mood stabilizers | Integrative functional medicine blog

The best tests to assess Depression distress. Say that 5 times fast!




depression and mood disorders
With school shootings and teenage suicides getting so much attention (rightfully so), it’s no wonder there are soooo many people on antidepressants and anti psychotics these days. But why is everyone so depressed?

It’s definitely not because we lack a certain drug in our bodies. Testing for neurotransmitter levels in the body can often help us determine the root cause of depression and help correct or at the very least improve it.

Often times the medications patients are given for a certain condition actually make those conditions worse.

Which seems a little odd to me.

How often have you heard a commercial state the side effects to some nice and calming commercial pushing antidepressants and they quickly rattle off (in a nice pleasant voice I might add) “side effects may include depression, depressive like thoughts, increased thoughts of suicide, suicide, weight loss, weight gain, anxiety,” etc?

So Whats a girl (or guy) to do.

By the way, as of 2009 approximately 23% of females over the age of 12 were on
antidepressants or antipsychotics.

Either we are breeding psychotic and depressed kids or there is something else causing this epidemic.

In this blog we will cover a few of my favorite functional medicine tests that I use often to assess someones neurotransmitter levels. The results from these tests are then used to develop a personalized treatment plan in order to balance out those chemicals. (which we will discuss in another blog)

BTW - The title of the blog is a little bit of a tongue twister. Say that 5 times fast.

So a little background first on the most important neurotransmitter to test for depression or any other mood disorder.

Most prescription medications and conventional treatment has revolved around 3 different neurotransmitter.
Typically these are Serotonin, Norepinephrine and dopamine.

Serotonin is derived from tryptophan (can you say turkey dinner). This transmitter is typically associated with the GI system, blood platelets and the central nervous system. This is the transmitter that gives you the feelings of well being and happiness.

Norepinephrine and epinephrine - commonly known or referred to as adrenaline. It is the flight or flight transmitter. It allows or assist in vigilant concentration. These chemicals are similar in structure and function with a few differences. Which for the topic of this blog we will save for another time.

Dopamine - one of the hottest and most important transmitters. This one is associated with parkinson, restless leg syndrome, decreased gastric motility. Which by the way is why, if you are chronically constipated there is some evidence that you may be at an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease.

GABA - commonly referred to as a depressive neurotransmitter. However, it does not have depressive effects on the body. Instead, it more acts as a relaxant. Commonly used for anxiety. Interestingly, GABA only is effective as a direct supplement in those that have digestive disorders such as IBS, IBD, or leaky gut. In those with normal digestion GABA alone will not cross the BBB (blood brain barrier). So taking GABA as a supplement is not always recommended or even effective. If you do take it and you find it helpful, it actually indicates you have a a digestive disorder. Which is where approximately over half of all neurotransmitter are made. So many times if you fix digestion, you will restore neurotransmitter production thus helping depression and mood disorders.

See how this all goes round and round and everything is all tied together? Pretty Cool!

Glutamate - This is the bodies most prominent neurotransmitter. Generally excitatory in nature. It is also a precursor for GABA, the brains main inhibitory transmitter. The balance between the two is a delicate dance and is mandatory to test for before altering the dance.

Ok. So know that you know which ones are the most important to test for there are a couple different routes we can go.

I think by now you get the importance of testing before doing anything. This is the stance of any true blue Integrative Functional Medicine practitioner. If we can’t see where we are, we can’t see where to go. We might bump into bunch of things along the way and can actually make things worse.

Trust me! I’ve fixed a lot of messed up people from other someone taking a stab in the dark type treatment program. DONT DO IT!

Test #1 Cheapest.

Measures Amino acid levels in the blood. These tests are often available through many different labs. Although easy to do, in my experience and opinion are not necessarily the best route to go. Amino acid levels are not a true representation of neurotransmitter levels in the body. The Amino acids are precursors to transmitters and can be extrapolated to give you an indication of neurotransmitter levels in the body.
Which brings me to the next problem. You then have to infer or extrapolate what those extrapolated levels in the body mean for the brain. In short, One guess leads to another guess. The answer won’t be too accurate.

Test #2 Best and next cheapest

Measure the neurotransmitter levels in the urine and sometimes spot blood. With this test we are actually measuring the levels of the neurotransmitters in the body. The argument against this is…these levels don’t tell us whats in the brain. My answer is - you are exactly right!
But we can make a more educated inference. It will also tell us pretty directly if the interventions we are doing are actually making a difference and how they are affecting you. In my opinion this really is the only way you can or should get tested. Its cheap, easy and fast. Just the way I like it.

Test #3 Most accurate and Most expensive
I’ll just say this about this method of testing. No one ever does it. EVER! Why? because in order to actually measure the true level of neurotransmitters in the brain I’m sure you can guess would be pretty darn invasive. We will just leave it at that. DONT DO IT!


Chill out,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

P.S. - I offer Free consultations for anyone wanting a little guidance as well as phone or Skype appointments.
Give me a call (714) 996-6840 or Contact me to set one up.

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Is Our Water Poisoning Us?




Unless you’re doing something about it, YES IT IS!
poison in the water A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.
But the presence of so many prescription drugs, and over-the-counter in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

How do the drugs get into the water?
People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers
Researchers have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.
Just Some of the pharmaceuticals found in the water include medicines for
pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness, Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications, metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine, sex hormones.

These have been found in Many water supplies from Southern Ca all the way to New York. Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world.

Perhaps it's because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use.

Something you can do at home is to add a reverse osmosis water filter for your own drinking water.
Here are a couple of my favorite options (I try to buy made in the US. That is were I live.)

APEC Water - Top Tier - Built in USA - Certified Ultra Safe, High-Flow 90 GPD Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System (RO-90)

APEC - Top Tier - Built in USA - Ultra Safe, Premium 5-Stage Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System (ROES-50)
5 Stage Home Drinking Reverse Osmosis System PLUS Extra Full Set- 4 Water Filter

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn't the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals. Where does the rest go? If the public consumes this meat much of it ends up in our systems.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no (Not surprisingly). "Based on what we now know, I would say we find there's little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health," said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: "
There's no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds are getting into our water sources.”

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females.

"I think it's a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health," said Snyder.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics.

For several decades, federal environmental officials and nonprofit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants — pesticides, lead, PCBs — which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk. However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

"We know we are being exposed to other people's drugs through our drinking water, and that can't be good,"
says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.
This article was found on the front page of yahoo news on – line and is not some abstract finding. Wellness is a choice that we all have to make on a daily basis. We are being besieged from all angles even if we are not aware of it. Inform yourself and fight back as best you can.

Fight on,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

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