A MISSING KEY TO WEIGHT LOSS: NEUROTRANSMITTERS
Neurotransmitters (NT) are chemical messengers produced by your body to send signals along a nerve pathway. In order for messages to be relayed along the miles of nerves within your body, neurotransmitters must be produced, released, received and cleared from the spaces between the nerves, the synapse. For example, if you step on a sharp piece of glass in your bare foot you immediately feel pain. The pain message is relayed along a series of nerves from your foot to your brain. The message jumps from nerve to nerve by specific neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are proteins that are produced inside your body. They are synthesized from amino acids obtained from the foods you eat. Different combinations of amino acids form different neurotransmitters. If your dietary choices do not supply all the necessary amino acids you could potentially wind up with a specific neurotransmitter deficiency. There are dozens and dozens of different neurotransmitters produced in your body and each one has a different purpose. Some have the job of exciting other nerves and some have the job of calming down or inhibiting other nerves. Each neurotransmitter has a unique molecular form that allows it to attach to only one type of receptor on the next nerve. It is similar to a specific key to open your front door and a different one to open your office door. If you try to open your front door with your office key you won’t get the desired effect. If you don’t eat the right foods you won’t have the necessary amino acids to produce neurotransmitters to give you their desired effect.
Some of the more common neurotransmitters you may have heard of are GABA, acetylcholine, glutamate, serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. Different causes of NT deficiencies include poor dietary intake, emotional stress, physical stress, medication use/abuse and surprisingly, weight loss diets. Studies from several major universities have shown the same thing: Improper weight loss diets will deplete your body of serotonin, which in turn leads to increased cravings, lack of motivation, and increased moodiness all of which leads to rebound weight gain.
Another symptom of NT deficiency is depression. Most people in today’s world are either taking an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or they know somebody who is. These are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications. The most common complaint I hear from patients, particularly females, is the weight gain associated with taking these drugs.
Different NT deficiencies can lead to abnormal thyroid gland function. If your thyroid gland starts to slow down, so does your metabolism. Thus, your weight goes up. You can try one of the many fad diets to lose weight, but if you don’t crank up the thyroid again by balancing NT’s, you will never succeed.
NT’s affect the way the adrenal glands function. This is a big issue in today’s fast paced, high stress world. Adrenals are already stressed by poor diet, emotional stress, poor sleep habits, excess caffeine and soft drinks. Add to that NT imbalance and you are staring at adrenal fatigue. Blood sugar dysregulation, cortisol surges and insulin spikes all just compound the problem.
Traditional health care is not equipped to deal with these types of chronic health problems. Typically you will be given a drug to cover up the symptoms, your metabolic condition will persist, and you will have to deal with the side effects of the medications, most notably, unwanted weight gain. This is a flawed system of trying to regain health.
In our office we utilize a very detailed history including asking about any drugs or medications you have ever taken. We also have all of our patients fill out two very in-depth questionnaires: one that explores their metabolic profile and another that evaluates their NT levels. This is the only way to truly get at the root cause of patients chronic health problems and helping people regain their health while losing weight.