Vibrant Method is now a Provider of NeuroLab Testing a division of Sanesco International.
Depression, anxiety and mood swings are not something you can just “snap out of.” Science has proven these disorders can be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other mitigating factors. Unfortunately, treatment usually includes rounds of psychotherapy or the prescription of an array of pharmaceutical drugs. Today, clinical depression is the leading cause of disability with 20 million Americans suffering and 30 million pharmaceutical drugs prescribed. Yet, depression is only one of many symptoms observed when there are neurotransmitter imbalances. Basically, when your brain chemistry is not operating the way it should be.
NeuroLab is a leading specialist in the technology, analysis, and research of the biomarkers associated with these imbalances (technically known as Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal-Thyroid (HPA-T) axis function). HPA-T axis function is pivotal to optimal function of the body’s neuro-hormonal Communication System.
What are symptoms or conditions associated with neurotransmitter imbalances?
– Anxiety and panic attacks
– Chronic Fatigue
– Strong craving for sweets
– Difficulty concentrating
– Headaches (including migraines)
– Low motivation
– Chronic pain
– ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder
– Irritability and anger disorders
– PMD – Premenstrual Syndrome
– SAD – Seasonal affective disorders
– Decreased sex drive
What is a neurotransmitter?
The brain makes chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are produced and stored in the brain and are released into action when the brain cells are electronically activated. They are responsible for every thought, mood, pain and pleasure sensation we feel. They control our energy level, our appetite and the foods we crave. Neurotransmitters even regulate how well we sleep as well as our sex drive.
Psychological stress and physiological changes can cause neurotransmitter deficiencies or imbalances; likewise, the neurotransmitter deficiency or imbalance can cause psychological changes. Neurotransmitters can be easily measured by simple noninvasive laboratory testing you can do in the privacy of your own home.
Think of it this way: it is common to measure thyroid levels before prescribing medication and to test a diabetic’s blood sugar before adjusting the dose of insulin. Therefore, before treating an individual with neurotransmitter imbalances, it is important to identify their specific levels in order to recommend the best therapeutic support.
Neurotransmitters and hormones commonly measured are serotonin, dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine, epinephrine, glutamate, cortisol, DHEA, and various thyroid functions. A deficiency of any particular neurotransmitter not only affects neuronal function but also endocrine function anywhere in the body.
Our endocrine system is considered primary and critical to all metabolic function. Glands such as the thyroid, the adrenals, the ovaries and the testes all take direction from the brain. There are many conditions that negatively impact hormone levels, and when one hormone is imbalanced, there is a tendency for many other hormones to follow suit.
Correction of imbalanced hormones is important but not always sufficient. Correction of imbalanced neurotransmitters, on the other hand, is imperative if clinical progress is to be made. Determining which neurotransmitters are low and which are high should precede clinical intervention.
For instance, combining poor diet with a stressful life-style is a recipe for neurotransmitter imbalances. The types of food we crave (starches, chocolate or sweets) and the time of day we crave them (late afternoon or evening) may characterize specific neurotransmitter deficiencies. In fact, serotonin depletion is one of the most common neurotransmitter imbalances in our culture.
What are the different types of neurotransmitters, and what is their role in the body, brain, and mood function?
Catecholamines are a collection of hormones made by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys. They are comprised of a group of neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline)) that are derived from the amino acids phenylalanine and/or tyrosine. They are released into the blood when a person is under physical or emotional stress. Higher-than-normal levels of blood catecholamines may suggest acute anxiety and severe stress, which ultimately lead to a cascading effect of chronic hormone disruptions, adrenal fatigue and thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease.
A catecholamine – hormone similar to adrenaline that is released from the adrenal glands and also from the brain. It is found within the central nervous system and the primary neurotransmitter in the peripheral sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. In the brain, norepinephrine functions as an excitatory neurotransmitter, responsible for our drive, ambition, alertness, focus and long-term memory (learning). Norepinephrine together with the epinephrine are the main components that help enabled the survival of human race since the beginning of man. Working complimentarily with each other, they are responsible for the activation of chemical reactions that leads to a fight-or-flight response. They are both responsible for increasing the blood flow in different areas of the body such as the brain and muscles, and also increase the heart rate. Low levels of norepinephrine can contribute to symptoms including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia/sleep disorders, premenstrual tension, fibromyalgia, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, chronic pain states, migraines, ADD/ADHD, and restless leg syndrome. High level are associated with rapid fatigue, muscle tension/cramps, irritability, and a sense of being on edge. Almost all anxiety disorders involve norepinephrine elevations. Severe and sudden increases in norepinephrine are associated with panic attacks.
A catecholamine also known as adrenaline is secreted by the adrenal glands that functions as both a neurotransmitter and as a hormone. It is produced from norepinephrine enzymatically in both the brain and adrenal glands. Only small amounts of epinephrine are produced in the brain, relative to the more common norepinephrine, and its role as a central nervous system neurotransmitter is not well studied. In the periphery, however, adrenal epinephrine is the powerfully active, main stress hormone. It provides strong cardiac stimulation which controls the heart rate and contraction strength. Perhaps one of the most widely known uses of epinephrine is in injections for life-threatening allergic reactions due to insect bites and stings or foods such as nuts, milk, shellfish, etc.. Low levels of epinephrine can also contribute to weight gain and poor concentration. Elevated levels of epinephrine can be factors contributing to restlessness, anxiety, sleep problems, or acute stress.
A catecholamine present in the central nervous system in roughly equal concentrations to those of norepinephrine, dopamine functions actively as a neurotransmitter in its own right. It has roles in motor functions, and other notable functions including movement, memory, pleasurable reward, behavior and cognition, attention, inhibition of prolactin production, sleep, mood, and learning. Excess and deficiency of this vital chemical is the cause of several disease conditions. Parkinson’s disease and drug addiction are some of the examples of problems associated with abnormal dopamine levels. Common symptoms include mood changes, focus issues, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and, in particular, compulsive overeating resulting in weight gain.
An amino acid neurotransmitter, Glutamate is the most common excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, exerting powerful stimulatory effects on neuronal tissue. It is also normally involved in learning and memory. Excess Glutamate is dangerous to nervous tissue, causing excitotoxicity neuron damage and death. Sometimes brain damage or a stroke will lead to an excess and end with many more brain cells dying than from the original trauma. ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, results from excessive glutamate production. Additionally, elevated glutamate levels are associated with panic attacks, anxiety, excess adrenal function, impulsivity, and depression. Low glutamate levels have been associated with agitation, memory loss, sleeplessness, low energy level, insufficient adrenal function, and depression.
(Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), an amino acid derivative, is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Its main job is to inhibit the brain’s most common excitatory neurotransmitters Norepinephrine, Epinephrine and Glutamate. Low levels are GABA may lead to insomnia, depression, mood disorders, excessive stress, hypertension, atherosclerosis, motion sickness. Low levels are associated with bipolar disorder, specifically mania. With GABA levels below average, the brain is too stimulated. Low levels also exhibit behavioral problems of poor impulse control, including clinical conditions such as gambling, temper tantrums, and stealing. When GABA is low in the brain, impulsive behaviors are not inhibited (stopped) by logical or reasonable thinking.
A monoamine neurotransmitter found in small quantities in the central nervous system, blood platelets, and abundantly in the enteric nervous system of the gut. Its function in the central nervous system is primarily inhibitory, working with GABA to prevent over-excitation. Physical symptoms of low serotonin levels include chronic, persistent sleep disorders, restless leg syndrome, loss of appetite and, cravings for carbohydrate, hot flushes and fluctuating body temperature, migraine and headaches, and gastrointestinal pain. Emotional symptoms of low serotonin levels include numbness and social withdrawal, increased emotional sensitivity, loss of interest in sexual activities and irritability, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Alternatively, “Serotonin Syndrome” results when very high levels of serotonin build up in the body. Initial symptoms include shivering, diarrhea, headache, agitation, confusion, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, dilated pupils, loss of coordination, muscle twitching, goose bumps and perspiring heavily.
What test is available and how much does it cost?
The “HPA Profile” Test (Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenal) provides an accurate measurement of 6 primary urinary neurotransmitters: Serotonin, GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Epinephrine. Salivary Adrenal Hormones are also measured: 4 timed Cortisols and 2 DHEAs. The test is easy to complete – your Health Coach will explain how to administer the test in detail. Simple-to-follow instructions are also provided in the kit.
The complete testing process costs only $89 with proof of insurance. The kit is pre-ordered by your Health Coach after your initial Health Assessment Consultation, arrives at your front door, and can be taken in the privacy of your home. The 2nd-day FedEx return pack is prepaid and easy to ship back to NeuroLab.
Once your Health Coach receives the results (in approximately 7 business days), a specific nutritional therapy and dietary protocol is created and integrated into your 6-Month Vibrant Method program.
What causes neurotransmitter deficiencies and excesses?
Weight Loss and Dieting
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. Carbohydrates are necessary to deliver tryptophan to the brain for serotonin production. High protein/low carbohydrate diets are a two-fold problem – there is both not enough insulin as well as too much amino acid competition, which then 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 is why it is vital to work with a Holistic Health Coach when wanting to lose excess body weight. There is a right way and a wrong way to shed fat. Depleting the body of vital nourishment has massive implications on mood disorders…and can eventually sabotage the results you might have achieved.
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. This is why it is so important to see a health care professional for your weight loss program – you then have the opportunity for neurotransmitter support helping ensure successful, long-lasting 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. Stressful life events such as fertility treatments, marriage, separation/divorce, death of a loved one, terminal illness (one’s own or a family member), physical incapacitation, chronic pain, or chronic illness, drug or alcohol abuse (self or loved one), loss or change of job, moving, any form of abuse, and severe financial problems all contribute to constant stress response in the central communication system.
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 “itis’ 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.
What is the ‘Food-Mood’ or ‘Gut-Brain’ Relationship?
We tend to think that the brain has ultimate jurisdiction over everything that goes on in our bodies. Wrong! We all have an enteric nervous system, dubbed our second brain. The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is made up of neurons and nerve cells that line the gut; it contains the same amount of nerve cells as the spinal cord and produces/uses 90% of the serotonin and 50% of the dopamine in the body. The ENS governs functions in the gut such as the absorption, digestion, and movement of consumed material from one end of the gut to the other.
The gut and ENS communicate with the brain through the vagus nerve. Almost counter intuitively, 90% of the signals sent via the vagus nerve are sent to the brain from the ENS. (That’s a lot of information that our gut is giving our brains!) Even in cases where the vagus nerve is severed (thus causing communication between the brain and the gut/enteric system to be dissolved), the gut is still able to perform all of its operations.
All of this information is really cool, but why is our gut considered our ‘second brain’? The gut (and ENS) is responsible for one of the most important functions our body does, turning the environment around us into usable energy-without this operation we would simply cease to exist. It’s the guts ability to function independently from our brain that ensures the continuation of the operation most essential to our survival. The nature of the relationship between the brain and the gut is in constant revelation; here are some things you may want to know about this relationship:
You are what you eat- or rather, you feel what you eat!
Signals from the gut to the brain seem to affect mood. Studies demonstrate that stimulation of the vagus nerve can be a tool in treating depression. In addition, during a recent study subjects received intragastric infusions of either a saline solution or a solution of fatty acids. The subjects that received the infusion of fatty acids were more resistant to sad emotion cues (such as music and pictures) than their saline-receiving counterparts. Fatty acids consumed from our food source is detected by receptors in the stomach/gut lining and feel-good nerve signals are sent to the brain, potentially counteracting cues of sadness.
Stop stressin’ cause you’re messin’ with your appetite!
Stress causes the gut to increase its production of the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is awesome because it reduces those feelings of anxiety and depression, and stimulates the activation of dopamine in the brain through signals sent through the vagus nerve. But the release of ghrelin in the gut also causes increased food intake. If you tend to overeat when you are stressed, ghrelin could be one of the culprits.
The blues and bacteria:
Further compounding the information we have concerning the interaction between the gut and brain, a study revealed that good bacteria in the gut can modulate the GABAergic system in the brains of mice. Bacteria in the gut interact with the ENS and sends signals through the vagus nerve and the GABAergic system. This could mean that the existence of good bacteria in the gut may ward away symptoms of anxiety and depression, therefore, a healthy dose of probiotics could be a useful treatment in depression or overall well-being.
What will my test results look like? And what do we do next?
Click on each image to see a full sample report of comprehensive test results. Your Health Coach will review these in detail with you and help you order the correctly targeted nutritional therapy. These are natural supplements formulated with vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and other functional nutrients to re-align your neurotransmitters. Contraindications with current medications are factored into the results, so you don’t have to worry about abruptly discontinuing use of prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. We then focus on a proper diet to feed your brain and re-establish a healthy micro-biome (your gut is also knows as your second brain). This is the holistic approach to returning back to both vibrant health and a happy mood free from anxiety and depression.