It is a common misconception that “low levels” of serotonin (or dopamine, norepinephrine or epinephrine) are the cause for dysfunction associated with various disease states. This often leads to the inappropriate use of neurotransmitter precursors – such as 5-HTP or L-tyrosine – to try and “raise” neurotransmitter levels to restore function. Such practices rarely work, as they don’t address the real issue.
The Real Problem
Electrical impulses in the brain take the following path: pre-synaptic neuron to synapse to post-synaptic neuron whereby the signal continues on to regulate a bodily function.
Illustration taken with permission from www.amino-acid-therapy.com.
For many years it was simply accepted that the cause of neurotransmitter dysfunction was due to low levels of neurotransmitter levels in the synapse (hence the use of tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs and SNRIs). However, it is now known that the real problem with most neurotransmitter dysfunction is permanent damage to the post-synaptic neurons. This damage can be caused by a number of factors, including neurotoxins, trauma or other biological causes. The end result is that the post-synaptic neurotransmitter levels must be increased higher than normal; the only way to do this effectively is through the use of targeted amino acid therapy.
The only way to effectively increase the total amount of neurotransmitter levels in the brain is by supplying the body the necessary amino acids and cofactors that it needs to make the requisite neurotransmitters. The amino acids and cofactors can cross the blood-brain-barrier, where they can be freely made into their respective neurotransmitters. Increasing the neurotransmitter levels in this way is analogous to increasing the voltage in an electrical wire, whereby turning up the voltage you get more electricity out of the other end of the wire. This is exactly what we want to do.
By “turning up the voltage” the electrical impulses through the remaining (undamaged) neurons will increase to the point where normal regulation and/or control are once again achieved. Once this occurs, the symptoms of neurotransmitter dysfunction will be under control.