How to Improve Neurotransmitter Function

With all of these ways to throw your neurotransmitter levels out of balance, you may think it would be impossible to address them all. Luckily this isn’t so.

There are really only two major effects that all of the causes of neurotransmitter imbalance listed above have on the body. They either (1) cause a decrease in the amount of neurotransmitter available or (2) they cause damage to the post-synaptic neuron. In the first case, restoring proper neurotransmitter levels using amino acid therapy can quickly and effectively eliminate the relative deficiency and alleviate symptoms. In the second, more directed therapy, often requiring specific testing can make up for the damage and restore proper function.

Overcoming Neuronal Damage

Neurons are intended to function for life. Loss of a neuron to cell death is permanent. As damage to the receptors and neurons progress the neuron’s function slowly fades until neurotransmitter production decreases and eventually stops over time.

A nerve is made up of many neurons, often called a nerve bundle. As individual neurons fade and/or die, the amount of neurotransmitter sent through a nerve bundle decreases, as depicted here:

As this process continues, a person will experience more and more symptoms of imbalance; these can include mood swings, headaches/migraines, OCD tendencies, decreased focus/concentration, decreased memory, anxiety, sleep imbalances, hormone imbalances, food cravings and increased pain amongst other symptoms.

The Solution: Turn Up the Voltage

As we discussed earlier, the only way to increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain is to take amino acids (along with the necessary cofactors) which can cross the blood brain barrier where they can then be made into neurotransmitters. Increasing neurotransmitter levels through the neurons is analogous to increasing the voltage in an electrical wire, where by turning up the voltage you get more electricity out the other end of the wire.

It may help to think of it like this: when neurotransmitter disorders are present, some of the neurons within the nerve bundles are damaged to the point that the electricity flowing out of them is diminished to the point where symptoms develop. Increasing neurotransmitter levels through the administration of properly balanced amino acid therapy will effectively increase the voltage in the remaining viable neurons in the bundle. This causes the electrical flow out of the damaged nerve bundles to increase to the point that normal regulation and/or control is once again observed. In this state, from a clinical standpoint, the symptoms of disorder are under control.

If this all sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher (i.e., “Wah, wa, Wah…”) try this: There isn’t a feedback loop in the brain for neurotransmitter production. Therefore, even if 50% of the neurons in a nerve bundle are damaged or destroyed, if we give the remaining neurons more amino acids (in the right dosages), the remaining healthy neurons will manufacture more neurotransmitters, effectively alleviating symptoms and restoring normal function.

In essence, we give the healthy neurons what they need to make up for the damaged ones; when we get the balance right, it’s as though the damaged neurons don’t exist and you function normally.

17 Comments

  1. I suffer from migraines (symptoms every 7-10 days) which have become more frequent these last 3 years. I know my triggers but weather and stress to my body seem to be my main triggers now. I’m on bioidentical hormones and seeing an upper cervical chiropractor with no real relief. I am very interested in Amino Acid Therapy.

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for the comment; we can likely help. Please contact us and set up an initial appointment so we can get started.

      For additional information, please visit: http://www.naturalsolutionsformigraines.com

      I look forward to speaking with you –

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  2. I read that Immunocal is a better source of useful Cysteine than L-Cysteine or N-Acetyl Cysteine. Is this ture? Immunocal contains many amino acids and is found in the PDR. My husband has Parkinson’s and is taking Mucuna Powder and these amino acids supposedly help to balance the neurotransmitters. However, I don’t know how much Selenium, B6 and Tyrosine would be used to balance with the Immunocal. He seems to be responding to the Immunocal and Mucuna with 200 mg Selenium and 500 mg B6 supplementation but still has nausea when he takes the Mucuna and some cognitive deficit .

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks for the comment; Immunocal is a whey protein isolate that can increase glutathione, as it contains all the precursors for glutathione production. However, taking NAC and/or L-cysteine will likely increase glutathione supply more quickly as it is providing the direct precursors in higher amounts.

      It is certainly necessary to establish the proper balance of amino acids and precursors to prevent depletion/imbalance while trying to optimize neurotransmitter function. It sounds like you have been doing a great job thus far; if you’d like us to provide you further guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact us and set up an appointment.

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  3. I had already ordered a neurotransmitter test back in July before finding this website. I have had difficulties falling asleep for a month now and the test showed very low norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin and GABA. Can you work with me or would I have to buy another urine test from your office and start over? My doctor has given me Rx’s that don’t help and said I could try your products but that he couldn’t make specific recommendations since he wasn’t familiar with them.

    Reply
    • Hi Jay,

      Thanks for contacting us. We may be able to use the data you already have to get you started; if additional testing is necessary, we can certainly get you the testing you require in order to optimize your neurotransmitter function. Please contact us and set up an initial consultation at your earliest convenience.

      I look forward to speaking with you –

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  4. Dr. Chad, is amino acid therapy useful in enhancing libido in post menopausal women? Although taking bio- identical hormone aids in relief of menopausal symptoms and helps to maintain lean body mass, there is difficulty in achieving orgasm. Is this correctable using amino acid therapy? Is the condition due to low levels of serotonin and dopamine?

    Reply
    • Hi Joan,

      This is an excellent question, and one that we get asked quite often. The short answer is that libido can certainly be impacted by neurotransmitter imbalances. This is more likely for you since you have already corrected any underlying sex-hormone imbalances; it would certainly be worth a trial to if optimizing your neurotransmitter function provides you the results you are looking for.

      If you’d like to get started, please contact us and set up an initial consultation (it’s just $60) at your earliest convenience.

      I look forward to speaking with you –

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  5. Some are coming to believe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is caused by a neurological malfunction resulting in immune, gut,and a host of other issues.
    Have you researched this and if so what can CFS suffers take to help normalize an out of balance neurological function? Jim C

    Reply
    • Do you believe there is a role between CFS and poor neurological function? If so what can be done to correct it?

      Reply
    • Hi Jim,

      These are great questions. It now appears that mitochondrial dysfunction is likely at least one of the root causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Mitochondrial dysfunction will also manifest as imbalance or disease in tissues/organs that use a great deal of energy, including the neurons of the brain, the GI tract, liver, kidneys and pancreas, which can lead to a very complicated clinical picture. As for the neurons, this can cause or exacerbate a number of neurotransmitter imbalances.

      Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix to this one. However, for any given person, we can determine which factors are most important as well as how to properly address them through functional testing. Ironically enough, I am lecturing on this very topic on October 9 at the Great Lakes Conference in Bloomington, MN: https://greatlakes.eventgrid.com/.

      If you’d like to learn more about what we may be able to do for you (or the person you are inquiring about), please contact us to set up an initial consultation so I can gather some more information in order to get us started down the right path (it’s $60).

      I look forward to speaking with you –

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  6. I’ve had several episodes of depression for the last 20 years but with prozac and time (up to a year or more?) the depression has “gone into remission”… I am now into a full year of major depression but in addition, over the last 6 months, I am experiencing “anhedonia”, the inability to experience any pleasure. Please, could your therapy help? Besides feeling like I have brought this upon myself (I have isolated myself basically) I feel that my brain is very compromised. My memory is failing, I really am in a major depression and I am empty. Please, can you bring my brain functions back?

    Reply
    • Hi Diane,

      Thanks for contacting us; based on what you’ve described above, I must suggest that you seek the counsel of your medical provider. Amino acid therapy can be effective in correcting the underlying imbalances that can lead to depression and anhedonia, but major depression is a potentially serious condition that may need medical attention. We can work with you and/or your medical provider to provide you support from an amino acid standpoint as well. Please contact us to set up an initial consultation – http://amino-acid-therapy.com/contact-us/

      I look forward to speaking with you –

      Sincerely,

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  7. You wrote, “the only way to increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain is to take amino acids (along with the necessary cofactors) which can cross the blood brain barrier where they can then be made into neurotransmitters.” How does this apply to a person whose lab (blood test) shows that a person’s amino acid levels are normal? In other words, wouldn’t the person’s amino acid levels be low if he is experiencing neurotransmitter imbalance?

    Also, in that you have argued against the validity of urine and saliva testing to determine neurotranmitter levels, what test (if any) do you recommend?

    Reply
    • Hi Linda – thanks for the very well thought out questions!

      When working with disorders relating to neurotransmitter dysfunction, it is the function of the gates that control neurotransmitter transport into/out of the system/various organs that are important (these are the Organic Cation Transporters mentioned on this site), not the absolute neurotransmitter level which determine proper function. Therefore, measuring the absolute level of neurotransmitters in the blood does not provide a good therapeutic indicator of neurotransmitter precursor need.

      We have used and recommend using the testing outlined on this page to help us determine a person’s optimal amino acid dosing: http://amino-acid-therapy.com/oct-assay-interpretation/

      Hope this helps!

      Dr. Chad

      Reply
  8. My wife has severe insomnia only getting 1-2 hrs sleep at night sometimes and none other times. It has grown worse over 3 years or so to this point and what we have tried so far hasn’t helped. We did the urine testing for amino acids finally in April thru NeuroScience in Oceola Wi (sent it from MI). Wife now taking Kavinace Ultra PM and ImmuWell Gen with not much change yet over 6 weeks. Still taking it. Her Epinephrine was very high. Previous testing of hair showed elevated Corisol as well. Wondering what to do??

    Reply
    • Hi Linda – thanks for the comment. Without more information, I really can’t say what you could do at this point. It sounds as though your wife is suffering from insomnia because of neurotransmitter imbalance(s) that haven’t yet been corrected. Unfortunately, chronic insomnia is very difficult to work with, as the solution often takes time and every second seems like an eternity with someone suffering from insomnia. If you are not seeing any relief, please contact us and send along any previous labs so we can hit the ground running.

      Good luck!

      Dr Chad

      Reply

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