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Step 1: Balance the Brain

 

WHAT IS BRAIN CHEMISTRY?

The human brain is one of the most complex and profoundly intricate structures in the known universe.  Made up of tens of billions of specialized cells called neurons that communicate with one another via chemical messengers called NEUROTRANSMITTERS (NT’s), the brain uses these NT’s to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  They affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance. Neurotransmitter levels can become depleted many ways.  As a matter of fact, it is estimated that 86% of Americans have suboptimal neurotransmitter levels.  Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol and caffeine usage can cause these levels to be out of optimal range.  There are two kinds of NT’s: Inhibitory and Excitatory. Excitatory NT’s act to stimulate a message or signal, while those that calm the brain and help create balance are referred to as inhibitory.  Inhibitory NT’s balance mood and are easily depleted when the excitatory neurotransmitters are overabundant.

INHIBITORY NEUROTRANSMITTERS

SEROTONIN is an inhibitory NT that has a calming affect on the brain.  Adequate amounts of serotonin are necessary for a stable mood and to balance any excessive excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter firing in the brain.  If you use stimulant medications or caffeine in your daily regimen – it can cause a depletion of serotonin over time.  Serotonin also regulates many other processes such as carbohydrate cravings, sleep cycle, pain control and appropriate digestion.  Low serotonin levels are also associated with decreased immune system function.  GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is often referred to as “nature’s VALIUM-like substance”.  When GABA is out of range (high or low excretion values), it is likely that an excitatory neurotransmitter is firing too often in the brain.  GABA will be sent out to attempt to balance this stimulating over-firing DOPAMINE is a special neurotransmitter because it is considered to be both excitatory and inhibitory.  Dopamine helps with depression as well as focus, which you will read about in the excitatory section.

EXCITATORY NEUROTRANSMITTERS

DOPAMINE is our main focus neurotransmitter.  When dopamine is either elevated or low – we can have focus issues such as not remembering where we put our keys, forgetting what a paragraph said when we just finished reading it or simply daydreaming and not being able to stay on task.  Dopamine is also responsible for our drive or desire to get things done – or motivation.  Stimulants such as medications for ADD/ADHD and caffeine cause dopamine to be pushed into the synapse so that focus is improved.  Unfortunately, stimulating dopamine consistently can cause a depletion of dopamine over time. NOREPINEPHRINE is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is responsible for stimulatory processes in the body.  Norepinephrine helps to make epinephrine as well.  This neurotransmitter can cause ANXIETY at elevated excretion levels as well as some “MOOD DAMPENING” effects.  Low levels of norepinephrine are associated with LOW ENERGY, DECREASED FOCUS ability and sleep cycle problems.  EPINEPHRINE is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is reflective of stress.  This neurotransmitter will often be elevated when ADHD like symptoms are present.  Long term STRESS or INSOMNIA can cause epinephrine levels to be depleted (low).  Epinephrine also regulates HEART RATE and BLOOD PRESSURE.  HISTAMINE is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is reflective of ALLERGY or INFLAMMATION in the system, often gut mediated.  Elevated histamine will trigger excess stimulation of the respective catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine).

AMINO ACID THERAPY

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The proteins we consume in our daily diet provide the amino acids our bodies need to make neurotransmitters. Amino acid therapy is a term used to describe the use of supplemental amino acids to help balance brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and other aspects of the physiology. For this type of treatment to be most effective, it should include a specialized urinalysis test which provides a reliable means of measuring excretory values for neurotransmitters. From these findings a customized amino acid protocol is created to improve the quantity and ratios of neurotransmitters in the brain. At NeuroFit Nutrition, we specialize in helping clients balance their neurotransmitters using a functional medicine approach. The goal here is to implement functional medicine protocols to address neurotransmitter imbalances to bridge the time gap for the body to reinvent itself through a diversified microbiome.

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