Monday, May 25, 2009

Mental Health & Nutrition Part B

Of Locusts & Men

Shy loner green locusts versus gregarious brown swarmers

What is the difference between shy loner green locusts and brown gregarious ones that are ready to swarm? Serotonin.

Scientists have discovered that when the level of serotonin increases in locusts they become more aggressive and even change appearance. In the laboratory, solitary green locusts can be turned into swarming ones in just two hours simply by tickling their hind legs to simulate the jostling that locusts experience in a crowd. This period coincides with a threefold but transient (less than 24 hours) increase in the amount of serotonin in the thoracic region of the nervous system. Experiments were then designed to show that serotonin is indeed the causal link between the experience of being in a crowd and the change in behavior. First, locusts were injected with specific chemicals that block the action of serotonin on its receptors: when these locusts were exposed to the same stimuli, they did not become gregarious. Second, chemicals that block the production of serotonin had the same effect. Third, when injected with serotonin or chemicals that mimic serotonin, locusts turned gregarious even in the absence of other locusts. Finally, chemicals that increased the natural synthesis of serotonin enhanced the locusts becoming gregarious when locusts were exposed to the tickling stimuli. This indicates that it is the synthesis of serotonin that is driven by these specific stimuli and in turn changes the behavior. Source: 'Serotonin Mediates Behavioral Gregarization Underlying Swarm Formation in Desert Locusts' 30 January 2009 Science

Neurotransmitter-Related Symptoms in Humans
The above illustrates the profound importance of neurotransmitters in the appearance, personality and behavior of locusts. How does this apply to humans? I have already personally seen that by using L-Tyrosine and 5-HTP that many people will feel more balanced.

The four primary neurotransmitters are:

Dopamine – Energy & Drive
GABA – Calm/Stable/Nurturing
Acetylcholine – Thinking fast/Creativity
Serotonin – Mood, Playful

In “The Edge Effect” Eric Braverman introduces the concept of our dominant neurotransmitter. Each of us has a dominant neurotransmitter which can be determined by completing the “Braverman Assessment.” When we complete it, we know what your dominant neurotransmitter is, and which one you may be deficient in.

By correcting our deficiencies and augmenting neurotransmitter production appropriately, we can optimize our health and wellness.

Key Neurotransmitter Supporters

Two primary tools we have to balance neurotransmitters are amino acids and hormones

Amino acids are the raw material precursors to the neurotransmitters:

Tryptophan --> 5-HTP --> Serotonin

Phenylalanine --> Tyrosine --> Dopa --> Dopamine --> Norepi --> Epinephrine

Dopamine: L-Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Methionine, Mucuna pruriens
GABA: Glutamine, L-Taurine, GABA itself
Acetylcholine: Phosphatidylserine, Acetyl-L-carnitine, Methionine
Serotonin: 5-HTP, Melatonin

Tyrosine and phenylalanine are transformed into dopamine; acetylcholine comes from choline, phosphatidylserine and N-Acetyl Carnitine; Glutamine converts to GABA; 5-HTP & Tryptophan are the raw ingredients for serotonin.

Hormones regulate neurotransmitter production

When hormone levels drop, neurotransmitter levels drop, and then health and quality of life decline. It is well known that some diseases are more likely to affect a particular gender. Depression and anxiety disorders are more common in women while compulsive disorders, substance abuse, and antisocial behavior are more prevalent in men.

Examples of the hormonal effects on Neurotransmitters

Progesterone: GABA
Testosterone: Growth Hormone secretion
Cortisol: Increase Dopamine
DHEA: Serotonin & Norepinephrine support

5-HTP by itself depletes dopamine. L-Tyrosine by itself depletes serotonin. The two supplements 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine should typically be used in balance. The daily doses of 5-HTP range from 50 mg to 500 mg. L-Tyrosine is used from 500 mg to 6000 mg.

Additional Tools to Balance the Brain

Rhodiola for stress
Mucuna Pruriens to support dopamine: libido, drive, motivation, depression
Lithium- neuroprotective, promotes better use of transmitters
CES - Cranial Electrical Stimulation for depression, anxiety and insomnia
Deep Breathing – to reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia

Rhodiola for stress, mood and fatigue
In Russian scientific literature, evidence exists that Rhodiola rosea supplementation improves speed and strength during track and field activities, swimming, speed skating, and ski racing, as well as in weightlifters, wrestlers, and gymnasts.

Most use Rhodiola rosea to improve mood and improving the ability to deal with stress.

A typical dosage is one or two capsules or tablets daily; one in the morning and when taking two, one in the early afternoon.

Dosing: Rhodiola rosea extract is often sold in 500 mg capsules which are often standardized to 3 percent rosavins. The usual dose is 1-2 a day.

Mucuna pruriens
Mucuna pruriens is a legume. This plant contains 4% L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. By helping to increase L-dopa the levels of dopamine increase.

In a few clinical trials in Parkinson's disease patients, three Mucuna pruriens treatments yielded positive results. This product should not be used in individuals with schizophrenia as dopamine is high in this condition.

Dosage: Mucuna Pruriens - 400 mg caps 15% L-DOPA
1-2 caps a day

Lithium- a misunderstood, essential element for the brain
What is the RDA for Lithium?
Most physicians would say there is no such thing. They are accustomed to the psychiatric use of extremely high doses of prescription lithium carbonate. The high dose lithium use is fraught with numerous serious side effect and must be carefully monitored. Most non-psychiatrists steer clear of using prescription lithium and most non-physicians assume lithium is a drug.

Lithium is #3 on the periodic table – it is an element not a drug. It has been used “drug like” but we cannot live without low doses of lithium. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition (vol. 21, No. 1, 14-21 2002) recommends an RDA of 1 mg. The biochemical mechanisms of action of lithium appear to be multifactorial by promoting the proper function of hormones, vitamins, growth and transforming factors and several enzymes.

Lithium for Depression, Anxiety, Alcoholism
I have seen lithium make a major difference in hundreds of people: depression resolving, anxiety calming. It works in most but not all who try it. In light of lithium being an essential element, easy to take, cost effective and available without a prescription at Physicians Preference - Lithate 20 mg 1 capsule a day, you may want to give this a try.
If it is going to help with the above symptoms, the results are usually seen within 2 months. Many take low dose lithium for general brain health apart from any symptoms, see below!

Growing a better brain? Helping prevent Alzheimer's?
Lithium is also neuroprotective from excitotoxins like MSG. It is associated with a decrease in the formation in the brain of harmful deposits called beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which increase in Alzheimer’s disease. Lithium has also been shown to increase grey matter in our brains significantly. The Lancet, Volume 356, Issue 9237, Pages 1241 - 1242, 7 October 2000 stated:

“Rodent studies have shown that lithium exerts neurotrophic or neuroprotective effects. We used three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging and brain segmentation to study pharmacologically-induced increases in grey matter volume with chronic lithium use in patients with bipolar mood disorder. Grey-matter volume increased after 4 weeks of treatment. The increases in grey matter probably occurred because of neurotrophic effects.”

Lithium for Crime Prevention
Researchers found that the incidence of homicide, rape, burglary, and suicide, as well as other crimes and drug use, were significantly lower in counties whose drinking water supplies contained 70-170 micrograms of lithium per liter than those with little or no lithium in their water. They actually recommended adding lithium to water to prevent crime!.

Immune Boosting & Gout
Lithium has been shown to boost the immune systems’ ability to fight cold sores, herpes and EBV (Ebstein-Barr). Lithium along with vitamin C helps prevent gout.

Bottom line
Low dose lithium taken as a supplement is safe and effective. The adult dose is 1 – 20 mg cap of Lithate (Lithium aspartate) a day. You can order this from Physicians Preference.

Cranial Electrical Stimulation for depression, anxiety and insomnia
Cranial Electrical Stimulation (CES) units are useful for anxiety, depression, and
Insomnia. One well studied unit is the Alpha-Stim. This device is FDA approved.

I have this unit and have used it for 4 years.

Click to watch the news reports discussing Alpha-Stim

Relaxation Techniques
Deep Breathing – to reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia

I have found that the most important part of doing deep breathing is doing deep breathing. What I mean is – keep it simple enough so that you do it often.

Basic – very do-able Deep Breathing Exercise

1. Sit or stand in a relaxed position.
2. Slowly inhale through your nose, counting to five in your head.
3. Let the air out from your mouth, counting to eight in your head as it leaves your lungs. Repeat several times.

Just doing this will promote health. You can keep it as simple as you want.

As you breathe in you might want to imagine that you are inhaling relaxation into your body and flowing through your limbs, reaching every part of you. As you exhale, imagine that all the stress from your body is being exhaled. After a few minutes, you should feel more relaxed and the stress in your body should be reduced.

Some find it helpful to imagine breathing in & out through the center of your forehead. Some find it helpful to count their breaths (prevents distraction). Some combine deep breathing with muscle relaxation.
You can do your deep breathing any time! In your chair at the office for just a few minutes to decompress, in the car at a stop light or lying down while going to sleep.