I talk to people all the time who suffer from neurological issues they have trouble describing. They can’t put their finger on exactly what’s wrong, but they may have brain fog, attention deficit or a general feeling of the world. They usually just tell me their brain feels “weird”.
Many people struggle with this, and it’s often hard for their health care providers to untangle. Neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are usually involved, and oftentimes the medications patients are prescribed exacerbate or even become the root cause of those “weird” feelings!
As a pharmacist, I know many of our medications have value because they alter neurotransmitters, but I also know that result is temporary. In order to properly prescribe, doctors must know which brain chemicals are imbalanced in what ratios, before treatment. I recommend blood tests to evaluate neurotransmitter levels. I think this is where you and your doctor should start, rather than shooting medicine darts in the dark! Two excellent specialty labs that I trust for this are Pharmasan and Dunwoody labs. Any willing doctor can order a test from them.
In the cold weather months in northern climates, many people are vitamin D deficient, which affects neurotransmitters. It’s a good idea to get your vitamin D levels tested. There’s also a possibility of brain issues related to thyroid hormone optimization. Studies show thyroid hormone, specifically T3, improves mood better than prescription antidepressants. Note that T3 medications are not the same as T4 drugs (synthroid or levoxyl).
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Here’s how some neurotransmitter imbalances can make you feel:
Dopamine – Deficiencies make you crave alcohol, illicit drugs, opiate painkillers and cigarettes. Yes, correcting dopamine levels can help addiction. But too much dopamine is associated with aggression and paranoia. Imbalances with this neurotransmitter (especially when low) are tied to Parkinson’s, depression, attention/focus problems, schizophrenia, spectrum disorders, and autism.
Histamine – It makes you sneeze, but did you know that chronically high levels are tied to migraines and eczema, as well as obsessive compulsive behavior? Low levels cause fatigue, low libido and paranoia.
Serotonin – Popular antidepressants such as zoloft and prozac elevate it temporarily. Deficiencies can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, irritability and always feeling hot. High serotonin is tied to bone loss, irritable bowel syndrome, trembling, nausea, and a feeling of overconfidence that some might call arrogance.
Norepinephrine – If you’re low, you’ll have profound adrenal fatigue and stubborn weight gain. You’ll want energy shots all day long. If you’re GABA-deficient, you’ll suffer with insomnia and anxiety. High epinephrine might make you too aggressive.
What I’m saying is this: despite what you’ve been led to believe by drug advertising, there isn’t one pill to fix these brain issues. You have to do different tests, and then supplement with specific nutrients that push the correct metabolic pathways to produce the neurotransmitter or hormone you want. Good luck to you as you work toward helping your brain feel “normal” again!
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Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.