Neurotransmitters: The Great Communicators

During times of hormonal imbalance, such as perimenopause or PMS, women often say they feel like they are going crazy.  Erratic mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability, rage, and feeling as if they are losing control, are common complaints.

Unfortunately, many health care practitioners are dismissive toward women and their emotional symptoms, and often treat them as if they need a psychiatric intervention.  Rather than seeking to understand the hormonal and chemical causes of their symptoms, physicians often placate women by dispensing medications instead.

Without an understanding of the root causes of their symptoms, women may try to shake off their symptoms, or ignore them.  When they can’t, they may feel as if they are losing control and their whole world is falling apart.

It’s important that you understand there is a biological reason for many of the emotional symptoms of perimenopause and PMS.   Not only are you suffering from a hormonal imbalance, but your brain chemistry is out of balance as well.  In order to feel right emotionally, it is critical that both your hormones and brain chemistry be in proper balance.

With an accurate understanding of the relationship between your hormones and your brain chemistry, you can introduce proper nutritional supplements, mood foods, and hormones, to help restore balance and change how you feel.

The Brain – The Epicenter of Wellness

The brain is like a communication command center. Composed of intricate patterns of nerve cells which coordinate thoughts, emotions, behavior, movement, and sensation, the brain is literally the epicenter from which all life giving communication flows. If the brain is functioning normally, there is balance, harmony, health, and wellness. If it is not, it can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and out of sorts.

Neurotransmitters – The Chemical Communicators

In order for the brain to communicate effectively throughout the body, important chemicals called neurotransmitters are needed.  Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers which transmit information from one brain nerve cell to another.

There are over fifty different neurotransmitters operating in your body. Four, in particular, play a huge role in your physical and mental health: serotonin and GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitters, and norepinephrine and dopamine, the excitatory neurotransmitters.

Without the proper balance of these important brain chemicals, your brain is unable to communicate effectively with your body, which can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, insomnia and fatigue.

What Causes an Imbalance of Brain Chemicals?

Many things can contribute to an imbalance of brain neurotransmitters, chronic stress, environmental toxins, drug and alcohol abuse, and even genetics.  Hormone fluctuations and the depletion of estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause and menopause can also cause an imbalance as well.

Hormones and Brain Chemistry Imbalance

Hormones have an enormous impact on the brain and brain chemistry.  Working in symphony with neurotransmitters, hormones communicate vital life sustaining instructions throughout your body.  Together, hormones and neurotransmitters tell us such things as when it is time to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, when to get focused, and when to slow down.  When they do not operate in balance as they are designed to do such as during times of hormonal transition, your life can start to unravel.

In early perimenopause, for example, women often experience erratic fluctuations of estrogen. These fluctuations in estrogen also cause fluctuations in serotonin, the inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, and contributing to feelings of calm and happiness. When serotonin levels are unbalanced, you may suffer from insomnia, anxiety, irritability or rage.

By introducing progesterone to help balance estrogen, you can counteract these symptoms.  Progesterone increases another inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA.  Known as the body’s natural tranquilizer, GABA calms the brain, inhibits over-excitement, reduces anxiety, and helps induce relaxation.  When GABA levels are too low, however, the result can be over-stimulation, anxiety, rage, and insomnia.

On the flip side of serotonin and GABA are dopamine and norepinephrine, the excitatory neurotransmitters. Dopamine and norepinephrine are the brain chemicals responsible for revving your system and preparing you for a call to action in times of stress. Fundamental in the body’s preparation for the ‘fight or flight’ response, dopamine and norepinephrine increase alertness and awareness, focuses our attention, and sharpens memory function.

When not balanced by the inhibitory properties of serotonin and GABA, dopamine and norepinephrine can cause high levels of anxiety, sleep disturbances, panic attacks, nervousness, heart palpitations, and sweating. On the other hand, if either of these neurotransmitters is low, we may feel depressed, unfocused, apathetic, and withdrawn.

Neurotransmitters Can be Tested and Manipulated

Thanks to the advancements in modern medicine, like our hormones, our levels of neurotransmitters can also be tested.  A simple, noninvasive urine test, for example, from specialty labs such as Neuroscience Lab or Sanesco Lab, can assess the levels of neurotransmitters in our body, enabling practitioners to effectively manipulate specific neurotransmitters which may be out of balance.

For example, the use of targeted, amino acid precursor therapy is a natural way to treat mild to moderate depression. Tryptophan or 5-HTP in combination with B6 and magnesium can increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, while tyrosine, B6 and magnesium can increase levels of norepinephrine.

Treating the Whole Woman

As you can see, understanding the delicate and intricate relationship between hormones and brain chemicals is vital in order to effectively treat the emotional symptoms associated with hormone imbalance.

In order to maintain balance and well-being, a woman needs the right combination of bioidentical hormones, in addition to the right kind of nutritional supplements to help rebalance brain neurotransmitters. Understanding the symbiotic relationship between hormones and brain chemistry is the key to establishing emotional wellness and balance.