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Thousands of miles of microscopic wiring. The complexity of our brain is difficult to grasp. Fortunately, there is such a thing as neurotransmitters. Chemical messengers who keep an overview in all chaos and transmit messages between nerve cells, neurons. In this way, they affect every cell, tissue, organ, and muscle in our body. Curious about what kind of neurotransmitters exist? How they can act as an inhibitor or stimulant? Keep on reading….

(Reading time: 7 minutes) 

Our brain consists of thousands of miles of microscopic wiring.

Do you sleep badly? Do you have problems with your memory? Or do you have trouble keeping your concentration? You may be deficient in a specific neurotransmitter. Because yes, neurotransmitters play a role in just about every process in our body and are therefore decisive for your health. 

Dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin have a major influence on our well-being. They are therefore also the four most researched neurotransmitters. Each of these four neurotransmitters has many specific, important functions in our body:

1. Dopamine

–> What does it do?

Dopamine is also referred to as the ‘success neurotransmitter’. Not coincidentally, because dopamine increases the testosterone level in our blood, which gives motivation and drive a boost. Dopamine causes harder muscle contractions, regulates the immune system, blood pressure, and adrenal function. Dopamine is therefore crucial in controlling physical movements and learning new motor skills.

Those who naturally have high dopamine levels in the blood generally react better to simple carbohydrates than to starchy carbohydrates. 

–> What if I have a shortage?

A lack of dopamine can lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease. 

–> How can I increase it?

Research has shown that red meat increases the levels of dopamine in our body. Coffee and vitamin B12 also stimulate the release of dopamine in the cells. 

2. Acetylcholine

–> What does it do?

Acetylcholine is also referred to as the ‘speed neurotransmitter’. A logical nickname, because acetylcholine plays an important role in fast muscle contractions and information processing. Do you have fast reflexes? That’s because of this neurotransmitter.

Since acetylcholine plays a crucial role in information processing, your ability to concentrate is highly dependent on the level of acetylcholine in your body. 

–> What if I have a shortage?

Acetylcholine is the only neurotransmitter responsible for the transfer of nerve impulses from the brain and nervous system to the muscles. This neurotransmitter, therefore, controls the muscles. This also means that no muscle contraction is possible without acetylcholine. 

–> How can I increase it?

Saturated fats increase the levels of acetylcholine in the body. So adjust your diet and go for nuts that contain saturated fats, for example. Supplements such as magnesium can also have a beneficial effect on the amount of acetylcholine and thus our brains. 

Saturated fats increase the levels of acetylcholine in the body.

3. GABA

–> What does it do?

The neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, has a relaxing effect on the peripheral nervous system and calms the brain. GABA gives you peace of mind, allows you to cope with stress and anxiety better, and creates stability. 

–> What if I have a shortage?

In our fast and volatile society, full of external stimuli, a shortage of GABA is an increasing problem. Can’t calm your brain? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Then you too probably have a low GABA level. Stimuli come in harder and you are more prone to stress. That in turn provides a lowered immunity and a basis for other health problems. 

–> How can I increase it?

Anything that calms you down is good for your amount of GABA. Meditation, breathing exercises, or just looking for the peace of nature… All good ideas to boost your GABA. Your diet can also lend a hand. Dairy, kernels, nuts, seeds, and poultry, in particular, can work wonders. Finally, it has also been proven that acupuncture can restore GABA.
 

GABA gives you peace of mind.

4. Serotonin

–> What does it do?

Serotonin is the so-called ‘well-being neurotransmitter’ and is therefore very important for our general well-being. It is also the most abundant inhibitor in our brains. In the evening, serotonin is converted into melatonin, the hormone that stimulates sleep. 

–> What if I have a shortage?

Depression has been linked to a serotonin deficiency. The quality of sleep can also suffer greatly from a serotonin deficiency. 

–> How can I increase it?

Only 1 percent of serotonin is produced in the brain and can only be used there. 95 percent is produced in the intestines, so it’s pretty clear that optimal gut health is important. All the more so because our brains mimic the intestines. That’s also the reason why our intestines are often called our second brain. 

Furthermore, nature (a green environment) would stimulate the production of serotonin. Aerobic training also has a beneficial effect. Just think of the famous ‘runners high’ that runners experience now and then.
 

The disastrous consequences of an imbalance

Let it be clear: neurotransmitters influence all processes in your body. And so neurotransmitters have a direct impact on your health. So much so that an imbalance even can change your personality traits. 

A lack of dopamine has negative effects on your drive and motivation. You are restless, impatient, have a low libido, are extra shy, and have trouble concentrating. Too high of a dopamine level, in turn, can cause aggression, compulsive behavior, fear, and impulsivity. 

Those who are deficient in acetylcholine will experience problems with their memory. Often you forget things or have difficulty recalling memories. Your creativity can also take a big hit. 

Anxious and nervous behavior are characteristics of a GABA deficiency. Phobias, chills, sleeping problems, and chronic pain are also common complaints. 

Do you often have pessimistic thoughts? Then you might have a serotonin deficiency. Feelings of depression, insomnia, nervousness, and melancholic behavior are personality traits that can typically occur due to a serotonin deficiency. 

But what causes such an imbalance?

The above complaints and symptoms are very recognizable for many people. Everyone will have to deal with it at some point in their life. But how can you prevent such an imbalance? For this, it is important to take a closer look at the three biggest causes. 

1. Nutrition

A healthy and balanced diet is critical to nourishing the brain’s neurochemical building blocks. Through your diet, you provide the body with the right molecules to successfully support the synthesis, transport, and breakdown of neurotransmitters. 

To successfully get into the nerve cell, the neurotransmitters have to break through the blood-brain barrier. This process is facilitated through the correct diet, for example by consuming sufficient amino acids. 

2. Medication and drugs

Drugs are often directly affecting how our hormones and neurotransmitters work. Alcohol, for example, will stimulate the production of GABA, which in turn will have inhibitory effects on other brain cells and substances. 

Drugs affect our hormones.

3. Chronic stress

Stress causes the production of cortisol, which will slow down the production of serotonin. Hence the direct link between stress and depression.

5 ways to successfully restore your neurotransmitters

1. Fix the gut

As indicated earlier in this article, the intestines are often called our second brain. They contain as many as 300 million neurons. We cannot stress enough how much they affect our mood and behavior. For example, consider how often we rely on our intuition – our so-called gut feeling.

Many neurotransmitters are produced in the intestines. Gut health is perhaps the most important factor on the way to a good neurotransmitter balance and healthy nerve cells. We collected more information about intestinal health in this article.

2. De-stress

The list of negative health effects of stress is endless. The neurotransmitters also suffer from stress. So de-stressing can be a very effective technique to get your neurotransmitters back into balance. Therefore stimulate your sleep, give meditation a chance, and use other relaxing techniques such as a sauna.

3. Move

You are probably familiar with that intense feeling of happiness after a difficult workout? This is because your body produces dopamine and serotonin during training. Exercise is one of the most efficient ways to regulate neurotransmitter balance.

Moving stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin.

4. Light therapy

You can also successfully eliminate an imbalance in neurotransmitters through light therapy. After all, the serotonin levels in the brain are manipulated thanks to light therapy. This method is especially effective for those who suffer from seasonal depressive disorders such as winter depression.

5. Supplements

Certain supplements can restore the imbalance in 3 different ways: supply chemicals (precursor) for the neurotransmitters, increase the effectiveness of the neurotransmitter and reduce the breakdown of the neurotransmitters.

We will explain in a future article which supplements can help specifically. You can also simply contact us for more information.

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