First, Neurotransmitters work in the brain to help balance your mood, appetite, sleep schedule, and communication between your nerve cells. Neurotransmitters actually fit into 6 characteristics.
That would be that they:
- are created in a neuron,
- live there,
- be released in a specific amount to depict enough change in the body, mind, or mood,
- when taken, either by injection or orally, the synthetic chemical must depict the same type of change,
- there are specific proteins to welcome the chemical,
- plus a means of turning it off, either by decomposing or by getting absorbed back into the cell.
The first Neurotransmitters, being Glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is responsible for sending signals between nerve cells in the brain. It's an excitatory amino-acid neurotransmitter, which kind of acts like an on button. So, it's going to cause the neuron to fire or start, when it interacts with it.
GABA is the short for Gamma-AminoButyric Acid, which is the opposite of Glutamate. Yes, it's actually the off switch, which makes this amino acid neurotransmitter the inhibitory. When GABA interacts with a neuron, that neuron is going to slow down and not provoke an action. It's kind of like telling the neuron to go to sleep.
Dopamine is most likely more known to you as the happy drug. It's known for making you happy, but it also plays a role in controlling movement. Too much dopamine can lead to mania, schizophrenia, and/or hallucinations, where as too little can cause Parkinson's Disease.
Endorphins are responsible for the feelings of euphoria that can occur with higher levels of Dopamine. They have more to do with the release of sex hormones, controlling your appetite, and reducing feelings of stress and pain. Chocolate is a secret for the secretion of endorphins.
Nuropinephrine and Adrenaline increases your bodies blood control, like blood pumping, blood pressure, and blood sugar. All these things contribute to your bodies energy levels. Nuropinephrine contributes to your ability to focus on certain tasks or other things, helps control your sleep-wake cycle, and also helps with memory storage. Too much Nuropinephrine can cause Euphoria as well as contribute to feelings of panic, high blood pressure, and even hyperactivity. Without Nuropinephrine or with low levels, lethargy is a result, as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and lack of concentration.
We then get to the neurotransmitter by the name of Serotonin, which plays a very large role in our sleep schedule, mood, and digestive system. It's created with L-tryptophan, which is an amino acid, often found in milk. It's converted into 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan, which is then used to create Serotonin or 5-HT. When levels are low, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.
5-HTP as a Natural Supplement
5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is naturally made and available over the counter. Up until April of 1995, the drug/chemical used to be only available with prescription. Companies like Natrol, Nutri-gold, and Now, use the African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia), especially it's seeds, to extract 5-HTP naturally. Since 5-HTP is the intermediate metabolite between L-tryptophan and Serotonin, it's purpose is mainly to raise the levels of Serotonin.
The supplement is known to help with weight loss, via the side effect of making one feel "full", thus curving cravings and essentially aiding in weigh loss. It's also known to aide against night terrors that contribute to insomnia. As well as contributing to reducing the pain one would feel when experiencing fibromyalgia and/or migraines and headaches. Not to mention, it helps to reduce stress and depression, if the stress and depression are caused by low levels of Serotonin in the brain.
There are side effects, as with any medication though. Some general side effects, of which include: Nausea, heartburn, gas, feeling "full," and a numbing sensation. Aside from the general, it has been said that taken 5-HTP alone, without any partner drugs or chemicals, can actually deplete other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and/or noradrenaline (neropinephrine). Research shows that once Dopamine levels are low enough, 5-HTP will actually loose it's affect, which would be bad.
In summary, if you are contemplating 5-HTP to manage your depression, anxiety, insomnia, eating habits, or headaches (as it may help all conditions), consult your doctor before trying it out.
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