Neurotransmitters and Vitamin C: An Under Appreciated Relationship
Neurotransmitters are biological chemicals needed for essential functions in the human body. They make us alert or calm us down, allow us to concentrate or feel rewarded, or they are the biochemical source of “motivation” or “elation”. Being aware of their importance is a key to understanding how to achieve better health for ourselves and our patients/clients.
Vitamin C is deeply involved in the conversion of many neurotransmitters. It is essential for the conversion of the amino acid Tyrosine to Dopamine, and then from Dopamine to the androgen hormones Epinephrine (adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (noradrenalin). Vitamin C is also needed to convert Tryptophan to Serotonin, as well as being required to convert tryptophan to vitamin B3. Vitamin C is a key nutrient in the conversion of many biochemicals in the human body.
The role of Vitamin C in neurotransmitter deficiencies and dysregulation is grossly under appreciated and the organic acid test snippet below shows a plausible connection between low levels of Dopamine, Epinephrine, and Norepinephrine and Vitamin C deficiency. This patient was treated by her medical doctors for mental health concerns but up until now has never been tested for any neurotransmitter function or Vitamin C deficiency. You can make a MAJOR difference in the lives of those who seek your help by using this test to find such deficiencies that need to be corrected.
Case Study: F, 35, Mother, Mental Health Concerns
This is the neurotransmitter section of an Organic Acid Test report of a 35 yr old female, mother, professional, that was taken on February 2nd, 2022. She has concerns about mental wellness, anxiety, concentration, brain fog, memory, and similar things. You can see that the catecholamines Dopamine (HVA) and Epinephrine/Norepinephrine (VMA) markers are low, as is the tryptophan marker 5-HIAA. The patient’s concerns are consistent with dopamine and serotonin imbalances. This is the first time this person has ever had any testing done to explore her neurotransmitter status, which was never addressed in the past.
As you can see below, this patient’s Vitamin C levels were very low. Most people who I have tested have had low or sub optimal levels of Vitamin C before utilizing one of my Vitamin C protocols. At the get-go, Vitamin C deficiency was assumed, and the test confirmed this. This marker shouldn’t be taken for granted and Vitamin C supplementation should be incorporated immediately, as there is likely a strong contention between the nutrient and the markers in both sections on this organic acid test.
Many practitioners who use the organic acid test and see results such as these would immediately think to medicate or use dopamine and/or tryptophan supplements. But our approach should be to find the true deficiency first. We must remember that Vitamin C plays a major role in neurotransmitter conversion and regulation (see screen shots of sample studies below) so with low levels like these, we would look at Vitamin C and B6, possibly amino acid precursors, and then later on we’d explore other methods. But it makes sense to fix these simple deficiencies first and focus on supplying the body with the nutrients it needs to synthesize and convert these critical neurotransmitters.
This is a simple and logical approach that any practitioner of Drugless Functional Medicine can use to help many people who may have health challenges associated with these types of neurotransmitter dysfunction.
Here are some studies that show how Vitamin C is intimately involved in the conversion of neurotransmitters:
You may be asking yourself:
“Based on these amazing studies, why even bother doing the lab testing? Shouldn’t we just give our people Vitamin C?”
The answer is yes, of course! Vitamin C is essential for many important reasons, including hormone conversion and neurotransmitter synthesis. However, we must remember to Test Right, Treat Right, and the Organic Acid Test allows us to gain insights into patient/client biochemistry that we wouldn’t have otherwise, and it also allows us to be far more specific with the amounts of Vitamin C to recommend, if we need extra amino acids, etc…The organic acid test will also show us markers from microbial organisms that may influence these same neurotransmitters we are discussing here so we can make additional adjustments. We will discuss these markers at a later date. It is about being as comprehensive and as balanced as possible in our approach.