What happens if your neurotransmitters are unbalanced?

Written by aimee rebekah shea
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What happens if your neurotransmitters are unbalanced?
Your body contains between 50 and 100 trillion cells that work together. (Chad Baker/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Neurons are specialised cells that carry messages throughout your body via an electromagnetic process. Neurotransmitters are chemicals created in the body through the synthesis of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. You have hundreds of neurotransmitters in your body. These chemicals regulate many processes, including mental performance, emotional well-being and pain response. Imbalanced neurotransmitters are generally linked to a diet low in amino acids, irregular sleep schedule, prolonged stress, genetic predisposition, unhealthy environment, and long-term exposure to pesticides, amphetamines and some prescription drugs. All the neurotransmitters in your body function interdependently. Therefore, a depletion in one affects production of others.

Mood Imbalances

All neurotransmitters affects mood and behaviour. A serotonin imbalance is one of the most common contributors to mood imbalances. Serotonin can cause excitement, happiness and enthusiasm. Low levels of serotonin are linked to feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, obsessive or compulsive behaviours and cravings.

Decreased Motivation and Energy

Imbalances in dopamine levels in the brain are the primary cause of problems with motivation and energy. The cells in your body need time to recover after period of stress. Neurotransmitters help neurons to recover after stress. If your neurotransmitters are depleted, your body may be slow to recover from stress on a daily basis, causing a decrease in energy.

Sleep Problems

Gamma-aminobutyric acid is the neurotransmitter that helps to induce relaxation and sleep. It creates balance in the brain by inhibiting over excitation. The secretion of GABA also helps to produce human growth hormone, which affects muscle growth and the creation of fat cells. Depletion of HGH is prevalent in adults over 40 and may be connected with sleep problems. Noradreneline depletion has also been found to affect alertness and the sleep-wake cycle.

Imbalances in Attention, Memory and Learning

The neurotransmitters noradrenaline and adrenalin regulate attention, mental focus, memory, learning and cognition. Low levels can result in lack of focus, and high levels have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A dopamine imbalance can also affect the way the brain reacts to sounds, smells and sights. This can result in a so-called "brain fog" and increased difficulty concentrating.

Sensitivity to Pain

Neurotransmitters modulate pain in the brain and relay pain messages. For example, when there is tissue damage in your body, neurotransmitters are released continuously to prolong the experience of pain. Neurotransmitters act in this way as your body's internal communication system, telling you to slow down when you are injured or sick. Chronic illness, stress or a sustained injury can cause depletion of neurotransmitters. Depleted neurotransmitters release fewer messages of pain to your body, leading to cells that are more sensitive to pain over time.

Decreased Sexual Activity

Neurotransmitters are involved in all three levels of sexual activity: desire, arousal and orgasm. Neurotransmitter levels have a direct effect on the ability to secrete testosterone and oestrogen, the hormones necessary for healthy sexual activity. Dopamine plays an excitatory role in sexual activity. It promotes craving for continuous sexual activity once sexual stimulation has started. Dopamine also supports the secretion of oxytocin, the chemical in women responsible for orgasm. Because neurotransmitters are key in regulating sexual interest and response, depleted levels can lead to disinterest in sexual activity or sexual dysfunction.

Decreased and Increased Appetite

Five neurotransmitters have been shown to affect appetite. Ninety per cent of serotonin in the body is found in the digestive system. Sustained low serotonin levels can cause increased cravings for carbohydrates and sweets and eating disorders. Dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenalin work together to regulate metabolism. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can cause cravings and addictions such as anorexia and bulimia.

Mental Illness

Over time, imbalanced neurotransmitters can lead to many mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Often, people with mental illness are born with altered neurotransmitter functioning. Poor diet, stress and use of street drugs are all factors that can lead to increased imbalances and more severe symptoms.

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