Anxiety and Depression have hit all time highs not just in the United States but around the world. The most common approach for treating this and other mental health struggles is pharmaceuticals but is this the only suitable option? For many, prescription drugs are not solving the problems of mental health issues. So what can we do about this? Do holistic and natural approaches really work?
This is a discussion I started having many years ago after realizing that the medical side of mental health is the only medical field that treats and diagnoses based off symptoms or subjective data rather than off objective data or lab data. Without evidence of what is specifically going on in the brain or what is causing the imbalance, are we really expecting that continuing to address mental health the same way we have been doing it for 50 years now is going to yield any different results?
While some in the medical field might be of the opinion that newer methods of testing brain chemistry, gut function, and genetics isn’t the way to go, there are a multitude of practitioners and scientists who will differ. Let’s take a look at a different approach that is offering help to those who are looking for a different approach to resolving their mental health issues.
Below are some lab results showing brain chemistry levels in two different individuals, both suffering from Anxiety and Depression. The first image shows a client with higher than normal dopamine levels and the second shows another client with a dopamine deficiency.
As you can see from the first image the data shows this client has extremely high dopamine levels. High dopamine levels are often significant causes of high impulsivity, anxiety, sleep issues, muscle twitching commonly seen in restless leg syndrome, motor abnormalities commonly seen in Parkinson’s, and mind racing.
The Second image shows a contrast in dopamine levels where the data shows a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine deficiencies often lead to symptoms of an individual feeling a severe lack of motivation, mental and physical fatigue coupled with severe anxiety and mind racing. These dopamine deficiencies can lead to symptoms of mind racing, brain fog, decreased memory recall, sleep issues, and loss of libido.
A common misconception when it comes to mental health and brain chemistry imbalances is that it is usually because of a serotonin issue – specifically a serotonin deficiency. In recent years, however, Clinical studies have documented that dopamine is many times more of a problem related to feeling anxiety and depression than serotonin when it comes to mental health. In fact, it’s dopamine that is the culprit in many neurological issues from Severe Anxiety Disorder to ADD/ADHD to Parkinson’s and even Psychosis.
While more attention is now focused on dopamine as it relates to mental health it is still important to look at the body and brain chemistry and how an individual’s genetics play a role in regulating brain chemistry. Often times when dopamine is out of balance, it’s not the only neurotransmitter that needs attention. Often times other brain chemicals like norepinepherine, serotonin, and GABA are also out of balance and are adding to the person’s list of symptoms as they relate to their mental health.
So what causes the brain chemistry to get out of balance in the first place? THIS is the question that the top brain health experts are addressing. Finding out what neurotransmitters are out of balance is important but finding out WHY they are out balanced can drive a plan of action to fix the underlying cause of the problem and get lasting results. There are many factors that can cause various brain chemical imbalances. In this article we are reviewing the top 7 Causes of Dopamine Imbalance.
Top 7 Causes of Dopamine Imbalance
Infection can cause massive changes in brain chemistry. They can affect your dopamine levels, serotonin levels, GABA levels, histamine levels and others. Clostridia, for example, can cause excessively high levels of dopamine in the brain resulting in severe neurophychiatric disorders from schizophrenia, to autism to panic attacks to anxiety and even psychosis. Excessively high levels of dopamine in the brain leads to damage to the neurons, triggers the fight or flight response (panic attacks and anxiety), symptoms of Parkinon’s, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other symptoms associated with neuro egenerative diseases.
Many studies have shown that infections alter brain chemistry and are implicated as root causes of anxiety and many other psychological and neurological disorders. Understanding that infections like candida, clostridium, toxoplasma gondii, or different kinds of molds can significantly alter dopamine or GABA levels doesn’t it make sense that testing for underlying chronic infections should be a new standard in how we approach mental health issues? Many practitioners around the country are early adapters of this data driven approach and are seeing their patients and clients see the massive benefits of finally resolving their mental health struggles.
2) Amino Acid Deficiency
Amino acids are the building blocks of not only our cells they are the building blocks for our DNA and needed for production and breakdown of our brain chemistry. We cannot live without amino acids. Some amino acids can be made by the body (assuming the body is healthy and able to produce its own) and some are essential, meaning we need to get them from our foods.
We can quickly get the amino acids our body needs from animal proteins. If a person follows a diet that does not include animal proteins, then they need to take the extra time making sure they are choosing the right variety of foods to ensure they are getting a complete amino acid profile (ie, all the amino acids they need for their cells and DNA in the body to function properly).
If you are missing amino acids in your body, either from lack of intake or from a malabsorption issue in the gut (leaky gut or other GI issues) it can effect every systemic engine in your body, including the production and breakdown of brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, norepinepherine, and others. In fact, all of your brain chemicals will be affected when there is a lack of amino acids.
Amino acids like L-tyrosine and l phenylalanine, in particular, are needed for the production and metabolism of dopamine for brain function.
3) Vitamin Deficiency
Sometimes Dopamine imbalance can be caused due to deficiency and/or malabsorption of different vitamins and minerals like vitamin B2, B3, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, etc. Our body uses these vitamins and minerals to help in the production and conversion of dopamine and other brain chemicals in order to maintain a healthy neurotransmitter balance.
If we are having malabsorption issues, underlying infections or environmental toxins in our body like heavy metals, glyphosates, perchlorates, etc. then they can inhibit our body’s ability to utilize these nutrients to make our brain chemistry. Testing can be done to reveal and identify underlying issues with malabsorption, underlying infections, and environmental toxins.
4) COMT Gene Mutations
When we have mutations in the COMT gene, and the gene is not expressing itself, this can lead our body having an inability to break down dopamine or convert it to other brain chemicals like norepinephrine. This can result in higher than normal dopamine levels, which can lead to extreme anxiety, extreme impulsivity, mind racing, memory loss and more.
The good news, however, is that if we understand what is going on with the gene, we can find a solution to address the ‘hiccup’ in the abnormal processes of brain chemistry. Just because a person might have a COMT gene mutation doesn’t mean they are doomed to have mental health problems.
With genetics, knowledge is power! Understanding how your genes change your body chemistry allows you to understand how you can change it, correct it, and optimize your body and brain function. Those who have worked with experts in the field of epigenetics and brain chemistry imbalances have had amazing success by understanding how to alter their environments to get their bodies to restore normal function.
5) Methylation Gene Mutations… Not just MTHFR!
If we have methylation gene mutations these can also cause a problem with our body’s ability to produce dopamine and serotonin as well. Some of the methylation gene mutations you might be familiar with would be the MTHFR gene, for example.
There are easy turnarounds for these issues. Once we have the necessary lab results, we can devise a plan of action to tackle methylation gene mutations and restore the ‘misfiring’ engines that are affected by malfunctioning methylation genes. Working with experts in the field of epigenetics can be a real game-changer for those struggling with many different health issues including mental health, infertility, and other chronic health problems.
6) Prescription Medicine
Prescription Medications may help you with one particular issue, but they are always going to have side effects. You will seldom find a prescription drug in the market that doesn’t cause a tidal wave of negative and potentially dangerous side effects in the body. Surprisingly, some of the prescription medications that can cause dopamine imbalance are anti-depressants.
For example, a doctor might give their patient an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) to help preserve the serotonin in the brain and prevent the serotonin levels from getting lower than they already are. SSRI’s, however, can sometimes have a side effect on the body that affects the dopamine levels, thus making the problem even worse. ADHD and ADD meds can also affect dopamine levels.
Pharmaceuticals are not typically designed to be used long term and when used for long periods of time can cause chronic health issues and even lead to rebound anxiety and depression symptoms. Understanding and addressing the underlying cause of the brain chemistry imbalances and working with a good health care team to prepare a long term game plan can bring long term positive outcomes for those struggling with mental health issues. More times than not, medications don’t need to be taken in the long term if the client is working with the right health team.
7) Leaky Gut
A leaky gut can cause many problems even if your body has all the ingredients it needs to create and break down dopamine. The production and breakdown of dopamine take place in the gut, and hence, it is essential to have a healthy gut system.
A healthy gut helps the body absorb and uptake the nutrients that it needs to make and break your brain chemistry down.
Understanding what the underlying causes of your symptoms allow you to understand how to properly address the issues and get long term results. With proper care and attention to these causes, you can design a plan of action that can help you restore and maintain healthy brain chemistry. Whether it’s a Dopamine issue or a Serotonin or GABA issue, finding the root causes of why your brain chemistry is out of balance gives you both answers and solutions to fix the issues causing your symptoms.