Medications and Amino Acid Therapy

Many people are on medications that alter, mimic or in some way manipulate neurotransmitter levels in the body. These include stimulants, such as amphetamines (i.e., methamphetamine, “speed”, Adderall, Vyvanse, Dexedrine), ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, and methylphenidate (i.e., Ritalin, Concerta); norepinephrine-reuptake inhibitors (i.e., Strattera, Edronax); norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (i.e., Wellbutrin, Zyman); selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (i.e., Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and Luvox); triptans (i.e., Imitrex, Maxalt, Amerge, Zomig); sleep aids (i.e., Ambien, Lunesta); barbiturates (i.e., phenobarbital, Fioricet); benzodiazepines (i.e., Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Lorazepam); MAO inhibitors (i.e., Azilect, selegiline, Nardil, Morplan); COMT inhibitors (i.e., Comtan, Tasmar); and carbidopa/levodopa (i.e., Sinamet, Rytary, Stalevo). While these medications may exacerbate or cause neurotransmitter imbalances in the body, most can be safely used along with amino acid therapy to achieve optimal neurotransmitter function. (more…)

What Does a “Dopamine Fluctuation” Mean?

A person undertaking amino acid therapy will have periodic urine testing completed in order to determine if/how to adjust their amino acid dosing in order to optimize neurotransmitter function. Along the way, they may get a lab value for dopamine (or serotonin) that is much higher than is expected. This is often referred to as a “dopamine fluctuation”. We have provided a two part series discussing the dopamine fluctuation in more detail; here I wanted to provide a brief overview of what a dopamine fluctuation is and why it’s important to find and correct them as soon as possible. (more…)

The Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Neurotransmitter (Dys)Function

Close up of sugar and sweetener packets

Aspartame is a widely used artificial sweetener. Since its discovery in 1965, it has been used in thousands of food products as a non-caloric sweetener. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). However, aspartame is not the only artificial sweetener found in foods; others include saccharin, neotame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. More than 6000 new products that contain artificial sweeteners were launched in the United States between 1999 and 2004, including soft drinks, baby food, Pedialyte, frozen foods, chewing gum and many (many) foods aimed at weight loss and blood sugar management (see other posts on the effects of artificial sweeteners and blood sugar and weight gain). (more…)

The Real Power of 5-HTP and L-Dopa

Amino acid therapy involves the determination and administration of the amino acids and cofactors needed to optimize neurotransmitter function. In the vast majority of cases, this involves trying to optimize the function of the “centrally acting monoamines” which include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. The centrally acting monoamines are synthesized from nutrients, including L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, L-tyrosine and L-dopa. These centrally acting monoamines form a system in which serotonin and the catecholamines (which include dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine) oppose one another; in  other words, optimizing the function of the centrally acting monoamines involves more than just giving ‘more’ of one precursor or the other; it also involves getting the balance right between them. (more…)