trichotillomania neurotransmitter testingThere is probably no other area that has people more confused in regards to amino acid therapy than the testing used to determine a person’s unique amino acid needs. There are many tests out there claiming to test your “neurotransmitter levels” via a urine or blood test. We have run samples with many of these labs. We have found that almost all of them are inaccurate and/or are misleading with their interpretation of the test results.

Much of the confusion about neurotransmitter testing is propagated by labs that ‘sell’ neurotransmitter testing as a way to sell products. Unfortunately, this kind of slick marketing is sold to doctors and other health care providers who then ‘market’ these false ideas, inadvertently leading to more confusion and misunderstanding.

Here are several statements I have seen used by companies that attempt to sell products using neurotransmitter testing that have been shown to be completely false based on a review of the scientific literature:

Urinary neurotransmitter levels are indicative of the neurotransmitter levels in the central nervous system.
This is absolutely untrue. Urinary neurotransmitter levels are NOT indicative of neurotransmitter levels in the central nervous system. Said differently, urinary neurotransmitter testing can NOT be used to test the levels of neurotransmitters present in the brain. Urinary neurotransmitter levels are a measure of the neurotransmitter produced and excreted in the urine. However, urinary neurotransmitter levels can be used to determine a person’s amino acid needs and to optimize neurotransmitter function.

Urinary neurotransmitter testing can be used to establish a “baseline” assessment of neurotransmitter status and be used to determine amino acid needs.
This too has been shown to be false. Urinary neurotransmitter levels are NOT clinically useful if a person is not taking balanced amino acid precursors for at least one week prior to testing and can NOT be used as a method to determine amino acid needs before starting amino acid therapy.

Urinary neurotransmitters exist in one of two states.  The “endogenous” state is the normal day-to-day state that occurs when a person is not taking any amino acids. The “competitive inhibition state” occurs when significant amounts of both serotonin and dopamine amino acid precursors are being taken simultaneously. Peer-reviewed research has shown that urinary neurotransmitter testing is only useful when a person is in the competitive inhibition state. Therefore, taking a ‘baseline’ assessment of urinary neurotransmitters does not provide any useful data.

For those of you familiar with laboratory testing, it would be similar to running a glucose tolerance test without taking a set amount of sugar. A glucose tolerance test measures your blood sugar levels at set times (usually 1, 2, and 4 hours) after consuming a specific amount of pure sugar (usually 75 grams). It requires that you fast for 8-12 hours before testing and consume nothing except the 75 grams of sugar before initiating the test. If you eat food before the test or do not take the exact amount of sugar at the right time, the results would be worthless from a clinical perspective – they would provide you numbers, but the numbers wouldn’t mean anything.

Likewise, simply running a urinary neurotransmitter test without taking a set amount of amino acids at the specified times results in a bunch of numbers on a page that are of no clinical value. The numbers are there, but they don’t mean anything. In order for the test to be accurate, you must be taking a set amount of amino acids for at least 7 days before testing.

We have actually run samples from the same person on three consecutive days with several of the labs making these claims and gotten completely different results in each case. Baseline neurotransmitter testing is used by these companies only as a way to sell product; it does not provide clinical useful results that can be used to optimize neurotransmitter function.

Click here to learn more about what neurotransmitter testing can and cannot do; don’t be fooled by slick marketing and don’t let these tactics dissuade you from achieving optimal neurotransmitter function. We’ve helped thousands of people worldwide optimize their neurotransmitter status and we’d love the opportunity to help you.