8 Important Neurotransmitters and How to "Fake" Them

In today's post, we'll talk about a few neurotransmitters, how their deficiency affects us, and how to increase them naturally. How we feel is affected by the chemicals in our brain and we want to avoid any imbalances in them.


Brain wave tests have proved that self-affirmations and positivity towards oneself elevate levels of serotonin and endorphins allowing them to circulate throughout our body and the circulation stops when we speak negatively.



What are Neurotransmitters?


Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers, made by nerve cells themselves, that convey messages between a nerve cell and a target cell. The target cells can be in various parts of your body like muscles, glands, or even other nerve cells.


How do Neurotransmitters Work?


The nerve cells are the ones sending messages throughout our body and as we learned previously, those messages need to travel over synapses. This is called neurotransmission.

Then, an action potential will have to reach a synapse in order for a neurotransmitter to be released from the axon terminal. When that signal arrives at the end of the nerve cell, the vesicles that hold neurotransmitters release them into the synapse where they travel over to cells. These cells have receptors to which the neurotransmitters bind to. Each neurotransmitter has a specific receptor it binds to and if worked properly, can trigger an excitatory or inhibitory signal.


Excitatory vs. Inhibitory


Depending on the neurotransmitter, it can either trigger an excitatory or inhibitory signal. An excitatory signal is when a neurotransmitter binds to a receptor and causes a signal to be carried down the cell. An inhibitory signal is when a neurotransmitter actually prevents

the signal from being further transmitted.







8 Important Neurotransmitters


1. GABA


GABA is important because of how it balances Glutamate (see below) and rises calmness. It lowers the cell activity of those it binds to and thus, reduces nervousness.


What a GABA Deficit Looks Like


- Anxiety, stress, and worry

- Toxic cravings

- Mood disorders

- Excess neural signals in your Central Nervous System

- Could lead to epilepsy and seizures


How to Increase GABA Naturally:


- Eat whole grains

- Exercise

- Yoga and Meditation

- Herbal supplements such as theanine and lemon balm


2. Serotonin


Serotonin, the "happiness" chemical, is an important neurotransmitter that helps regulates happiness, moods, and emotions. It plays an important role in aiding brain cells with communication and conveys messages to and from nerve cells.


What a Serotonin Deficit Looks Like:


- OCD like symptoms (obsessive and compulsive actions and thoughts)

- Heightened impulsivity

- Insomnia

- Decreased self-confidence and feelings of hopelessness

- Social fears

- Low motivation

- Increased anxiety and panic attacks


How to Increase Serotonin Naturally:


- Meditation

- Exposure to UV light (sun)

- Aerobic Exercise

- Eat tryptophan-rich foods

- Recall positive experiences/think positive thoughts

3. Dopamine


Dopamine allows for learning, motivation, and pleasure and is what enables you to achieve set standards, goals, needs, and wants.


What a Dopamine Deficit Looks Like:


- Parkinson's like symptoms (anergia/lack of energy and anhedonia/lack of pleasure)

- Dysfunctions in the postsynaptic receptors

- Decreased self-confidence and feelings of hopelessness

- High sensitivity

- Low motivation

- Increased anxiety and panic attacks

- Trouble concentrating


How to Increase Dopamine Naturally:


- Meditation

- Setting small goals throughout the day as well as long term ones

- Creative arts

- Eat foods rich in L-Tyrosine (chicken, cheese, milk)

- Exercise

- Practice gratitude


4. Glutamate


Glutamate is involved in memory and learning, however, if an excess amount is produced, it can bring about strong feelings of aggression, anger, and impulsiveness. Occasionally, in excess, it can lead to death due to overstimulation of brain cells. It also is interrelated with GABA and they balance each other out as the main inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters.


What a Glutamate Deficit Looks Like:


- Mental exhaust

- Trouble concentrating

- Insomnia

- Fatigue


How to Increase Glutamate Naturally:


- Eat either plant-based/meat sourced protein

- Eat foods such as asparagus, corn, and spinach


5. Endorphins


Endorphins are released when your body is in pain or in stress. A short bit of elation is released in order to veil any physical pain and endorphins play an important role when it comes to easiness. They can be used to alleviate mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.


What an Endorphins Deficit Looks Like:


- Depression

- Anxiety

- Fluctuating moods

- Physical pain

- Insomnia

- Impulsivity


How to Increase Endorphins Naturally:


- Release of emotions (laughing/crying)

- Engage in a creative action

- Exercise (stretch tense muscles)


6. Oxytocin


Oxytocin, the "love" hormone is responsible for helping you build bonds and relationships with others and enables a sense of trust.


What an Oxytocin Deficit Looks Like:


- Feelings of loneliness

- Relationship withdrawal

- Low motivation

- Stress

- Lack of energy

- Insomnia

- Anxiety


How to Increase Oxytocin Naturally:


- Physical contact with another

- Cold showers

- Socialize with others

- Meditation

- Listen to music

- Exercise


7. Acetylcholine


Acetylcholine is important in muscle movement, learning, and memory. Your brain needs enough acetylcholine to form memories and is an important factor in synaptic plasticity- a process where brain cells can store memories and information.

What an Acetylcholine Deficiency Looks Like:


- Problems with memory

- Difficulty learning

- Poor cognition

- Alzheimer's Disease (lose almost 90% of ACh levels)


How to Increase Acetylcholine Naturally:


- Eat foods rich in choline (liver, red meat, legumes)

- Eat foods rich in zinc (pumpkin seeds, cashews)

- Grape seed extract



8. Norepinephrine


Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is released, considered as a 'stress hormone' into the blood when the brain (locus ceruleus- part of the brain stem) signals a stressful event has happened. Along with adrenaline, norepinephrine helps elevate heart rate and the pumping of blood to provide more energy to the body in order to deal with whatever is happening.


What Does a Norepinephrine Deficit Look Like?


- Anxiety

- Depression

- Alterations in blood pressure

- Sleep disorders

- Migraines

- Lethargy


How to Increase Norepinephrine Naturally:


- Exercise

- Sufficient amount of sleep

- Meditation

- Achievement of small tasks




Sources:


Cherry, Kendra. “How Neurotransmitters Work and What They Do.” Verywell Mind, 24 Nov. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-neurotransmitter-2795394.