(NaturalNews) There are four major systems that control most bodily functions and when these systems are out of balance, disease will eventually manifest. These systems include in order of priority: the nervous system, hormonal system, digestive system and the detoxification system. Since the brain rules all, first priority is given to the nervous system as the master control that runs the body. One of the ways the nervous system does this is by the production of neurotransmitters, most importantly serotonin. By keeping the brain healthy with proper diet, exercise and sleep, optimal health is a natural byproduct.
The brain communicates to the rest of the body through small protein molecules called neurotransmitters that make the difference between feeling full of energy and happy to feeling totally drained and depressed.
What affects neurotransmitter production?
• Hormone imbalance - Stress increases the hormone cortisol and when cortisol goes up, the serotonin levels proportionally decrease.
• Digestive imbalance - As stress increases and cortisol rises, the antibodies produced in the intestinal tract called secretory IgA decrease, which causes poor digestion and pathogens like candida, parasites and bacterial infections to multiply.
• Toxicity - A weakened digestive lining allows chemicals and toxins to enter the blood. This overloads the liver and when the liver can no longer "detoxify" these chemicals then spill over into the general circulation causing premature cell death. This is seen as organ and gland dysfunction which produces symptoms, conditions and diseases.
Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters. It regulates mood, sleep and appetite and affects learning and memory. Symptoms of low serotonin include anxiety, depression, sugar cravings and insomnia.
Most people who have these symptoms get prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI (Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil). What people do not understand is that SSRI's actually lower serotonin levels with chronic use. The receptor that the serotonin molecule fits into on the nerve cell membrane is like a lock and key and with overuse it becomes resistant. This means the receptor has been so overloaded that it does not want any more serotonin. The end result is that it takes more medication to get the same effect until the side effects of the medication outweigh any gain. If this is done chronically it can cause irreversibly damage to the serotonin receptor (the key does not fit in the lock anymore). What is the answer? Treat the cause of low serotonin. To balance serotonin levels naturally take a simple back-to-basics approach of proper sleep, exercise and diet.
When one does not get enough sleep, cortisol increases which then decreases the amount of L-Tryptophan that makes it to the brain. L-Tryptophan is the amino acid that is required for your brain to produce serotonin. When you sleep 7-8 hours you reverse this cycle and serotonin levels normalize.
Studies have shown that exercise balances serotonin levels similarly to SSRI's with the same benefits but without any of the side effects or serotonin receptor resistance or damage.
Recent research backs a higher polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) diet along with carbohydrates in the form of low-glycemic index vegetables for balancing serotonin levels and maintaining cell membrane fluidity so the serotonin receptor works more efficiently. This also increases the nutrients entering and toxins exiting the cells.
To balance the nervous system one must start with neurotransmitter balance; this is done not with medication nor with supplementation but first with the most beneficial changes that come from sufficient sleep, adequate exercise and a diet higher in PUFAs and low-glycemic index vegetables.
Sources for this article include: Sleep and serotonin: an unfinished story. Jouvet M. Neuropsychopharmacology. 1999 Aug;21(2 Suppl):24S-27S. Serotonin and sleep. Ursin R. Sleep Med Rev. 2002 Feb;6(1):55-69. An examination of serotonin and psychological variables in the relationship between exercise and mental health. Wipfli B, Landers D, Nagoshi C, Ringenbach S. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Jun;21(3):474-81 A mixed polyunsaturated fatty acid diet normalizes hippocampal neurogenesis and reduces anxiety in serotonin transporter knockout rats. Schipper, Pietera,b; Kiliaan, Amanda J.a,b; Homberg, Judith R.b Behavioural Pharmacology: August 2011 - Volume 22 - Issue 4 - p 324-334
About the author: Dr. Keith Nemec is a holistic doctor who has been treating patients for the last 30 years. Dr. Nemec is the director of the Total Health Institute, an alternative and integrative medical facility which offers both inpatient and outpatient services. Total Health Institute is a treatment and teaching facility that has both natural physicians and alternative minded medical doctors working together as a team in Wheaton, Illinois. Thousands of people have restored their health at the Institute over the last 30 years. Dr. Nemec has published three books: "Total Health = Wholeness", "Seven Basic Steps to Total Health", "The Perfect Diet From a Macronutrient Perspective". Dr. Nemec also hosts the radio show "Your Total Health" five days a week in Chicago. For more information about Dr. Nemec and the Total Health Institute visit www.totalhealthinstitute.com