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Meet your neurotransmitters

Meet your neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are your body's chemical messengers that transmit information from one nerve to another. Neurotransmitters can either excite, inhibit or modulate the neuron it is acting upon.
We are going to discuss a few of my favorite neurotransmitters, what they do, and what it might look like if you have a deficiency in one of them.
 
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that makes you feel warm and content. I like to think of it as sitting on the couch on a cold day with a snuggly blanket and a hot chocolate laughing at one of my husband’s jokes.
It is the feeling that everything is just right, you see the glass half full, you are proud of yourself, you are enjoying the company of friends and family, you are sleeping well, at peace in your mind, and are looking forward to life.
 
How is it made?
Serotonin is made from the amino acid (protein building block) tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP and then converted into serotonin.
Tryptophan can be found in turkey, beef, pork, dairy products, chicken, eggs, nutritional yeast, nuts, seeds, bananas, and pumpkin.
 
Why might we be deficient?
Unfortunately, conventionally raised animals are fed a low tryptophan diet of grains like corn. Less tryptophan in these animals means less tryptophan in your body to be made into serotonin.
Tryptophan competes with other amino acids for absorption in the brain. If there is little tryptophan in the diet to begin with, winning the absorption competition in the brain is not very likely.
High cortisol, the stress hormone increases the activity of enzymes that breakdown tryptophan, leaving less of this amino acid to make serotonin.
Blood-sugar imbalances deplete your serotonin and lead to mood swings.
 
What are some symptoms of low serotonin?
-Automatic negative thoughts
-Gut troubles like bloating, gas, digestive problems, and/or IBS
-Irritable for no reason
-Worried and anxious
-Trouble sleeping
-Obsessive thoughts and behaviors
It is worth noting that EXCESS serotonin can also cause some of the symptoms I listed above, so it is always important to get your neurotransmitter levels checked by a health professional.
Dopamine is the pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. It is responsible for attention, focus, and motivation.
It is the feeling of waking up refreshed and wanting to accomplish your to-do list with a smile, tons of energy, and a cheer team cheering you on.
 
How is it made?
Dopamine is made from the amino acid (protein building block) tyrosine. The body can also convert phenylalanine, another amino acid, into tyrosine and then into dopamine.
Side note: dopamine can also be converted into noradrenaline (aka norepinephrine) and adrenaline. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline together are called catecholamines or “cats.”
Tyrosine can be found in fava beans, duck, chicken, beef, eggs, oatmeal, mustard greens, edamame, dark chocolate, seaweed, and wheat germ.
DHA is also an important cofactor for boosting dopamine, so make sure you are eating some cold water fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines along with a tyrosine rich diet.
 
Why might we be deficient?
Too much stress will drain your dopamine stores and make it harder to find the motivation to do things.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that any activity we engage in that constantly over activates dopamine (that seek-find mentality) can cause dopamine depletion.
Some Potential Dopamine Depleting Activities (if done in excess):
-Social media consumption
-Eating super stimulating food like refined carbs and too much sugar (aka junk food and fast food)
-Drugs and alcohol consumption
 
What are some symptoms of low dopamine?
-Feeling depressed
-Having low energy
-Having no motivation to workout
-Having trouble concentrating
-Having trouble waking up in the morning
-Using caffeine to boost energy
 
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is both a neurotransmitter and an amino acid. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can help turn off certain kinds of brain activity.
When you are sufficient in GABA you are calm, relaxed, and sleep amazing. GABA basically allows you to tolerate stress better.
 
How is it made?
GABA is not found in foods, instead the amino acid glutamine converts into GABA.
Seafood, grass-fed meat, milk, eggs, yogurt, and bone broth all contain glutamine.
 
Why might we be deficient?
Chronic stress and unresolved trauma depletes glutamine levels, so addressing these issues is KEY in resolving any symptoms of low GABA.
 
What are some symptoms of low GABA?
-Stressed and burn out easily
-Unable to relax or "loosen up"
-Chronic anxiety
-Very stiff or tense muscles
-Easily overwhelmed
-Crave carbs, alcohol, or any drugs that relax you
One of the most important factors in addressing neurotransmitter deficiencies is blood sugar balance. Healing the adrenals can really help with this! Once blood sugar is balanced, we can then move on to other factors that improve neurotransmitter production.

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