© 2010 Peter Smith –Holistic Medicine Consultant- (version# 1/2013)
Whether an out of balance brain chemistry comes from the mind and emotions taxing your brain chemicals, or is an inherent chemical imbalance in the brain itself, the situation can be helped and often cured by directly re-balancing the brains neurotransmitter chemistry. Antidepressant and antianxiety drugs are not the only effective way to change brain chemistry, you can for example increase serotonin levels with diet, supplement, and amino-acid therapy.
Using pharmaceuticals is certainly a simpler option than working out the right combination of natural therapies to re-balance your brain chemistry however antidepressants, antianxiety and mood stabilising drugs can have undesirable side effects that you may not be prepared to tolerate; there’s also some evidence that long-term (over 2 1/2 years) use of antidepressants negatively affects the brain's ability and we gain its own natural balance in the future creating a dependency on the medicine and antianxiety medication can be extremely difficult to give up. Alternatively the pharmaceutical approach may not even be producing the therapeutic effect you're taking it for. For these reasons you may want to consider using alternative approaches to change your brain chemistry and treat your mental health problem. For cases of mild reactive depression a prescription of natural remedies is quite simple to put together, however figuring out an effective formula for bipolar syndrome will take some experimentation just as it can do with conventional pharmaceuticals. The advantage
There are five important brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that we can now work with: serotonin, dopamine, GABA, PEA and acetyl-choline. At present there is no useful way of directly measuring imbalances in these brain chemicals. Even if you could measure the precise levels of your neurotransmitters it would still not necessarily tell you if you are suffering from an imbalance in the activity of that neurotransmitter. This is because the problem can be a lower than average number of what are called receptor-sites where the neurotransmitters dock and interact with the nerve cells in the brain. So the best that can be done at present to identify a chemical imbalance in the brain in most cases is to make an educated guess based on the characteristics of the mental health problem and then experiment with different combinations of remedies until you find the best combination. The good news is that the drug free remedies are so non-toxic and almost side-effect free that there is no harm from the remedies in experimenting. It is of course very important that the person in a state of crisis or a risk of self-harming does not discontinue any helpful and stabilising medication to experiment with alternative is until it is completely safe to do so. It should also be noted that although the nondrug remedies produce little or no side effects when taken on their own, they can produce harmful side-effects when combine with conventional psychiatric medicines.
DopamineDopamine deficiency is associated with: addiction, depression, bipolar syndrome, lack of motivation, isolation, carbohydrate craving and lack of energy. Dopamine plays a role in a variety of different behaviours. It drives the exchange of information from one brain area to another, it involved in learning and generating new ideas. Release of dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Many things can simulate the release of extra dopamine including tasty food, sex, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, gambling and other high-risk behaviours such as adrenaline sports can stimulate the release of dopamine and induce a pleasurable euphoric feeling. Basically if something feels good and gives you a rush it probably involves dopamine.
So, comfort eating when your body doesn’t need food may be an attempt to increase low levels of dopamine.
Using sex as a pick you up when you feel stressed, low and depressed or in an addictive way can also be a compensation for low dopamine. Although sex addiction may include complex psychology and warrant psychotherapy, improving ones' dopamine status can help take the edge off the lows that may trigger the behaviour.
The effect of drugs especially cocaine on dopamine levels is well researched, and again the combination of psychotherapy and balancing ones' dopamine levels is recommended, and may provide the road to recovery some individuals. See Addiction.
Low levels of dopamine can also be involved in depression, particularly the type of depression that includes physical tiredness and lack of motivation.
Parkinson disease is also associated with low dopamine levels, but I have no clinical experience in treating this condition.
SerotoninSerotonin deficiency is associated with: depression, bipolar syndrome and dysthymia, anger control, obsessive-compulsive, suicidal inclinations. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter most closely associated with depression. Depression can respond surprisingly well to dietary and supplements therapies. Of course no two people are exactly the same, and the final prescription needs to be established individually.
GABAGABA deficiency is associated with: anxiety, worry, physical aches and pains, fibromyalgia.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter so it has a calming action on the brain and mind. Think of GABA as acting like the drug Valium. Anxiety and a worrying disposition with the inability to stop thoughts going around and around the mind is characteristic of GABA deficiency.
Phenylethylamine (PEA)PEA is a rarely discussed neurotransmitter substance; it is sometimes called the brain's natural amphetamine because it has amphetamine like effects, it speeds up the brain. Lack of PEA causes a depression dominated by low energy and mental lethargy rather than the intense painful psychological depression caused by serotonin deficient depression. PEA deficient depression and dopamine deficient depression may look similar and overlap making them difficult to distinguish. Based purely on clinical observations I believe that a significant lack of dopamine will more completely prevent a person from being able to experience even momentarily pleasure and excitement, however people with PEA deficient depression may be able to temporarily raise a smile or laugh at a joke. It is for this reason that I suspect and I've seen other people come to the same conclusion that PEA deficiency may be involved in causing what is called atypical depression as opposed to melancholic depression. The simple way to distinguish PEA deficient depression from other causes is to test it with supplementation. For more detailed information on solutions to PEA deficient depression.
AcetylcholineAcetylcholine deficiency is associated with: decline in memory, sharp thinking, sharp sentences. When acetylcholine levels decline your memory declines, you notice doing arithmetic in your head becomes much harder or impossible and just thinking becomes duller and slower. Boosting acetylcholine levels before exams can improve performance. Unfortunately supplementing acetylcholine has not proved itself to be of any help in Alzheimer’s disease, despite evidence that acetylcholine levels are found to be in the order of 90% lower than normal.
WARNINGDo not suddenly stop taking any prescribed medication. Do not take supplements to change your brain chemistry and prescription medications at the same time without expert supervision.
Whilst I encourage you to learn about and take control of your health you must be careful when self-medicating.
Get help and advice before experimenting, unless you know what you are doing.
Be safe, the primary rule of medicine is: first do no harm.