Interview with Barbara Clark continued.
I often ask my clients who suffer from depression and/or anxiety to get a neurotransmitter test to make sure their concerns are not based on some kind of nutritional deficits. Could you briefly explain 1) what neurotransmitters and Beta Endorphins are, 2) how they relate to depression and anxiety and 3) what to look for in a neurotransmitter test?
The center of the nervous system is the brain, which contains over 100 billion specialized cells called neurons. The nervous system also contains very important chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell the heart to beat, the lungs to breathe, and the stomach to digest. Neurotransmitters are also necessary for thought processes, emotions, and other essential body functions including sleep, energy, and fear.
Depressive and anxiety disorders are among the most common neurotransmitter-related conditions. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons”. They are present throughout the body and are required for proper brain and body functions. Serious health problems, including depression and anxiety, can occur when neurotransmitter levels are too high or too low.
Every neurotransmitter behaves differently. Some neurotransmitters are inhibitory and tend to calm, while others are excitatory and stimulate the brain. Deficiencies involving the central nervous system’s neurotransmitters – serotonin and norepinephrine- appear to be involved in the development of depressive disorders. Disruptions in other neurotransmitters, like GABA (the central nervous system’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter), epinephrine, glutamate and histamine may be associated with anxiety disorders.
Environmental and biological factors – including stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, or genetics – can cause imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These imbalances can trigger or exacerbate depressive symptoms.
Endorphins are endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during strenuous exercise, excitement, pain and orgasm and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a sense of well being. Endorphins work as “natural pain relievers “and they are actually a complex of at least fifteen potent brain and body chemicals that all amplify pleasure and make pain tolerable. Endorphin depletion is caused by physical or emotional pain, or both. You could have been born with an endorphin deficiency, too much stress may drain the endorphins, and typically women have lower endorphin levels than men. Taking a supplemental blend of the 9 essential amino acids under the supervision of a health care provider, a good multivitamin, B vitamins and eating a protein-rich diet (proteins are precursors to amino-acids) can help get the endorphins into a more balanced state. Ideally these steps need to be supervised by an appropriate health care provider.
There are laboratories who do urine testing for neurotransmitter (Neuro Science, www.neuroRelief.com) and there are laboratories who have testing available for blood platelet serotonin and catecholamines
(Vitamin Diagnostics) www.integrativepsychiatry.net/blood_platelet_neurotransmitter_test.html