By Jacob Scharf
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
In my previous article, Enhancing Neurotransmitter Production Naturally, I discussed the issue of supplemental ‘mood elevators’ as it pertains to dopamine deficiencies. For the casual reader, I would suggest that it is of some importance to be educated to some degree on your own physiology, specifically as it pertains to your mental health and wellbeing.
In this article I will be discussion the merits of two further neurotransmitters which range in their abilities from alleviating our feelings of loneliness to staving off seizures.
Taurine, an amino acid, could quite possibly be considered the treatment of choice when it comes to fighting seizures, high blood pressure and edema.
An inhibitory neurotransmitter, taurine – like Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) – serves our brain health by calming excessive neural activity. You might wonder what happens when neural activity in our brain becomes too overactive, and the answer is, that is when seizures can become a probable result.
Taurine also plays a major role in digestion by contributing to a substance which assists with the absorption of lipids in the small intestine. Neural tissue (including the brain) contains relatively high amounts of glycerophospho-lipids, and alterations in their composition has been implicated in various neurological disorders.  Those experiencing difficulties with digesting lipids would therefore benefit from supplementing with taurine in addition to eating a suitable healthy diet.
This amino acid/neurotransmitter also carries out other crucial roles in the human body, such as its contribution to proper cardiovascular functioning, and healthy skeletal muscle development. In addition, taurine is a potent antioxidant that provides protection to the rods and cones (photoreceptors) in the retinas of your eyes, which prevent/improve visual impairment.
Seizures: Overactive Nerve Cell Activity
Epilepsy is the result of abnormal and overly active nerve cells in a person’s brain. Symptoms of the illness can vary from very brief spasm episodes, to quite long periods of vigorous and sometimes violent shaking.
While causes of these seizures remain ‘officially’ unknown, there is evidence that suggests that childhood vaccines may play a role, particularly when there are genetic predispositions. Other factors associated with epilepsy are brain tumors, stroke, head injury and even severe bouts of depression. However symptoms are specific to each individual which makes it difficult for a positive prognosis.
In recent times we’ve been hearing how medical-grade cannabis oil is helping control severe seizure in children, where drug medications have failed to be effective, and we need to encourage more research to be undertaken in this area.
Conventional medicine currently relies on a drug called Carbamazepine, which is an anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing drug used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder. Besides being an anticonvulsant, carbamazepine is astonishingly similar to, but not as safe or natural as, our beloved taurine. Without delving too much into organic chemistry, the chemical structures of carbamazepine and taurine are quite similar, with the only real differences being that the drug has the addition of a hydroxyl group molecule (Oxygen and Hydrogen) and the replacement of a Nitrogen molecule for a Sulfur molecule. So, basically, it’s a synthetic form of taurine – a patentable psychoactive drug – that physicians prescribe to an ailing patient.
But would it not make more sense (in addition to being safer) for those suffering seizures to simply take more of the natural amino-acid taurine, instead of taking expensive synthetic pharmaceuticals? For more information, please see the PubMed extract: Prevention of epileptic seizures by taurine.
Taurine is available to us via our food, with fish and beef being our most abundant sources, and moderate consumption of either or both will cover our most basic taurine needs. But when a clinical amount is needed, more than a simple change of diet may be needed to address a medical condition involving seizures. In that case, we must look to a concentrated supplemental source to gain the clinical amounts we need.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, and seizures are a recurring problem for you, you may need to consider a change of diet and supplementation of taurine in order to get your body back to full health again.
Oxytocin – the ‘Feel Good’ Hormone
Last but by no means least, I have chosen a neurotransmitter that will allow me to finish this introduction to neurotransmitters with panache!
Oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, plays a major role in our sense of intimacy with others – within the chemistry of our brain. This hormone is best known for its association with “instinctual” maternal behaviors such as mother-baby bonding, breast-feeding trust and empathy. It is also commonly used in its synthetic drug form to assist pregnant women during difficult labor. Unfortunately perhaps for our society, although men need oxytocin too, it is found in much more abundant levels in women than men. Perhaps more oxytocin would smooth off the edges of some of testosterone’s more aggressive characteristics. There is also evidence that higher levels of oxytocin in men can lead to more fulfilling sexual relationships.
Oxytocin – a neuropeptide – is known by many as “the cuddle hormone” is produced in the hypothalamus region of the brain and secreted into the bloodstream via the pituitary gland. With its pain curbing abilities, oxytocin could be considered efficacious for fibromyalgia a very debilitating condition mainly effecting women. Researchers are assessing oxytocins ability to help in the treatment of autism and even schizophrenia! Known best for its bonding effects between loving couples, the world is just beginning to learn just how having abundant amounts of this important hormone in our bloodstream may benefit our lives in a myriad of ways.
As was the case with the other neurotransmitters we have discussed in this series of articles, diet is important when it comes to getting enough of the building blocks our bodies need to produce adequate oxytocin. Protein rich foods such as eggs, chicken, beans are a good place to start along with apples, bananas, beets, watermelon and wheat germ. Vegans will typically have to work harder than meat eaters to get enough of the ‘buillding blocks’ of oxytocin. And even if you do consume high protein foods, our food supply is not all it once was, so it is still possible to become sub-clinically or clinically deficient in oxytocin.
In a world of where an abundance of research is at our fingertips, you don’t necessarily need to take an organic chemistry class (though it would help) to know that neurotransmitter supplements may benefit your life. However, supplemental oxytocin – although bio-identical to the the real thing – is NOT exactly the same as the oxytocin your brain makes, and therefore should be considered a synthetic form of a natural hormone.
If you think you might benefit from supplementing with this important neurotransmitter, you can find out more by checking out the following links.
Previous article by Jacob Scharf:
Updated November 2014
About the author:
Jacob Scharf is currently a student at Binghamton University studying Integrative Neuroscience. Along his journey he has written about various different mental health illnesses; ultimately his goal is to give people the information that will allow them to maximize their potential in all facets of life. Whether it be mental or physical, Jacob believes in striving for an optimum level of performance. Jacob is also a certified Kettlebell Instructor.
You can reach Jacob by email at [email protected].