Tag Archive for natural supplements

How to Balance Dopamine Naturally

Dopamine imbalances are very common in the United States. Children and adults suffer from dopamine imbalances which impact ones mood, behavior and overall wellbeing. Stress, trauma, diet, medications and sleep can all make this neurotransmitter ineffective. When our dopamine levels are out of balance, it can cause serious physical and mental challenges—but don’t worry, there are natural ways to balance dopamine.

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What Are Amino Acids Anyway?

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

All to often, unless your in this industry, we forget about what our 7th grade biology teacher that taught “amino acids are the building blocks of life.” What does that really mean to us as adults?  Amino acid imbalances can effect us all.  Due to diet, trauma, genetics, fatigue, stress, and GI issues, some of our children are at a neurological disadvantage from the get go, and many adults become at risk do to many of life’s circumstances.  A stressful job, athletic training, depression or anxiety, or stress at home can literally hijack your Neurotransmitter levels, which amino acids create.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to do something about this naturally?  Here are the basics on Amino Acids and how they effect you and your child.

What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the breakdown products of proteins, some of which are not readily available in diet and need to be supplemented in a concentrated form.  They are the building blocks of proteins.  Proteins play a very important role in maintaining our health and make up a big part of the diet. The three main macronutrients found in food include carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Proteins are required in our diet, as they are an important building block of muscle and brain tissue.

Amino acids, derived from protein intake, are precursors to brain chemicals such as serotonin, a natural anti-depressant-like chemical produced in the brain. Without the proper amino acids in our brains can become depleted of these crucial chemicals, otherwise known as neurotransmitters. However, often times we cannot get amino acids from diet alone. Neurotransmitter depletion can be the root cause of many mood and health issues; depression, insomnia, Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety, memory loss, weight gain and addictive disorders, aggression, and increased sensory sensitivities.

The History of Amino Acid Therapy

There is a long, well documented, history of using amino acids for depression and other issues related to brain chemistry imbalances.  Discovered in the early 1900s, amino acids were used up to the late 1980s as the physician’s mainstay for treating these types of conditions.  While the advent of pharmaceutical medications all but eliminated this natural treatment option from the allopathic repertoire, amino acids have continued to be a popular option for complementary / alternative medicine modalities and an essential for those seeking natural methods for brain chemistry balancing.

Can’t You Get Amino Acids From Food?

The amino acid profile of various proteins varies greatly. Foods that contain protein, whether they are vegetarian or animal in origin, contain different combinations of amino acids. While we do need to keep up our overall daily intake of protein in order to maintain our health, proper neurotransmitter balance cannot always be achieved through diet alone.  Stress, trauma, ones GI issues, and physical exertion can all play a role. Protein intake increases the level of amino acids circulating around in the blood stream. Once proteins are broken down into amino acids by the digestive system, they are then released into the blood stream. In order for these amino acids to be taken up into the brain, they have to be carried across the blood-brain barrier using a specific transport system. This transport system will not help to correct amino acid imbalances within the brain. For example, if you have become depleted in serotonin because of high stress, dietary deficiencies or other lifestyle factors, the tryptophan uptake will not increase in any capacity across the blood-brain barrier.

Why We Need Amino Acid Supplements

Amino acid therapy is often used to help address many of the symptoms listed in Table 1.  Each neurotransmitter has a specific amino acid, which is required for its synthesis and plays a particular role within the brain and body.

Table 1:  Amino Acid Precursors

Neurotransmitter Neurotransmitter plays a role in:
Serotonin Sleep cycle, depression, anxiety, carbohydrate cravings, PMS (inhibitory)
Dopamine Focus, attention, memory, motivation/ drive, mood, addictive disorders (inhibitory/excitatory)
Norepinephrine Energy, drive, anxiety, focus, metabolism, mood (excitatory)
Epinephrine Energy, drive, anxiety, focus, metabolism, mood (excitatory)
Gaba Reduces excess stimulation (inhibitory)

Since each of us has a unique neurotransmitter profile, recommended supplements in any program should be specific to your imbalances which are derived through testing, without testing it becomes a “guessing game.”  While single amino acids can work to balance the brain, testing for these imbalances is the only way to know for sure what is out of balance. Using this method often requires several different products and should also include mineral cofactors, vitamins and a high quality omega-3 fatty acid.  Protocols that are created after your results are received incorporate your individual requirements and provide a program of highly targeted amino acids specific to your imbalances.  All of your brain nutrient needs are combined into a few products making it easy and convenient to buy and use.  Individual protocols can make the difference when based on proven testing methods. Restoring neurotransmitter levels and achieving your correct balance can change your life.

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The Depressed Brain: Alternative Treatments

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

It is estimated that 25 percent of the American population will experience depression at some point in their lives.  What we do know is that depression is treatable, and a variety approaches have been proven effective for reducing and overcoming symptoms.   Many consumers and those who suffer from depression symptoms are under the impression that medication is the only option.  This is not the case.

A study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and GlaxoSmithKline (a pharmaceutical corporation), indicates that cognitive therapy is at least as effective as medication for long-term treatment of severe depression, and it is less expensive.  This is not to say that medication is not effective, but rather that there are often options, such as talk therapy, that are overlooked by the average consumer.  We are told by commercials, friends, and even our physicians that depression can be treated with medications, but there are other options.

A recent article by Dr. Daniel Amen confirmed that natural supplements are effective in treating the neurological imbalances causing depression symptoms. Dr. Amen, author of Change Your Brain Change Your Life, is a renowned physician, child and adult psychiatrist, and brain imaging specialist.  He discusses the surprising outcomes after speaking to a group of UC Psychiatrists:

As a group, they were very interested in learning about using natural supplements as a way to treat their patients. You have to understand that in most traditional psychiatry programs in the U.S., the use of natural supplements as a treatment option is NOT part of the curriculum. Most psychiatrists get absolutely NO training in this.

And that’s a real shame. Because there are many supplements that have A level (strong) or B level (good) scientific evidence that they are effective in treating a number of mental disorders. Here are some examples:

  • St. John’s wort, SAMe, and sage have A level evidence that they help with depression.
  • 5-HTP, omega-3s, saffron, and DHEA have B level evidence that they reduce symptoms of depression.
  • St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, and inositol have B level evidence that they calm anxiety.
  • 5-HTP has B level evidence that it helps with weight loss.
  • Ginkgo biloba and sage have A level evidence that they enhance memory.
  • Huperzine A, vinpocetine, acetyl-l-carnitine, phosphatidylserine, and omega-3s have B level evidence that they boost memory.
  • Melatonin has A level evidence that it improves sleep.

For more on Dr. Amen Click Here

What has been confirmed by the scientific community is that most forms of depression can be traced to imbalances in neurotransmitter levels, more specifically Serotonin levels.  These levels can be depleted through genetics, or environmental triggers (stress, trauma, and lifestyle).  Serotonin is one of the primary inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.  Serotonin plays a role in so many areas of the body, and is one of the first neurotransmitters to become depleted.  It is involved in balancing mood, apatite, sugar and carbohydrate cravings (due to low Serotonin levels), sleep cycle regulation, pain receptors (including headaches and muscle pain), and many more.  When looking for alternative options to treating depression, testing ones brain chemistry is extremely important in identifying the neurotransmitters that are out of balance, and is another option for treating depression.  For more information on neurotransmitter testing and depression Click Here.

*If you or someone you know is suffering from depression please contact your practitioner immediately.

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