Neurotransmitters: Serotonin GABA Dopamine and Acetylcholine
Here are four key neurotransmitters essential to our health and well-being: Serotonin, GABA, Dopamine and Acetylcholine. Heres’ a brief look at specific functions, symptoms and conditions related to each.
You will note that some symptoms are common to multiple neurotransmitters. You may discover that you fall into one specific neurotransmitter category or may have symptoms of multiple neurotransmitters. To better differentiate your status, it is important to understand the function of each neurotransmitter and the quality of its symptoms.
Serotonin is produced both in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and in the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Serotonin produced in the CNS is associated with anger regulation, body temperature, mood, sleep, pain modulation and appetite. Serotonin produced in the PNS is associated with GI motility and pain modulation.
Serotonin provides a healing, nourishing, satisfied feeling in the body. When serotonin levels are sufficient and balanced you can sleep deeply and peacefully, enjoy family, friends, foods and activities and think rationally.
Symptoms or conditions of serotonin imbalance include:
• Obsessive-compulsive disorders
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Anxiety Disorders
• Bipolar Disorders
• Loss of pleasure in interests
• Feelings of overwhelm with ideas to manage
• Feelings of inner rage
• Feelings of paranoia
• Not enjoying life
• Lack of artistic appreciation
• Depression from lack of sunlight
• Loss of enthusiasm for favorite activities
• Not enjoying favorite foods
• Not enjoying friendships and relationships
• Unable to fall into a deep, restful sleep
• Feeling of dependency on others
Dopamine monitors our metabolism. It works like a natural amphetamine and controls our energy, excitement about new ideas and motivation. Dopamine is associated with the “pleasure system” of the brain and promotes feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate performance.
Dopamine has numerous functions in the brain related to motor coordination, cognition, mood, attention and learning. Dopamine controls bodily functions related to power, including blood pressure, metabolism and digestion.
Symptoms or conditions of dopamine imbalance include:
• Parkinson’s Disease
• Social Anxiety
• Heavy Menstrual cycles
• High or Low Blood Pressure
• Depressed libido
• Learning Disorders
• Attention Deficit Disorder
• Chemical Addictions
• Feelings of worthlessness
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Self-destructive thoughts
• Inability to handle stress
• Desire to isolate oneself
• Need to use caffeine to get alert
• Lose temper for minor reasons
• Distracted easily
As you read on, you’ll notice that acetylcholine is also closely associated with learning and attention issues. Dopamine deficiencies cause a loss of energy to learn while acetylcholine deficiencies lead to actual forgetfulness.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA) is the brain’s natural Valium. It is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter of the nervous system and is linked with relaxation, anti-anxiety and anti-convulsive effects. Sufficient and balanced levels of GABA provide calmness to your body, mind and spirit. GABA is also involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals involved in the feeling of well-being.
Physical effects of GABA imbalance can include headaches, hypertension, palpitations, seizures, diminished sex drive and disorders of the heart.
Symptoms of GABA imbalance also include:
• Anxiousness or panic for no reason
• Feelings of dread
• Feelings of “knots” in the stomach
• Feeling overwhelmed for no reason
• Feelings of guilt about decisions
• Restless mind
• Difficulty turning the mind off
• Disorganized attention
• Worry about things not previously thought of
• Feelings of inner tension and excitability
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is used to promote excitatory actions for cognition, memory and arousal. It regulates your ability to process sensory input and access stored information. Acetylcholine controls your brain speed by determining the rate at which electrical signals are processed throughout your body. When your brain speed slows, the brain doesn’t react as fast as it used to. This leads not only to reduced cognition, but to slowed impulses that result in organs functioning less well.
Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia and Myasthenia Gravis are conditions associated with imbalances of acetylcholine.
Symptoms of decreased levels of acetylcholine include:
• Learning disabilities
• Memory lapses
• Calculation difficulties
• Diminished comprehension
• Loss of visual and verbal memory
• Difficulty recognizing objects and faces
• Attention Deficit Disorder
• Slowed mental responsiveness
• Decreased creativity