Cultivating a happy, calm and motivated mind that finds it easy to concentrate, relax and sleep soundly is not as easy as just willing it to happen. There are many factors that affect your mental wellbeing, and one of the most significant is a group of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that directly influence how you think and feel.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that pass signals from one nerve cell to another. There are many different types, each with their own unique functions. Some neurotransmitters such as dopamine create feelings of energy and vitality, whilst others such as serotonin are crucial for balanced mood, peace and calm. The level and efficiency of neurotransmitters is directly linked to your mental and emotional wellbeing, and deficiency or poor functioning of any one or a number of neurotransmitters can soon have a negative impact.
Key nutrients can help to naturally support neurotransmitter balance and optimal function. If you think you could do with a bit of a boost though, it’s important to first identify which areas need extra help.
Read on for an overview of the main neurotransmitters, a simple test to help identify neurotransmitter imbalance and a summary of key nutrients needed to boost levels.
Neurotransmitters - Main Types and Functions
Dopaminergic neurotransmitters - ‘energy and vitality’:
• Dopamine is needed for walking and balance, for motivation, attention, and reward / goal directed behaviour. Dopamine acts to reinforce behaviours that make you feel good.
• Noradrenaline is the neurotransmitter that gets the brain and body ready for action.
• Adrenaline is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response generated in stressful situations.
Serotonergic neurotransmitters - ‘relaxation and healthy state of mind’:
• Serotonin is involved in mood, appetite and sleep. It is the neurotransmitter of calmness and patience, helps us to cope with stress and frustration, and helps to limit aggression. It also has some cognitive functions, including memory and learning.
• Melatonin is crucial for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. It is produced in the pineal gland, and levels are at their highest between 12am and 3am.
Simple test to identify neurotransmitter imbalance
Dopamine Pathway - Energy & Vitality
• I have difficulty waking in the morning
• I need caffeine / energy drinks to start the day
• I struggle to begin tasks
• I feel tired before starting tasks
• I have restless sleep
• I have little interest in hobbies and activities
• I have a low motivation for love & sex
• I am not working on any new projects
• I have difficulty concentrating, or difficulty following my train of thought
• I feel tired / sad
• I have lacked vitality & dynamism for some time
• I feel less creative and imaginative than previously
• I have difficulty finding words
If you mostly agree with the statements above, it is likely that your dopamine pathway may need a bit of extra support.
Key nutrients to support the dopamine pathway: L-Tyrosine, Folate (5-MTHF), Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng
Serotonin Pathway - ‘Relaxation & Healthy State of Mind’
• I am irritable, impulsive and quick to anger
• I am impatient
• I feel both depressed and agitated
• I experience sugar cravings towards the end of the day
• I consume alcohol in the evenings to help me relax
• I struggle to stay calm & stand back
• I have trouble getting to sleep
• I am often awake at 3am
• My thoughts are often agitated, even at night
• I am highly sensitive to stress & noise
• My mood changes quickly
• I feel inner nervous tension, abdominal pain, digestive discomfort and/or muscle pain
• I often feel ‘on edge’
• I am prone to migraines and sensitive to light
If you mostly agree with the statements above, it is likely that your serotonin pathway may need a bit of extra support.
Key nutrients to support the serotonin pathway: L-Tryptophan, Magnesium, Folate (5-MTHF), Saffron.
Neurotransmitter balance is key for mental and emotional wellbeing
Supporting healthy neurotransmitter levels and function is key for mental and emotional wellbeing. When neurotransmitters are out of balance, a variety of symptoms can result, and over time, can be linked to debilitating illnesses such as depression and anxiety and in extreme cases, even neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. If you think your mental and emotional wellbeing is a bit under par and could do with a bit of extra support you can use the simple test to identify the area where you most need help and supplement with targeted nutrients to give your brain a natural boost.