Stress, Vitamin C, and Neurotransmitter Conversion: Some Definitions
In this series of articles, we’ll be analyzing some snippets of a few test results from my practice and explore how Vitamin C deficiency and other deficiencies could be related to the stress response. We will also look into how Vitamin C deficiency can be the underlying cause of neurotransmitter deficiencies and misfires in neurotransmitter conversion.
We will be using a deficiency-based medicine approach to analyzing neurotransmitter organic acids from The Great Plains Lab and cortisol levels from Labrix in a case studies from my practice. These tests have been indispensable in my practice and I am sure that you will feel the same once you start using them.
Our approach will be to Find The Deficiency First, and work from there. In many cases, it is “right under our noses”, hiding in plain sight. We just have to know what we are looking for.
This is challenging stuff, so here are a few definitions to make it easier:
Dopamine: The neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, satisfaction, and alertness. Low levels are connected to depression and similar adverse mental health conditions. Too much dopamine is connected to ADHD and addiction. Dopamine is one of the Catecholamines. Marker on the Organic Acid test: HVA
Epinephrine and Norepinepherine: Neurotransmitters that are related to heart rate and blood pressure; converted directly from Dopamine via the enzyme Dopamine Beta Hydroxylase. Both epinephrine and norepinephrine (formerly adrenaline and noradrenaline) are Catecholamines. Marker on the Organic Acid test: VMA
Serotonin: Neurotransmitter converted from the Amino Acid Tryptophan. It is involved in the digestive system (80% of all the body’s serotonin is found in the GI tract). It stabilizes mood and also converts to Melatonin, the “sleep hormone”, in the brain.Serotonin carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout the body. It plays a key role in body functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and sexual desire. There is also a relationship between Niacin (Vitamin B3) and serotonin, which we will get into later on.
Marker on the Organic Acid test: 5-HIAA
Dopamine Beta Hydroxylase (DBH): This is an enzyme that coverts Dopamine to Epinephrine and Norepinephrine. A deficiency in this enzyme can cause dopamine to “build up”, and certain health issues can arise. Excessive Dopamine can lead to addictive behavior, and a lack of this enzyme can be a cause. Vitamin C and Copper are needed to make this enzyme, and certain bacteria can inhibit it. (Incidentally, there are studies that show how Vitamin C therapy can be a major aid to getting patients off street drugs, and a likely reason is that it improves DBH function; more on this later)
Tyrosine Hydroxylase: This enzyme is responsible for converting the Amino Acid Tyrosine to Dopamine. This enzyme is dependent on Vitamin C and B6. A deficiency of this enzyme can lead to low dopamine levels.
Catecholamines: hormones made by the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. Examples include dopamine, which converts directly to norepinephrine and epinephrine (formerly called adrenaline). Catecholamines are stress-hormones that the adrenals send to the blood to respond to stressful events. Excessive catecholamine production or insufficiency in their conversion can lead to anxiety-like feelings, chronic headaches, and blood pressure concerns
Cortisol: A steroidal hormone that is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands (CORTex-CORTisol). It is also produced in tissue in lower quantities. Cortisol is released in large quantities first thing upon waking (“Cortisol Awakening Response”) and in a diurnal pattern throughout the day and it is also released as a reaction to stressors. Most regard cortisol as just a “stress hormone” when in fact it performs many different actions, such as assisting in metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as regulating the heart by “keeping it beating”. Too much cortisol for too long a time results in tissue and organ damage, while too little results in fatigue and can be potentially fatal. Cortisol production, conversion, and regulation are hyper dependent on Vitamin C. Markers found on the Salivary Hormone Test
HPA Axis: Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. This is the main physiological system that regulates and mediates the stress-response and the release of stress hormones such as cortisol.