Neurotransmitters (NTs) are essential chemical messengers that regulate brain, muscle, nerve and organ function. The most common NTs are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Low levels of these important chemicals is extremely common in the general public and is due to innumerable lifestyle, environmental, and dietary factors. This article is intended to help the reader determine whether they may be deficient in NTs and how evaluation and treatment of this disorder can help.
People with neurotransmitter deficiency disorder can suffer from one or more of the following conditions: obesity, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, insomnia, attention deficit, learning disorders, panic attacks, migraines, pms, menopausal symptoms, digestive complaints and many more.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other drugs working on the neurotransmitter biochemistry such as Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, Wellbutrin, etc. are currently some of the most commonly prescribed drugs. They work by artificially increasing the amount of serotonin in the synapse of the nerve which allows a temporary improvement in the chemical messaging system.
The problem with this approach is that these drugs DO NOT increase serotonin levels and in fact deplete reserves of the NT. This occurs because the SSRI class drugs cause an increase in an enzyme called MAO. It is common for people to experience only temporary improvement due to this effect.
The most effective way to correct a neurotransmitter deficiency is to perform a simple urine test to measure the NT levels. The treatment for optimizing the neurotransmitter levels is to provide the basic amino acid precursors or building blocks so the body can replenish the inadequate levels.
The true value of any treatment is the results it produces. Using this approach over the last year, I have helped coach many patients to a higher level of wellness. Patients with chronic depression, anxiety, and or insomnia have experienced a new sense of wellbeing while continuing their prescription, others have successfully weaned themselves off their prescription SSRI drugs after their symptoms have improved. Weight loss patients using slightly higher amino acid dosing consistently lose 1.5-2.5 lbs. per week without hunger while improving their lean muscle/body fat ratios.
FAQs regarding Dr. Nelson’s NT program for anxiety and depression
Q. If I am already taking SSRI drugs, can I safely use this amino acid approach?
A. In my clinical experience I have seen great results with patients who have been on SSRI drugs for many many years. First, we get the person feeling better, then if the patient chooses, we slowly wean them off their prescription drugs.
Q. How does amino acid therapy increase NT levels?
A. 5HTP is converted into serotonin and then melatonin. Phenylalanine is converted into tyrosine, then dopamine, L-Dopa, norepinephrine, and lastly epinephrine.
Q. How do you measure for the neurotransmitter levels in order to determine appropriate treatment?
A. The levels for epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, PEA, histamine, and many others can be measured with a simple urine test. An initial urine test can be given and then repeated after 6 to 12 weeks of therapy to determine optimal neurotransmitter levels have been obtained.
Q. Are there any side effects associated with the amino acid neurotransmitter therapy?
A. Not only are there no side effects, but there are numerous side benefits. People with depression often find relief not only from depression but also insomnia, fatigue, GI symptoms, chronic pain, pms, menopausal symptoms, obesity, food cravings, etc. In a small amount of people (less than 5%) people could have gastro intestinal symptoms such as nausea, cramping, diarrhea, etc. This occurs in people with severe neurotransmitter deficiency. This usually occurs within the first three days and is solved by stopping all amino acids. Therapy is continued at very low dosing after symptoms abate and then slowly increased to therapeutic levels over three to six weeks.
Q. How long will it take until my symptoms of depression/anxiety improve?
A. Each individual responds differently to treatment. Some patients have noticed incredible improvements in moods in a few days, others don’t notice any improvements for a period of time (sometimes 3-4 months) and then notice gradual improvements over the following 3 to 6 months, most patients notice gradual improvements beginning after 1 month of treatment and then continue to improve.
Q. What should I expect during a normal course of evaluation and treatment?
A. Evaluation involves an initial office visit to determine overall health history, prescription drug levels, severity of symptoms, and any related health concerns. There is an optional urine test for neurotransmitter levels. Treatment consists of the following:
1. Conditioning Phase – a one to two week period to prepare the patient for higher levels of therapeutic amino acid dosing.
2. Therapeutic Phase – a period lasting anywhere from two months to 1 year+ where high levels of amino acids are given to restore the neurotransmitter levels.
3. Maintenance Phase – ongoing treatment with a small amount of amino acids to maintain the levels of neurotransmitters. This provides enough amino acids to replace the neurotransmitters excreted throughout the day.
Q. Will I need to stay on amino acid therapy indefinitely?
A. Most people need to stay on a low level maintenance dose in order to continue to feel well after their 2 month to 1 year plus treatment phase. If people stop taking the amino acids, their neurotransmitter levels will slowly decrease over time.
Q. What amino acids are used in this therapy?
A. The amino acids used depend on the unique situation. The therapy will include any number of the following: 5HTP, tyrosine, phenylalanine, cysteine, mucuna (herbal L-Dopa), theanine, glutamine, taurine, methionine, GABA, phosphorylated b vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.
Q. What is the approximate cost of the therapy?
A. The cost of the neurotransmitter replacement therapy can range from $80 to $120+ during the therapeutic phase. After the patients symptoms have improved and the urine tests show optimal levels, the cost for the maintenance therapy is significantly less.
Q. What’s the success rate for anxiety and depression using this approach?
A. Anxiety and Depression are conditions that are multi-factorial. Patients that follow the dietary recommendations, take the supplements and don’t give up before the neurotransmitters levels have been restored have a very high success rate. This natural therapy corrects the biochemical imbalance associated with these conditions. Patients working with a qualified counselor or therapist to address the mental and emotional aspects of these conditions have an even higher success rate.
William Nelson, NMD is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor in private practice in North Scottsdale. He specializes in the treatment of depression/anxiety and weight loss using amino acid therapy. Dr. Nelson combines time honored natural therapies with the latest advances in medical science for the treatment and prevention of all other chronic and acute health concerns. 7500 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd. A207 Scottsdale, AZ 85255 480-563-4256
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