What are Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messages sent to neurons and other cells to convey information within the brain and from the nervous system to other parts of the body. They process sensory information and control behavior.
Studies have pointed to possible connections between dysfunction in neurotransmitters to several neurological and psychiatric disorders besides ADHD including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, borderline personality disorder, and even fibromyalgia.
Your body has roughly 100 neurotransmitters with over 40 neurotransmitters in the nervous system and brain. ADHD is most often associated with an imbalance in dopamine regulation and serotonin deficiency. I wanted to share with you a summary of other neurotransmitters that I find important in managing ADHD. As you can see many of their roles are related to common symptoms that show up in ADHD.
- Aspartic Acid - vital for energy and brain function
- Epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) - important for motivation, energy & mental health focus
- Glutamine - a primary excitatory neurotransmitter. Necessary for learning and memory
- Histamine - helps control the sleep-wake cycle, plus energy and motivation
- Norepinephrine (AKA noradrenaline) - Important for mental focus, emotional stability, and endocrine function
- PEA - important for focus and concentration
- GABA - a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain; necessary to feel calm and relaxed
- Glycine - like GABA, helps calm and relax the body
- Taurine - important for proper heart function, healthy sleep and promotes calmness
Here is what an imbalance or dysfunction in select neurotransmitters could look like:
|Neurotransmitter||↑ Elevated Levels||↓ Decreased Levels|
|Aspartic Acid||seizures, anxiousness||tiredness, low mood|
|Dopamine||poor intestinal function, attention issues, developmental delay||addictions, cravings|
|Epinephrine||sleep difficulties, anxiousness, attention issues||fatigue, lack of focus|
|Glutamate||anxiousness, low mood, seizures, immunological symptoms||tiredness, poor brain activity|
|Histamine||allergic responses, sleep difficulties||feeling tired|
|Norepinephrine||anxiousness, stress, hyperactivity, high blood pressure||lack of energy, lack of focus, lack of motivation, low mood|
|PEA||mind racing, sleep difficulties, anxiousness||difficulty paying attention, difficulty thinking clearly, low mood|
|GABA||hyperactivity, anxiousness, sleep difficulties||uncontrolled hyperactivity, uncontrolled sleep difficulties, uncontrolled anxiousness|
|Glycine||stress-related symptoms, low mood, anxiousness||poor muscle control & muscle tone, sleep apnea, lack of energy|
|Taurine||hyperactivity, anxiousness, sleep difficulties||uncontrolled hyperactivity, uncontrolled sleep difficulties, uncontrolled anxiousness|
You can change your neurotransmitter balance by changing what you are eating.
Nutrition plays a key role in neurotransmitter support. There are many nutrients essential to the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters including protein, amino acids (especially the precursors tryptophan and tyrosine), choline, vitamin C, B-vitamins, glutamate, zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
To gain the benefits of tryptophan in your diet, you must have sufficient levels of B6 as well. That is because B6 plays a role in the synthesis of tryptophan to serotonin, as well as other neurotransmitters.
Consuming adequate levels of the basic nutrients that support neurotransmitters manufacturing can go a long way to a healthy brain, more balanced neurotransmitter levels, and help improve your ADHD symptoms.
Struggling to figure all of this out? A lot of clients find that adding some of these neurotransmitter-rich foods goes a long way towards helping them feel better and many people do need some support in figuring out what foods to eat or finding out their own particular micronutrient needs. If you would like to do some testing or get some additional support in this area, I do work with people one-on-one.