If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, weight gain, joint pain, PMS, menopausal symptoms, or conditions such as fibromyalgia, ADD, ADHD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other conditions that keep coming back to haunt you, assessing and balancing neurotransmitter and hormone function may be the solution for you.
Many chronic symptoms and diseases share a common root. They are linked to imbalances in the chemical messengers our bodies use to communicate and maintain balance. These chemicals are our hormones and neurotransmitters. Contemporary medical science has shown us that if these chemical messengers are deficient, in excess, or out of balance with each other, they are often the underlying cause of many of the chronic symptoms and conditions that unfortunately exist in our society.
What is a neurotransmitter?
Neurotransmitters are chemicals found within the nervous system that control nervous system function. They are produced and stored in the brain and are released into action when the brain cells are electrically 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.
You’ve probably heard of some of these. Serotonin, for example, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that plays important roles in sleep, mood and appetite. Many antidepressant medications such as Prozac work by increasing serotonin levels. Epinephrine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is important for motivation, energy and mental focus; low levels of epinephrine can cause fatigue, lack of focus and difficulty losing weight.
Other excitatory neurotransmitters include norepinephrine, dopamine, glutamate and PEA. Other inhibitory neurotransmitters include GABA, glycine and taurine. Imbalances in the levels of these neurotransmitters in relation to each other can cause or contribute to anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and a host of other chronic symptoms.
What are hormones?
Hormones are essentially neurotransmitters, but instead of staying contained within the nervous system, they are released into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body for their effects. One you may have heard of is cortisol, which is released by the adrenal glands to raise blood sugar and manage inflammation. Our cortisol levels are most commonly highest in the morning; it’s part of what gets us up and running for the day. High cortisol levels are associated with stress and insomnia, and prolonged periods of stress can fatigue the adrenal glands, resulting in low cortisol output, morning fatigue, poor stamina and low mood.
Other hormones include thyroid hormone, the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, the adrenal hormone DHEA, and others. Small amounts of these hormones can have profound effects on our health and sense of well being.
The Neuroendocrine System
Together, neurotransmitters and hormones make up what we call the neuroendocrine system. When this chemistry is in balance we feel well, have good energy, sleep well, and have balanced moods. All too often, unfortunately, our neuroendocrine system is imbalanced, resulting in stubborn chronic symptoms and patterns.
What contributes to these neuroendocrine imbalances? Many factors including poor diet, acute and chronic stress, environmental factors (exposure to toxins, heavy metals), lack of sleep, insufficient exercise and activity, use of stimulants and other drugs, and genetic predispositions. Even medications that are prescribed to relieve symptoms can contribute to further imbalances by blocking the action of hormones or depleting neurotransmitter stores.
As naturopathic doctors, we understand that everything in the body is connected, and that these chemical messengers are responsible for the body’s communication system that keeps everything in balance. From our immune health and how we digest our food to how our heart beats and blood pressure is regulated—our neuroendocrine system plays a crucial role in maintaining good health.
OK, so what can you do about it?
Fortunately, there are ways to accurately measure the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones in our bodies so we can better understand how our health issues may relate to imbalances in these chemicals.
Using urine and saliva, we can assess chemical imbalances and put them in context with your specific symptoms and patterns. Here at San Francisco Natural Medicine, we specialize in using state-of-the-art, noninvasive lab tests to identify these neuroendocrine imbalances that are the underlying causes of the symptoms you may be dealing with. We work with a number of specialty laboratories to find the most appropriate and cost-effective tests to meet your individual needs.
With these tests, we can tell which of your neurotransmitters and hormones may be low or high. With this information, we are able to design personal treatments consisting of natural supplements, diet, and lifestyle modifications that can effectively heal the underlying cause of your conditions. Retesting can help determine if the treatments are effective and guide us in making changes as your neuroendocine system re-balances. We want to alleviate your symptoms, but more importantly we want to keep them from coming back by correcting these imbalances.
Working together, we can repair your body’s communication system and achieve optimal health so you may enjoy the best quality of life today. Taking control of your health can help minimize your risk for chronic disease and keep you healthy and balanced for life. The system and methods we use are proven to work, and are cost effective.
At SFNM, we have helped thousands of people restore their health and balance, and eliminate or manage chronic symptoms more effectively. Contact us today for a free, 15-minute consult to find out how we can help you.