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.
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.
(For established clients)
Not sure WHO to book with? No Problem! Here at MHH we have an AMAZING team of coaches and EVERY ONE OF OUR COACHES can help you with ANY of your conditions, so just pick the one that has availability on the day and time that works best for you.
Not feeling well and looking for help with your condition, diagnosis, or symptoms that won’t go away no matter what you have tried? Our holistic biological health coaches can help you! Our coaches teach you how your body works, what the underlying cause of your condition or symptoms are, and how to fix and address them using long-term solutions that are data-driven and that work!
Our holistic biological health coaches have a deep understanding of advanced functional testing and genetics testing, along with much experience in complex cases.
Our biological coaching team works with you to empower and teach you how to understand and interpret your lab results, what your results mean, how they are connected to your health conditions or symptoms, and most importantly, what to do with the information, how to put protocols together based on your lab results, and when to reorder your various labs to track progress.
You will become your own healing master learning how to navigate the healing process, how to modify your protocols, when and how to detoxify your organs and cells from the toxins discovered on your lab results. You will learn the importance of tracking your assessment forms and symptom sheets and how to troubleshoot your healing process.
In addition, you have the opportunity to learn how to understand YOUR genetic blueprint – Our coaches are trained in the field of epigenetics and understand implicitly that YOU are in control of your own gene expression and how your genes either work for or against you. If you choose to add genetic testing into your program, your genetic blueprint information can be used not only to help drive your plan of action for healing, but also it can be used to understand your body’s unique nutrition, lifestyle, sleeping, eating, and physical activity needs are so that you can optimize once you are healed.
Get help from our functional nutrition coaches who understand that there is no ONE diet that is right for everyone. Our nutrition coaches work hand in hand with our biological coaches so if you need any lab work done or specific protocols that would require supplement protocols, you have a team working on your behalf and your nutrition coach would make recommendations for which other team coaches would be able to help you.
Your coaches will teach and empower you to learn how to determine and navigate your diet modifications which are decided based on your extensive intake forms, history, and your lab data that your coaches may want to order for you. Based on all of this information, they will teach you what foods to eat and not eat according to various conditions and why.
Your functional nutrition coach will help you learn what substitutes you can use when there are certain foods you may need to stop eating for a period of time, how to put your meals together based on your dietary needs per your lab data, how and when to incorporate gut repair protocols, and what lifestyle modifications you want to address based on your labs and your health conditions.
Nutritional coaching can be a great tool by itself or combined with coaching from our biological coaches. You can schedule with either our biological or nutrition coaches and they can help you get started and make recommendations as needed.
Many people who have successfully mentored with our nutrition coaches have had past issues such as:
Mindset, past and present traumas, and limiting belief systems are some of the biggest barriers to healing, so much in fact that gene expression and biological ‘engines’ of the human body can change for the worse because of it.
In the many years, we have been working in the field of holistic medicine, helping people who have tried everything else with no success or little success, we have discovered how great of an impact our thoughts, beliefs, and past and present trauma, and chronic stress can be to the human body, mind, and spirit.
The rate of recovery and healing for those who place emphasis on creating new neurological pathways to imprint new and healthy mindsets and belief systems in how they perceive themselves and the world around them is greatly improved when the psychological aspect of mindset and integration of mind, body, the spirit is addressed through repatterning of the mind and body neurology.
By removing barriers discovered from traumas, mindset, and conscious/unconscious patterns that are not congruent for healing, health, and vitality, you set yourself up for the best outcomes in your healing journey. Healing only occurs when the physical, emotional, and mental barriers to healing are removed.
Therefore we incorporate mind, body, spirit integration work into our programs and in doing so, we see exponential increases in positive outcomes with our clients. We have put together the most comprehensive ‘whole person’ approach in the world, and this is why our results are so successful.
Our Emotional Processing, Stress Release, & Neurological Repatterning coaches work with you to create new neurological connections, anchor new neurology, and habits, and show you how to become aware of any conscious or unconscious belief systems that may be holding you back from healing and total health.
You are welcome to try one or two appointments to see what you think. We typically recommend a minimum of 6 sessions to make an accurate assessment of how this type of modality is working for you.
Here are some of the modalities our Emotional Processing, Stress Release, & Neurological Repatterning coaches use for brain and body repatterning:
Breathwork is more than just a simple exercise of intentional breathing. Specialized breathwork techniques are used to facilitate major transformation and healing by encompassing a wide range of therapeutic practices that are extremely powerful in providing immediate relief for pulling people out of fight or flight (the amygdala hijack we teach about in Part 2 of our Mastering Trauma Masterclass).
This vagus nerve activation through breath work activates the rest/digest (parasympathetic nervous system), stimulates healing, reduces blood pressure, reduces the cortisol stress response, regulates hormone and blood glucose activity, and heart rate variability (the biological stress response). It rewires the body for self-regulation of the nervous system in a manner that optimizes the body and creates resilience in times of stress.
Yoga breath therapy allows you to disconnect from the mind chatter, mind racing, and negative self-talk and reconnect with your body your energy. From this elevated state of awareness, you are able to facilitate healing, growth, and expansion. And if you are looking for some expansion of your body/mind/spirit awareness, then this type of breathwork can be nourishing and can facilitate the next layer of peace, love, gratitude, connection, clarity, and insights.
In the many years, we have been working in the field of holistic medicine, helping people who have tried everything else with no success or little success, we have discovered how great of a damaging impact our thoughts, beliefs, and past and present trauma, and chronic stress (the fight or flight response) can be to the human body, mind, and spirit.
By becoming aware of how to regulate our own nervous system, and resolve traumas, mindset, and conscious/unconscious patterns that are not congruent for healing, health, and vitality, you set yourself up for the best outcomes in your healing journey. Healing only occurs when the physical, emotional, and mental barriers to healing are removed.
The rate of recovery and healing for those who place emphasis on:
….. Find much success and amplification in their healing journey.
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