Disorders of the brain — or perhaps we should say the “mind” — are amongst the most perplexing, heart breaking, and frustrating that any human can experience or encounter.

Part of the answer to the riddle of depression, anxiety, mood swings, addiction, eating disorders, insomnia, ADHD, Autism, and so many other conditions and concerns lies in the over 100 little chemicals found throughout our nervous systems. These chemicals that act as the “hormones of the brain” are called neurotransmitters. Some of the most important neurotransmitters are:

  • Serotonin
  • GABA
  • Adrenaline
  • Noradrenaline
  • PEA
  • Dopamine
  • Glutamate

Neurotransmitters control numerous processes in our bodies. From fear to arousal to joy and sorrow, they have a part to play in keeping things running smoothly. Conversely, a lack of specific neurotransmitters can lead to specific problems. Low serotonin can cause anxiety and depression. Low GABA can cause anxiety and sleeping disorders. Low acetylcholine can lead to trouble with memory recall and motor function impairment.

The reasons why neurotransmitters may be low are as varied as the functions they regulate. In any case, it is possible to check where levels are in order to add to the overall picture of health and understand the root of what ails you. Even if you just want to quit smoking, checking the balance of neurotransmitters is useful.

Neurotransmitter deficiency in children can also lead to problems, one of which is learning difficulties. Checking their levels can lead to the “a-ha” moment that reveals the reasons behind their learning and behavioural state.

Something even more interesting about the negative impacts on neurotransmitters is kynurenic acid. Kynurenic acid (KYN) is a marker for inflammation in the neurological system, whether caused by trauma or chronic infection. KYN comes from tryptophan, the chemical precursor to serotonin. If more tryptophan is converted to KYN than serotonin, a deficiency and imbalance occurs, causing the symptoms mentioned above. KYN can ultimately turn into quinolinic acid, which is toxic to the nervous system.

Once more the good news is that testing for kynurenic acid is simple. In fact testing levels of nine key neurotransmitters and KYN only takes a sample of first morning urine. The information this simple test provides creates an overview of precise levels and how each chemical is interacting with each other. A single, clear image of the “hormones of the brain” that make our lives possible. With this information in hand we can better tailor treatment to address specific imbalances rather than treat symptoms and hope for the best.

As treatment progresses our naturopaths can use this test to keep track of how effective our tactics are and adjust accordingly. That is one of the best parts of such simple tests: tracking progress towards better health rather than just using it to find out what’s “wrong” with you.

If you are experiencing symptoms of neurotransmitter deficiency, or if you have experienced a life event that could cause it, such as a concussion, let our doctors know. One quick, simple test at the Nardella Clinic of Calgary may provide answers about addiction, depression, autism, learning difficulties, and so many other frustrating situations of the mind.

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