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…)

What To Do When the Amino Acids Quit Working

Every so often we encounter a case where we have seemingly found a person’s optimized dose of amino acids – meaning that whatever symptoms they were experiencing (i.e., depression, anxiety, urges to pull, migraines, tremor, inability to sleep, etc.) have been significantly reduced and/or eliminated – when ‘out of the blue’ their original symptoms return. This can present itself at anytime, but is most typical after a few weeks or months (3-4 months is most common) on the amino acids at the optimized dose. Before the client or provider begins to change anything (or panic) there are a couple of things that MUST be done to insure accurate and optimal results. (more…)

The Hybrid – High Need for Dopamine and Serotonin Support

There are a lot of disorders related to neurotransmitter dysfunction, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, migraines, trichotillomania, OCD, RLS and Parkinson’s disease, among others. The vast majority of people with these conditions (aside from RLS and Parkinson’s) are serotonin dominant, which means that these people normally require much more support for serotonin than the catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine) in order to optimize neurotransmitter function. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those people that are dopamine dominant; this includes people with RLS and Parkinson’s Disease. In addition, there is a small group of people with conditions that are typically serotonin dominant (roughly between 6-12%) that actually end up needing significant dopamine support (i.e, they are dopamine dominant). The only way to determine this is via specialized urine testing. To make matters more complicated, it turns out that there is a third group of people that need significant support for both the serotonin and catecholamine systems; these people are typically labeled “hybrids”. (more…)