There's a lot of things that we can do to look, feel, move and perform better.
There's even more that we can do to sleep better, improve our stress management and get more out of life.
Chances are, if you're reading this, that you likely go out of your way to exercise three to five times a week, maybe you even do Crossfit or hardcore physique training. You shop at local farmers markets, buy organic food and even some Physique Formula all natural supplements.
But what if you are STILL not seeing all the results you want? After all, hard work is only going to get you so far. You can only eat so many calories or so little.
Top that off with the fact that the MORE you do in the gym or with your diet there tends to be a corresponding rise in stress levels, inability to sleep, foggy headiness and just a lack of overall cognitive performance.
This where neurotransmitter testing comes into play.
Hold up...what are neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that play a critical role in the connection between your emotions and hormonal production of cortisol, testosterone, estrogen and a bunch of other metabolites. Due to there impact on the pituitary gland, your neurotransmitters are also influenced by your hormones. It’s a give and take relationship.
For example, I have a history of concussions. Two were diagnosed from my days of playing basketball and I recently experienced a third on top of God knows how many other hits to the head or bumps from being 6’6 that I experienced in my life.
If my testosterone is low, for example, yet my free testosterone (the amount of useable testosterone that your body can “see”) is high, my SHBG (a protein that “locks” testosterone and makes it unusable) is low and other hormone precursors are elevated then I should have high testosterone but what if it's low?
My medical doctor would want to give me testosterone shots but what if my brain, due to the concussions, is not telling my pituitary gland to produce LH (luteinizing hormone)? Then my testosterone will be rock bottom. In this case, it may be as simple as taking tribulus, a natural supplement.
Point being: Your neurotransmitters are KEY to your health.
When there is dysfunction in your neurotransmitter balance due to stress, poor lifestyle choices or illness, your six neurotransmitters can play a significant role in the following symptoms.
So what are the six neurotransmitters and what do they do?
Main role-contributing to feelings of happiness and well being.
Elevated levels are linked to anxiety, high blood pressure, irritability and low libido.
Low levels are linked to depression, obsessive worrying, carbohydrate cravings, PMS (in women), difficult with pain, irritable bowel disorder and sleep disturbances.
Main role-to act as a inhibitory chemical.
Elevated levels are linked to sluggish energy and foggy thinking.
Low levels are linked to feeling stressed and overwhelmed, ADHD, anxiety and seizures.
Main role-to regulate the pleasure/reward pathway, memory and motor control
Elevated levels are linked to hyperactivity, anxiety and mood swings. Possibly even autism.
Low levels are linked to memory issues, loss of motor control, cravings and loss of satisfaction
Main role-to regulate heat rate, increase blood flow and suppress inflammation.
Elevated levels are linked to anxiety, stress and elevated blood pressure.
Low levels are linked to a lack of energy and focus.
Main role -to manage the acute stress response and regulate heart rate, muscle contraction, glycogen breakdown and blood pressure.
Elevated levels are linked to ADHA, anxiety, sleep disturbances and acute stress response.
Low levels are linked to difficult concentrating, fatigue, cortisol dysregulation, poor recovery from training, dizziness and illness.
Main role-to regulate the major excitatory pathway in the brain
Elevated levels are linked to panic attacks, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, OCD and repress
Low levels are linked to agitation, memory loss, low energy lees and sleeplessness.
Most of the daily discomfort symptoms that you experiences are actually linked to neurotransmitter imbalances. In a “what came first” scenario, we’ll never know if it was our poor diet that contributed to too much or too little of a neurotransmitter or if stress depleted a specific neurotransmitter and that caused us to overeat, it’s impossible to tell.
Why wouldn't I just get blood work, a dried urine test (DUTCH) or food sensitivity testing done first?
Great question,I'm happy you asked it. There's no right or wrong way of doing things. I happen to have gotten my neurotransmitters tested after I tested my blood THEN did a dried urine test THEN did food sensitivities but there's no right or wrong order.
So what do I do after I have my results?
What's all this knowledge if we can't do anything with it?
While a neurotransmitter test will provide a lot of clues to your current state of health, I'm a fan of doing it with either a performance blood work panel or a dried urine test, the more we know the better we can tweak.
But if you JUST got a neurotransmitter test on its own, there's obviously a lot of permutations that you can see. It's impossible for me to give guideline but these general recommendations act as a good starting point.
- Make sure you're following a paleo for performance or what I call, The Physique Formula diet, that removes likely offenders such as soy, diary, gluten, grain and corn. From time to time those foods are fine but for a small period, a month or so, where you're trying to cause significant health changes, I really think they should be removed.
- Start on a omega-3 fish oil and curcumin extract right now. Brain inflammation is never a welcome guest regardless of what the neurotransmitter test shows.Lower the inflammation and all of your neurotransmitters will have a easier time getting balanced.
- Start eating brain supporting foods such as walnuts, eggs and fatty grass fed meats. While high in a variety of nutrients, we're really looking to up your choline intake here for overall brain health.
- You can start to get pretty individual based off of what the tests find from supplementing with melatonin if you struggle to get to sleep to theanine and GABA if you have trouble relaxing. Source Natural Theanine Serine is a great product for both GABA and Theanine
- Consider looking into SAMe which is a fantastic supplement that seems to balance all brain neurotransmitters.