slow down, or speed up).
Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers that transmit messages between neurons which then ultimately effect every cell, tissue, organ, and muscle in your body. They have a big role! Of these neurotransmitters, there are about 100 important ones, and of these 100, there are 12 we would consider cardinally important. Of those 12, only 4 make up 99% of what we know about brain function and with respect to all the various drugs used in psychiatry. These 4 can further be divided into inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters.
- Inhibitory (Serotonin and Gaba)
- Excitatory (Dopamine and the Catacholamines-Epinephrine and Norepinepherine)
Unfortunately, when patients present with symptoms of neurochemical imbalance, deficiency, or collapse in the conventional setting, they are often made to feel that it’s all in their head when in fact there is a VERY REAL biochemical imbalance for the way a person feels the way they do. While medications can be very helpful on a short term basis to break the cycle and give mood and emotional reprieve where indicated, these medications have never been studied over the course of multiple years and often times have uncomfortable side effects.
At Natural Balance, we understand that these symptoms can be debilitating and can negatively effect your quality of life. We use advanced functional medicine testing to get to the root cause of your symptoms and help you restore your body’s “natural balance” through a highly personalized treatment plan. For example, while your poor sleep may be due to low serotonin, someone else’s may be related to low GABA. Neurotransmitter testing can help identify your specific biochemical imbalances and allow for a tailor made approach to optimally treat you for the best lasting results.
How do we test neurotransmitters?
- HPA profile with Neurotransmitters- this test looks at both adrenal function as well as neurotransmitter levels through saliva and urine testing. Adrenal function and neurotransmitters are both intimately connected in their physiology so it is important to test both to understand your complete picture.
- Nutritional Urine testing- this is a urine sample that looks at metabolites of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and neurotransmitters. Nutritional deficiencies can often times mimic mood symptoms so correcting these imbalances first can set you up for success when initiating neurotransmitter rehabilitation
- Blood testing- In this test, we look at basic lab work including CBC, CMP, cholesterol studies, iron studies, Vitamin B12, Folate, comprehensive Thyroid studies, and a sex hormone panel. This gives us a clue whether there are underlying medical concerns to your mood symptoms
How do we treat neurotransmitter imbalance?
At Natural Balance, we use a comprehensive approach that includes dietary, lifestyle, and biomedical interventions. We lay the foundation of successful treatment with first correcting nutritional deficiencies, optimizing mitochondria, GI, and adrenal function if needed prior to correcting any neurotransmitter imbalances. If you don’t have the building blocks to make a solid foundation first, you cannot make your neurotransmitters effectively. Therefore, our approach takes time but ultimately leads to long term success.
Based on your lab work, genetics, and clinical presentation, we put together a tailor-made plan for you. A sample approach for neurotransmitter rehabilitation looks like this:
- Phase 1- Priming the system with all neurotransmitter precursors for several weeks
- Phase 2- We touch base to see how you responded to each of the primers and decide whether you need to be on them for longer or not. This gives us a hint which neurotransmitter would likely need to go first in your rehabilitation process. From your response to the primers, we can make your specific plan and decide in what order each neurotransmitter should be during rehabilitation.
- Phase 3- We always start with rehabilitating the inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitters first prior to proceeding with the excitatory neurotransmitters. This ensures that you do not feel on edge during this process.
- Phase 4- After successfully starting the inhibitory neurotransmitter rehabilitation, we will then begin with excitatory side. If required, this includes a dedicated dopamine rehabilitation with the Hinz protocol which takes about 6 months.
Each phase of the neurotransmitter rehabilitation process is several steps so it does take about one year to complete the full process. We do meet every few weeks initially while you are working through the various steps. This is to allow for accurate clinical observations and for your safety.
In special cases, if your neurotransmitter collapse is not as apparent, we can adjust the priming time and go straight into dedicated neurotransmitter rehabilitation. We like to work with you to figure out what option is best and safe for you.
What are some symptoms to look for?
- Brain Fog
- Addictions (alcohol, eating)
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Memory loss
What are some risk factors our clinic looks for?
- Stress in all its forms
- Genetic predisposition
- Poor digestion (leads to improper absorption of vitamins, minerals, and amino acid precursors, all of which are needed to make your neurotransmitters)
- Environmental triggers
- Sleep Apnea
- Emotional Stress
What if I am already on medication?
If you are already on medications for the symptoms you have been struggling with, please do not let that deter you from working with us. We have helped numerous patients while on medications slowly wean their dosages while we successfully rehabilitate their neurotransmitters. We work closely with you and your prescribing physician to safely come off of medications. Please do not abruptly stop any medication prior to or while working with us without physician consent.
If neurotransmitter rehabilitation is something you are considering, please do not hesitate to contact our office. To schedule your appointment, please contact our office at 734-929-2696, extension 11 for new patients! We look forward to working with you!