What are Neurotransmitters?
Updated: Oct 1
NEUROTRANSMITTERS are the chemical messengers that relay information throughout the body. They carry signals between nerve cells, (neurons) and are responsible for energy, mood, sleep, concentration, movement and appetite. They tell lungs to breathe, heart to beat, stomach to digest, nervous system to respond to stress and to perform many other vital functions. When neurotransmitters are depleted and out of balance, our brain and body are depleted and out of balance as well. Neurotransmitters are affected by stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol and other environmental and lifestyle factors. Proper levels of neurotransmitters are necessary for stable moods, normal appetite and eating patterns, adequate sleep cycles, optimal energy, and the ability to be productive and learn. As of now over 183 neurotransmitters have been identified. The ones best understood include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Each neurotransmitter affects mood and energy differently. Some of the neurotransmitters are Excitatory (stimulating) some Inhibitory (calming) and some are bought excitatory or inhibitory. For example, excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain when inhibitory neurotransmitters balance mood and calm the brain but are easily depleted when the excitatory neurotransmitters are overactive. Inhibitory Neurotransmitters There are several inhibitory neurotransmitters in the body, but the two that have the greatest reaching effects are: SEROTONIN - an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for regulating sleep, body temperature, function of the immune system, muscle contraction, pain intensity, memory, learning, mood, appetite, digestion and blood clotting, and to balance any excessive excitatory 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 is also recognized in relation to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – including Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and Luvox. Although considered brain chemical the most of the serotonin in the body is produced and found in the gut (approximately 95%) and the remainder is mostly found in the brain and central nervous system. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has a calming effect, by reducing anxiety, calming the mind and releasing tension. It is often referred to as “nature’s Valium-like substance”. Some anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Lorazepam) and barbiturates (Fioricet, …), as well as some sleep medications (Ambien, Lunesta) work primarily by increasing the amount of GABA released in a neuron. 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 is then sent out to attempt to balance this stimulating over-firing. Excitatory Neurotransmitters DOPAMINE is considered to be excitatory and inhibitory. It is clustered in the mid-brain in an area called the substantia nigra. As a chemical messenger, dopamine is similar to adrenaline. Dopamine affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, rational thinking, memory, focus and ability to experience pleasure and pain. 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 drive or desire (motivation) to get things done. 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/hormone also known as noradrenaline. As a stress hormone, secreted by the adrenal gland, it works together with epinephrine / adrenaline to give the body a burst of energy in times of stress, known as the “fight or flight” response resulting in increased heart rate and blood pressure. As a neurotransmitter, it communicates information throughout our brain and body. Studies show that norepinephrine levels are low in people with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue. Norepinephrine plays a role in alertness, metabolic process, emotions, sleeping, dreaming and learning. It 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, and sleep cycle problems. EPINEPHRINE, also known as adrenaline or adrenalin, is a hormone and a neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter will often be elevated when ADHD like symptoms are present. During the stress response, the adrenal gland releases epinephrine into the bloodstream, along with cortisol, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, opens air passages in the lungs, narrows blood vessels in the skin and intestine to increase blood flow to major muscle groups, and shifts metabolic rate. All these functions and many more are performed to enable the body to respond to a perceived physical and/or psychological threat. Too much epinephrine can result in heart palpitations, irritability, sleep problems, increased appetite, increased blood pressure, anxiety, and intolerance to heat. Glutamate (glutamic acid) is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the human body, particularly in the nervous system and in the human brain where it is the body’s most prominent neurotransmitter, and also the precursor for GABA. It plays key roles in cognitive functions like learning and memory formation. Imbalances in glutamate levels are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, seizures and some forms of autism. Glutamate is also used as a flavor enhancer in the form of monosodium glutamate (MSG). Prescription medications used for mood disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, ADD/ADHD, and other related neurotransmitter deficiency conditions are designed to amplify the neurotransmitter signal, but these medications do not actually increase the amount of neurotransmitters. Long-term use can actually worsen the problem as low levels of neurotransmitters continue to be reduced over time.
For more information about "Amino Acid (Neurotransmitter) Therapy” program its effectiveness or to start the program please contact Brain And Body Wellness Center at 972-248-0780