The numbers are staggering. The leading cause of death for youths between 15 and 25 years is suicide. Among tweens (10 to 14-year olds), suicide is the fourth leading cause of death. More than 30% of South Africans will experience at least one episode of clinical depression in a lifetime. Current statistics have 1 in 4 South African adults on prescription anti-depressants.
Mood medication may mask the situation, but does it heal or address the actual problem? Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) behave similarly to hormones. Each has a function and effect on different parts of the brain. If levels remain stable, you feel energised, positive and balanced. As levels drop (any demanding period such as work deadlines, exams, major life events or simple ‘wear’ can exhaust neurotransmitters) you will experience degrees of imbalance.
Dopamine Deficiency: Feels like your ‘Get up and Go’ has gone. Lack of energy, interest and libido. Exhausted state and depressed mood.
Serotonin Deficiency: Loss of pleasure, tendency to isolate and avoid social occasions, self-absorption and depression.
Gaba Deficiency: High levels of anxiety, bursts of anger (road rage) and binge drinking are symptomatic of low Gaba.
Acetylcholine Deficiency: Forgetfulness and sense of hopelessness, where even the ability to imagine a better outcome is lost.
Feed your neurotransmitters what they require, and you can experience remarkable mood shifts within weeks. Sleep, high quantities of B Vitamins, Omega 3 and minerals as well as the amino acid essential for each. Dopamine is built on L-Tyrosine; Serotonin on L-Tryptophan (5 HTP); Gaba on GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) and Acetylcholine on Acetyl-l-carnitine.
Gut bacteria also influence neurotransmitter production. Each strain supports a different neurotransmitter. The Streptococcus family of bacteria are essential for Serotonin production so if your child is given antibiotics for a strep throat...? Supplement with Probiotics!
Perhaps Robert Burton in “The Anatomy of Melancholy” nailed it back in the 17th century? “Melancholy is helped by a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, music, ‘meaningful work’ along with talking about the problem with a friend.”
Since weight loss resistance is often linked to deficiencies in certain brain neurotransmitters, we include a comprehensive questionnaire in our diet consultation to profile natural neurotransmitter dominance and deficiencies.
Words: Rae Dengler, Health Specialist.