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