Neurotransmitters (NTs) are essential chemical messengers that regulate brain,
muscle, nerve and organ function. The most common NTs are serotonin, dopamine,
norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Low levels of these important chemicals is
extremely common in the general public and is due to innumerable lifestyle,
environmental, and dietary factors. This article is intended to help the reader
determine whether they may be deficient in NTs and how evaluation and treatment
of this disorder can help.
People with neurotransmitter deficiency disorder can suffer from one or more of the
following conditions: obesity, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue,
insomnia, attention deficit, learning disorders, panic attacks, migraines, pms,
menopausal symptoms, digestive complaints and many more.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other drugs working on the
neurotransmitter biochemistry such as Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, Wellbutrin,
etc. are currently some of the most commonly prescribed drugs. They work by
artificially increasing the amount of serotonin in the synapse of the nerve which
allows a temporary improvement in the chemical messaging system.
The problem with this approach is that these drugs DO NOT increase serotonin
levels and in fact deplete reserves of the NT. This occurs because the SSRI class
drugs cause an increase in an enzyme called MAO. It is common for people to
experience only temporary improvement due to this effect.
The most effective way to correct a neurotransmitter deficiency is to perform a
simple urine test to measure the NT levels. The treatment for optimizing the
neurotransmitter levels is to provide the basic amino acid precursors or building
blocks so the body can replenish the inadequate levels.
The true value of any treatment is the results it produces. Using this approach over
the last year, I have helped coach many patients to a higher level of wellness.
Patients with chronic depression, anxiety, and or insomnia have experienced a new
sense of wellbeing while continuing their prescription, others have successfully
weaned themselves off their prescription SSRI drugs after their symptoms have
improved. Weight loss patients using slightly higher amino acid dosing consistently
lose 1.5-2.5 lbs. per week without hunger while improving their lean muscle/body
FAQs regarding Dr. Nelson's NT program for anxiety and depression
Q. If I am already taking SSRI drugs, can I safely use this amino acid approach?
A. In my clinical experience I have seen great results with patients who have been on
SSRI drugs for many many years. First, we get the person feeling better, then if the
patient chooses, we slowly wean them off their prescription drugs.
Q. How does amino acid therapy increase NT levels?
A. 5HTP is converted into serotonin and then melatonin. Phenylalanine is converted
into tyrosine, then dopamine, L-Dopa, norepinephrine, and lastly epinephrine.
Q. How do you measure for the neurotransmitter levels in order to determine
A. The levels for epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, PEA,
histamine, and many others can be measured with a simple urine test. An initial
urine test can be given and then repeated after 6 to 12 weeks of therapy to
determine optimal neurotransmitter levels have been obtained.
Q. Are there any side effects associated with the amino acid neurotransmitter
A. Not only are there no side effects, but there are numerous side benefits. People
with depression often find relief not only from depression but also insomnia,
fatigue, GI symptoms, chronic pain, pms, menopausal symptoms, obesity, food
cravings, etc. In a small amount of people (less than 5%) people could have gastro
intestinal symptoms such as nausea, cramping, diarrhea, etc. This occurs in people
with severe neurotransmitter deficiency. This usually occurs within the first three
days and is solved by stopping all amino acids. Therapy is continued at very low
dosing after symptoms abate and then slowly increased to therapeutic levels over
three to six weeks.
Q. How long will it take until my symptoms of depression/anxiety improve?
A. Each individual responds differently to treatment. Some patients have noticed
incredible improvements in moods in a few days, others don't notice any
improvements for a period of time (sometimes 3-4 months) and then notice gradual
improvements over the following 3 to 6 months, most patients notice gradual
improvements beginning after 1 month of treatment and then continue to improve.
Q. What should I expect during a normal course of evaluation and treatment?
A. Evaluation involves an initial office visit to determine overall health history,
prescription drug levels, severity of symptoms, and any related health concerns.
There is an optional urine test for neurotransmitter levels. Treatment consists of the
1. Conditioning Phase - a one to two week period to prepare the patient for higher
levels of therapeutic amino acid dosing.
2. Therapeutic Phase - a period lasting anywhere from two months to 1 year+ where
high levels of amino acids are given to restore the neurotransmitter levels.
3. Maintenance Phase - ongoing treatment with a small amount of amino acids to
maintain the levels of neurotransmitters. This provides enough amino acids to
replace the neurotransmitters excreted throughout the day.
Q. Will I need to stay on amino acid therapy indefinitely?
A. Most people need to stay on a low level maintenance dose in order to continue
to feel well after their 2 month to 1 year plus treatment phase. If people stop taking
the amino acids, their neurotransmitter levels will slowly decrease over time.
Q. What amino acids are used in this therapy?
A. The amino acids used depend on the unique situation. The therapy will include
any number of the following: 5HTP, tyrosine, phenylalanine, cysteine, mucuna
(herbal L-Dopa), theanine, glutamine, taurine, methionine, GABA, phosphorylated b
vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.
Q. What is the approximate cost of the therapy?
A. The cost of the neurotransmitter replacement therapy can range from $80 to
$120+ during the therapeutic phase. After the patients symptoms have improved
and the urine tests show optimal levels, the cost for the maintenance therapy is
Q. What's the success rate for anxiety and depression using this approach?
A. Anxiety and Depression are conditions that are multi-factorial. Patients that
follow the dietary recommendations, take the supplements and don't give up before
the neurotransmitters levels have been restored have a very high success rate. This
natural therapy corrects the biochemical imbalance associated with these
conditions. Patients working with a qualified counselor or therapist to address the
mental and emotional aspects of these conditions have an even higher success rate.