4 Tips for Keeping Norepinephrine in Check

By Jessica Wilhelm, CN

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Norepinephrine, also referred to as noradrenalin, is one of the excitatory or stimulating neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.  It is made from the metabolism of dopamine and released from the adrenal glands (our stress response organs) and nerve cells.  Norepinephrine also converts to epinephrine (adrenalin).   If norepinephrine had a personality it would motivated, driven, and attentive.  This neurotransmitter can cause anxiety, sleep cycle disturbances, irritability, and increases in blood pressure when elevated, as well as some "mood dampening" effects.  Low levels of norepinephrine are associated with low energy, weakness, and decreased focus ability.  To keep norepinephrine levels in check, consider the following:

Stress Reduction

We cannot over emphasize the importance of reducing stress in promoting neurotransmitter balance.  It is estimated that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits in the US are for stress related complaints.  Stress can generally be divided into several categories by intensity and duration.  Acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress each have a different effect on the body and how it responds.  Different types of stressors, from emotional situations to food sensitivities can negatively impact the brain, gut and hormones leaving us wondering what happened to our youth and zest for life.  Here are a few ways relieve stress. 

Deep breathing
Tai Chi
Exercise (non-high intensity, gentle walking, swimming, yoga, weight lifting)
Apps for stress reduction
Take a technology detox
Acupuncture or Acupressure
Spend time with pets, family or friends who bring you joy
Listen to or watch comedy
Time in Nature
Soothing Music
Practice positive thinking
Gratitude journal

Eat your Fruits and Veggies

Vitamin C and copper are two nutrients required to covert dopamine to norepinephrine. The highest levels of vitamin C in the body are found in the adrenal glands and brain tissues. It serves to help modulate cortisol- a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and plays a role in collagen production.  When the body is stressed the need for vitamin C increases.  Because the body cannot make vitamin C, it must be consumed in the diet or taken as a supplement. 

Vitamin C can be found in many foods, especially fruit and vegetables.  Excellent sources of vitamin C include, but are not limited to papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, and kiwi.  Foods rich in copper include sesame seeds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, beet greens, spinach, kale, and beans.  Taking a vitamin C with bioflavonoid supplement daily is also beneficial to feed the adrenals and support the production of norepinephrine. 

Support for Low Norepinephrine

Because norepinephrine is produced from dopamine, consuming foods rich in dopamine precursors, but also utilizing key amino acids can boost norepinephrine. The amino acids DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) or Tyrosine can be taken in supplement form to increase the production of dopamine which in turn can promote norepinephrine production. Utilizing adrenal glandulars and/or adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, cordyceps, and rhodiola support the healthy production of cortisol, as well as the catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine). 

Support for Elevated Norepinephrine

It is imperative to modulate excess excretion values for norepinephrine, because it puts stress on the calming neurotransmitters, serotonin and GABA, as they try to maintain balance. If norepinephrine levels are elevated for a prolonged period of time, the body’s pools of serotonin and GABA can become depleted which will exacerbate mood, anxiety and cause sleep cycle disturbances. To calm the “fight or flight” response of elevated norepinephrine the amino acid Taurine or Phosphatidylserine are helpful.  If norepinephrine is not efficiently being converted to epinephrine, it can signal a potential methylation problem that would need to be addressed.  Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, etc.), guarana and kola nut is also key because they can raise norepinephrine levels which can increase anxiety and contribute to trouble sleeping. 

If you’re curious about where your norepinephrine level stands, consider testing your neurotransmitter levels with My Brain Balance or My Brain + Stress.