What Causes Neurotransmitter Deficiencies?
Dieting is the most common cause of self-induced neurotransmitter deficiencies. Protein deficient diets may not supply adequate tryptophan, which is necessary for serotonin production. Carbohydrate is necessary to deliver tryptophan to the brain for serotonin production. High protein/low carbohydrate diets are a two-fold problem – there is not enough insulin and too much amino acid competition, which restricts the basic building blocks needed to produce enough neurotransmitters.
Studies from major universities, including Harvard, MIT and Oxford, have documented that women on diets significantly deplete their serotonin within three weeks of dieting!
This induced serotonin deficiency eventually leads to increased cravings, moodiness and poor motivation, which all contribute to rebound weight gain – the common yet unfortunate consequence of dieting. Diets may also be deficient in B-vitamins and other necessary nutrients. Folic acid, B6, and magnesium are all required in the process of serotonin production. Therefore, it is so important to see a health care professional for your weight loss program where you have the opportunity for neurotransmitter support that can help ensure successful weight loss with a healthy program specifically designed for you.
Long term use of diet pills, stimulants, pain pills, narcotics and recreational drugs can deplete neurotransmitter stores. Diet pills (like phen-fen , phenteramine) use up large amounts of dopamine and serotonin, which can result in “rebound” appetite control problems, low energy, unstable moods and a sluggish metabolism.
Prolonged Emotional or Physical Stress
The human body is designed to handle sudden, acute or short bouts of stress. Prolonged chronic stress takes its toll on the “fight or flight” stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Eventually, these become depleted and coping becomes more difficult.
Sixty percent of all adults over the age of 40 have some degree of neurotransmitter deficiencies. Aging brain cells make smaller amounts of neurotransmitters. Also, as we get older, the body does not respond as well to them.
Stressors of all sorts can become chronic and cause adrenal fatigue. Many neurotransmitters are responsible for proper sleep, especially serotonin and are product during REM sleep around 2 to 3 am when serotonin converts to melatonin, the sleep hormone. When serotonin levels are low melatonin level will also be low. Disrupted sleep occurs and fewer neurotransmitters are produced causing a sleepless night.
Heavy Metal Toxicity
Mercury, lead, aluminum, cadmium and arsenic are major neurotoxins. Chemical pesticides, fertilizers, certain cleaning agents, industrial solvents and recreational drugs cause damage to the brain cells and decrease neurotransmitter production.
Any condition ending in “it is,’ such as sinusitis, gastritis or arthritis is an inflammatory condition. Inflammation interferes with the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP which is used in the body’s production of serotonin.
If hormones are deficient or are off balance, neurotransmitters do not function well. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a classic example of how low serotonin levels can shift each month. Mood, appetite and sleep can be severely disrupted one or two weeks before the menstrual cycle. Another neurotransmitter imbalance occurs during menopause when dramatic changes in mood, energy, sleep, weight and sexual desire occur.
Some people are born with a limited ability to make adequate amounts of neurotransmitters. They exhibit deficiency symptoms as children or young adults and often have relatives who suffer from significant mental illnesses. As they age, affected individuals experience even more profound symptoms and debilitation.
If you suffer from the following symptoms/conditions, testing your neurotransmitters is highly recommended.
• Anxiety and panic attacks
• Strong craving for sweets
• Difficulty concentrating
• Headaches (including migraines)
• Low motivation
• Chronic pain
• Irritability and anger disorders
• Seasonal affective disorders
• Decreased sex drive
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