Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in the nervous system that relay signals in the body, much like emails relay information from one person to the next. Due to stress, poor diet or genetic factors, these chemical messengers can become imbalanced over time leading to a variety of symptoms and conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, headaches, migraines, fatigue, weight issues, insomnia, memory problems, and chronic pain. Advances in scientific technology now provide the ability to measure these neurotransmitters to identify what is out of balance. Discovering your neurotransmitter excretion values in urine provides information on how to support the body using customized diet and nutrient regimens for optimal health.
Neurotransmitters are found in various bodily fluids, including serum, plasma, platelets, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), saliva, and urine. Since urine collection is a non-invasive method of collection, and since urine is the primary method of neurotransmitter elimination, it is the preferred method for measurement. Research has demonstrated a link between central nervous system (CNS) neurotransmitters and peripheral nervous system (PNS) neurotransmitters via crosstalk that provides information for clinical evaluation. This unique method of testing allows clinicians to create customized nutrient protocols based on urinary excretion values. The neurotransmitters that are produced in the brain and CNS require the same amino acid precursors and enzymes for synthesis as they do in the PNS and body. Based on this connection, urinary neurotransmitters give us a reflection of neurotransmitter imbalances that can result in symptoms and conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, headaches, migraines, fatigue, weight issues, insomnia, memory problems, and chronic pain.
From a holistic standpoint, chronic stress may be the culprit for many health problems. Whether a person is experiencing physical stress (athletic over-training, physical injury, etc.) or emotional stress (work stress, relationship troubles, worry over finances, etc.), the body is programmed to release stress signals such as cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) as part of the "fight or flight response." If cortisol levels are elevated, this indicates the adrenals are working very hard to keep up with the demand.
When circulating cortisol levels are high, it counteracts the action of insulin keeping glucose in the blood for a longer period of time. Cortisol elevation also down-regulates the immune system, creates sleep cycle disturbances, and has effects on hydration. Conversely, if ongoing stress has been a factor over a long period of time, cortisol levels may become depleted.
Low cortisol has been associated with low energy, poor motivation, recurrent infections, and gastrointestinal (GI) permeability problems. By measuring cortisol levels in saliva we are able to glean information on how well the body is coping with stress. Evaluation of DHEA provides additional insight into how long and to what degree the stress response has been activated.
Combining neurotransmitters with stress hormones provides a broad picture of that is happening in the nervous system as whole which relates to mood/focus issues, anxiety, low energy and sleep cycle disturbances. Studies have shown that cortisol rhythm imbalances and elevated morning and evening cortisol levels may contribute to symptoms associated with low mood, but also the development of mood-related disorders.
The urinary excretion of these neurotransmitters do not provide a direct measure of the those in the brain, however they do show what is happening in the central nervous system as a whole, which correlates to brain function. Neurotransmitters produced in the brain, cross the blood-brain barrier where they enter the blood, some are made in the gut (95% serotonin), and by other tissues. These neurotransmitters are then filtered by the kidneys and excreted in urine. Neurotransmitter excretion reflects overall neurotransmitter health which can contribute to mood-related issues.
Researched enzyme immunoassay (ELISA) is used for the quantitative and sensitive determination of neurotransmitter levels. (Tecan Sunrise ELISA microplate readers are utilized.) All samples (as well as standards and controls) are run in duplicates with ELISA assay formats.
Please note that all parameters are calculated around creatinine. Higher creatinine levels will result in lower values for neurotransmitters across the board. Lower creatinine will result in higher values across the board. It is important to note that it is the ratio between specific neurotransmitters and not the individual parameters that are being assessed.
Steroid hormone levels measured in saliva reflect the circulating level of free steroid rather than total levels and represent the bioavailable fraction available to the tissues. This is the hormone fraction that has already been delivered to salivary glands and then diffused passively into saliva. Therefore, measuring free hormone in the saliva is a better measure of the bioavailable fraction as compared to the protein-bound hormone in circulating blood, which “might” be delivered to the tissues. Salivary cortisol has now been well recognized as the “gold standard” for investigating adrenal function.