Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers used by the nervous system to relay information from one nerve to another. Optimal neurotransmitter balance is required to maintain proper health. Imbalances can cause the brain and the body to be over- or under-stimulated, producing neurological or psychological symptoms.
86% of Americans have sub-optimal neurotransmitter levels!
ZRT is the only lab to offer a 24-hour equivalent in four easy collections – resulting in a more accurate assessment of individual neurochemistry.
- ZRT Laboratory’s dried urine method offers a discreet, at-home testing alternative and eliminates the hassles of all-day jug urine collection.
- Patients collect urine on a filter strip up to four times during the day.
- Dried strips are shelf-stable for 30 days and easy to mail back to the lab for analysis.
- Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers used by the nervous system to relay information from one nerve to another. Optimal neurotransmitter balance is required to maintain proper health. Imbalances can cause the brain and the body to be over- or under-stimulated, producing neurological or psychological symptoms.
- In the neurological system, hormones are synergistic with neurotransmitters – modulating their production, signaling and metabolism.
- Because of this complex interplay, testing hormones and neurotransmitters together is an ideal way to generate a more precise clinical assessment.
- This combined testing gives Practitioners a diagnostic edge over the traditional psychological inventory and offers the advantage of zeroing in on which therapies are best suited for individual patients – cutting down on the time-consuming process of trial-and-error for identifying treatment options.
- Heavy metals are damaging to brain health.
- They disrupt neurotransmitter function and create oxidative stress that is detrimental to nerve cells, contributing to mood disorders, poor memory and dementia.
- Identifying exposure to heavy metals may be key to assessing and treating mood disorders and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.
- In contrast, nutritional elements are generally protective for brain health. Lithium acts directly on the brain by slowing the progression of dementia and stabilizing mood, while elements like iodine and selenium act indirectly by supporting healthy thyroid and brain function.
Common neurotransmitter-related causes of health issues often involve the following scenarios:
- Anxiety & Depression – Neurotransmitter imbalances are often associated with anxiety and depression, specifically Glutamate (panic attacks), PEA, Histamine, Serotonin, as well as Epinephrine & Norepinephrine.
- Chronic Fatigue – An imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters can lead to persistent fatigue.
- Impulsivity – GABA, Dopamine and Serotonin are three chemical messengers commonly linked to disorders like ADD, ADHD & OCD.
- Insomnia Imbalances in Glutamate, Histamine, Dopamine, GABA and Serotonin are often linked to sleep disturbances and insomnia.
- PMS or PMDD – Imbalances in Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and GABA are often involved in cases of PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) and severe PMS.
Main Neurotransmitters and Their Function in the Body
Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter to be discovered. It has many functions.
It is responsible for much of the stimulation of muscles, including the muscles of the gastro-intestinal system. It is also found in sensory neurons and in the autonomic nervous system, and has a part in scheduling REM or dream sleep.
Dopamine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, when it finds its way to its receptor sites; it blocks the tendency of that neuron to fire. Dopamine is synthesized in cell groups in the midbrain’s substantia nigrae and ventral tegmental areas (VTA). It is strongly associated with reward mechanisms in the brain. There are eight neural pathways, called dopaminergic pathways, in the brain that function via dopamine transmission.
Endorphin is neurotransmitter that is an endogenous morphine since it is structurally very similar to the opioids (opium, morphine, heroin, etc.)and has similar inhibitory functions. It is involved in pain reduction and pleasure, and the opioid drugs work by attaching to endorphin’s receptor sites. It allows bears and other animals to hibernate.
Epinephrine or adrenaline is a catecholamine. Many kinds of reactions convert tyrosine to dopamine, to norepinephrine, and eventually to epinephrine.
- Epinephrine is a neurotransmitter that drives the autonomic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. It is synthesized in the adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream when dangerous circumstances occur, in an emergency requiring immediate action, and in stressful situations or environments. When in the bloodstream, epinephrine rapidly prepares the body for action. It boosts the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain and muscles while suppressing other non-emergency bodily processes, especially digestion.
- Epinephrine increases heart rate and stroke volume, dilates the pupils, and constricts arterioles in the skin and gastrointestinal tract while dilating arterioles in skeletal muscles. It increases catabolism of glycogen to glucose in the liver, thereby elevating the blood sugar level. At the same time, epinephrine begins the breakdown of lipids in fat cells. Epinephrine has a suppressive effect on the immune system. Stress tends to deplete store of adrenalin, while exercise tends to increase it.
- Axon terminals of the sympathetic nervous system release norepinephrine into the adrenal glands. Epinephrine is derived from norepinephrine via methylation of norepinephrine’s primary distal amine by phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT) in the cytosol of adrenergic neurons and chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla. PNMT is only found in the cytosol of cells of adrenal medullary cells. PNMT uses S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) as a cofactor to donate the methyl group to norepinephrine, creating epinephrine.
- The hypothalamus prompts the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into the bloodstream. ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to release cortisol, which increases the expression of PNMT in chromaffin cells, enhancing epinephrine synthesis and release into the bloodstream. ACTH also enhances the activity of enzymes involved in catecholamine synthesis, thereby stimulating the synthesis of epinephrine precursors. These specific enzymes are tyrosine hydroxylase in the synthesis of dopamine and the enzyme dopamine-ß-hydroxylase in the synthesis of norepinephrine.
GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is usually an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA acts like a brake to the excitatory neurotransmitters that lead to anxiety. People with too little GABA tend to suffer from anxiety disorders. If GABA is deficient in certain parts of the brain, epilepsy fallouts.
Glutamate is an excitatory relative of GABA. It is the most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and is especially important in regards to memory. Interestedly, glutamate is actually toxic to neurons, and an excess may kill them. Sometimes brain damage or a stroke lead to an excess and end with many more brain cells dying than from the original trauma. ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, results from excessive glutamate production.
- Norepinephrine or noradrenaline
- Norepinephrine or noradrenaline is strongly associated with bringing nervous system into “high alert.” Neurons in the loci coerulei, a pair of structures located within the pons of the brain stem, synthesize norepinephrine. The axons of neurons in the loci coerulei project to both sides of the brain where they release norepinephrine. A single neuron in the locus coeruleus can innervate tissue in wide-ranging areas. The branching axons of norepinephrine-producing neurons in the loci coerulei innervate the brain stem, spinal cord, and cerebellum, as well as the hypothalami, thalamic relay nuclei, amygdalae, and neocortex.
- Norepinephrine is predominant in the sympathetic nervous system, and it increases our heart rate as well as the blood pressure. It relays messages in the sympathetic nervous system, as part of the autonomic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. Secondly, norepinephrine prepares the brain to encounter and respond to stimuli from the environment, thereby facilitating vigilance. So in both roles, norepinephrine mediates arousal. Adrenal glands release it into the blood stream, along with its close relative epinephrine or adrenaline. It is also important for forming memories.
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has been found to be closely involved in emotion and mood. Too little serotonin has been shown to lead to depression, problems with anger control, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suicide. Too little serotonin also leads to an increased appetite for carbohydrates and trouble sleeping, which are also associated with depression and other emotional disorders. It is also responsible for migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
- Serotonin is a derivative of tryptophan, which is found in milk. Serotonin also plays a role in perception. Sense of well-being and capacity to organize lives and to relate to others depend profoundly on the functional integrity of the serotonergic system. Roughly one millionth of the total population of neurons in the human central nervous system are serotonergic neurons. Fourteen types of serotonin receptors have been discovered so far in the brains of mammals, located in different places and acting in different ways. Most serotonin in the human body is found in the enterochromaffin cells in the gastrointestinal tract, where it is used to regulate intestinal movements. In the brain, the neurons of the raphe nuclei are the principal source of serotonin release.
Common Neurotransmitter-Related Causes Of Health Issues Often Involve The Following:
- Anxiety & Depression
Neurotransmitter imbalances are often associated with anxiety and depression, specifically Glutamate (panic attacks), PEA, Histamine, Serotonin, as well as Epinephrine & Norepinephrine. Learn how Epinephrine & Norepinephrine affect chronic stress.
- Chronic Fatigue
An imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters can lead to persistent fatigue.
GABA, Dopamine and Serotonin are three chemical messengers commonly linked to disorders like ADD, ADHD & OCD.
Imbalances in Glutamate, Histamine, Dopamine, GABA and Serotonin are often linked to sleep disturbances and insomnia.
- PMS or PMDD
Imbalances in Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and GABA are often involved in cases of PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) and severe PMS.