by Keith Bishop
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that function as antidepressant, anti-anxiety or stimulant actions. Food and supplements provide the essential nutrients for the body to make and use neurotransmitters.
First, if one has significant depression issues, one should seek healthcare practitioner assistance for appropriate support. Prescription and herbal products increase or decrease neurotransmitter levels in the brain or attach to receptors on brain cells to produce quicker effects compared to the following changes.
These four steps may help improve your mood this holiday season:
Protein in food provides the amino acids used by the body to make neurotransmitters. If a person is not consuming or absorbing enough protein, he or she may not make adequate levels of neurotransmitters or create an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Protein sources include meat, dairy, eggs and beans (legumes).
The recommended daily requirement of protein is 50 grams per day or more. A person with small muscle mass will require 50 grams of protein per day, while a person with larger muscle mass will require more. An athlete will require more protein to repair, maintain and increase muscle mass, while an inactive person will require less to maintain his or her muscle mass.
Protein malabsorption due to low stomach acid, low pancreatic digestive enzymes or rapid food transit time through the intestines (loose stools or diarrhea) may contribute to low protein absorption, amino acid and neurotransmitters levels. Taking prescription and nonprescription acid blockers or antacids may also decrease the absorption of proteins and increase the risk of depression. Many healthcare practitioners are available to calculate a person’s protein requirement and assess and address potential protein malabsorption issues.
Every cell wall in the body and the brain is made up of fat. These fats include the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids appear to help neurotransmitters attach to their respective receptors on brain and nerve cells and improve their function. Dosage ranges from 2,000 to 8,000 milligrams of EPA/DHA may be required, depending on the person and neurotransmitter issue.
EPA and DHA fats are available in capsule and liquid forms from fish and algae oils. Omega-3 fatty acids from nut and seed oils are not as effective since the human body must go through five to seven steps to make EPA and DHA from them. Inherited metabolism issues or nutrient deficiencies may decrease or totally inhibit this conversion for some people.
Vitamins B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine and pyridoxyl-5-phosphate), B9 (methylfolate) and B12 (methylcobalamin) are essential for brain and nerve function. Deficiencies are linked to depression, anxiety and brain issues.
A homocysteine blood test from a healthcare practitioner is a functional assessment of how the body is metabolizing and using B vitamins. People with depression and homocysteine levels above 10 may need to increase their B vitamin supplement doses.
Vitamin D3 helps with seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety, and most other brain and nerve issues. Blood tests are required to determine initial dosage levels, and follow-up blood tests verify the correct dose. Blood tests are available from a healthcare practitioner or as a finger stick blood drop test from local compounding pharmacies. The latter blood drop test is a great option for small children or those afraid of needles since the blood is obtained with a finger stick.
Healthcare Practitioner Assistance
If providing basic protein and nutrients doesn’t help or if one has severe depression symptoms, one should seek professional assistance. Some people require prescription medications or targeted dietary supplements to quickly increase neurotransmitter levels, or counseling to help cope and deal with issues contributing to mood, depression and anxiety.
Numerous natural healthcare practitioners offer urine and saliva tests that measure neurotransmitter levels and allow successful targeted prescription, herbal or nutrient approaches. These practitioners will use both symptom assessments and neurotransmitter test results to recommend customized recommendations.
Starting the above changes now will help the body to improve neurotransmitters for a more joyous holiday season.
Source: Keith Bishop is a clinical nutritionist at Flourish Compounding Pharmacy and Nutrition Center, located at 14720 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-751-3333 or visit FlourishRx.com.