Amino Acid Therapy for Depression and Anxiety - by William Nelson, NMD

topic posted Wed, January 16, 2008 - 1:16 PM by  Leslee

Amino Acid Therapy for Depression and Anxiety - by William Nelson, NMD

What is Neurotransmitter Deficiency Disorder and how can it cause depression, anxiety, and many other common conditions? By William Nelson, NMD Neurotransmitters (NTs) are essential chemical messengers that regulate brain, muscle, nerve and organ function. The most common NTs are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
Low levels of these important chemicals is extremely common in the general public and is due to innumerable lifestyle, environmental, and dietary factors. This article is intended to help the reader determine whether they may be deficient in NTs and how evaluation and treatment of this disorder can help.

People with neurotransmitter deficiency disorder can suffer from one or more of the following conditions: obesity, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, insomnia, attention deficit, learning disorders, panic attacks, migraines, pms, menopausal symptoms, digestive complaints and many more. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other drugs working on the neurotransmitter biochemistry such as Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, Wellbutrin, etc. are currently some of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

They work by artificially increasing the amount of serotonin in the synapse of the nerve which allows a temporary improvement in the chemical messaging system. The problem with this approach is that these drugs DO NOT increase serotonin levels and in fact deplete reserves of the NT. This occurs because the SSRI class drugs cause an increase in an enzyme called MAO.

It is common for people to experience only temporary improvement due to this effect. The most effective way to correct a neurotransmitter deficiency is to perform a simple urine test to measure the NT levels. The treatment for optimizing the neurotransmitter levels is to provide the basic amino acid precursors or building blocks so the body can replenish the inadequate levels.

The true value of any treatment is the results it produces. Using this approach over the last year, I have helped coach many patients to a higher level of wellness. Patients with chronic depression, anxiety, and or insomnia have experienced a new sense of wellbeing while continuing their prescription, others have successfully weaned themselves off their prescription SSRI drugs after their symptoms have improved. Weight loss patients using slightly higher amino acid dosing consistently lose 1.5-2.5 lbs. per week without hunger while improving their lean muscle/body fat ratios. FAQs regarding Dr. Nelson’s NT program for anxiety and depression

Q. If I am already taking SSRI drugs, can I safely use this amino acid approach?

A. In my clinical experience I have seen great results with patients who have been on SSRI drugs for many many years. First, we get the person feeling better, then if the patient chooses, we slowly wean them off their prescription drugs.

Q. How does amino acid therapy increase NT levels?

A. 5HTP is converted into serotonin and then melatonin. Phenylalanine is converted into tyrosine, then dopamine, L-Dopa, norepinephrine, and lastly epinephrine.

Q. How do you measure for the neurotransmitter levels in order to determine appropriate treatment?

A. The levels for epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, GABA, PEA, histamine, and many others can be measured with a simple urine test. An initial urine test can be given and then repeated after 6 to 12 weeks of therapy to determine optimal neurotransmitter levels have been obtained.

Q. Are there any side effects associated with the amino acid neurotransmitter therapy?

A. Not only are there no side effects, but there are numerous side benefits. People with depression often find relief not only from depression but also insomnia, fatigue, GI symptoms, chronic pain, pms, menopausal symptoms, obesity, food cravings, etc. In a small amount of people (less than 5%) people could have gastro intestinal symptoms such as nausea, cramping, diarrhea, etc. This occurs in people with severe neurotransmitter deficiency. This usually occurs within the first three days and is solved by stopping all amino acids. Therapy is continued at very low dosing after symptoms abate and then slowly increased to therapeutic levels over three to six weeks.

Q. How long will it take until my symptoms of depression/anxiety improve?

A. Each individual responds differently to treatment. Some patients have noticed incredible improvements in moods in a few days, others don’t notice any improvements for a period of time (sometimes 3-4 months) and then notice gradual improvements over the following 3 to 6 months, most patients notice gradual improvements beginning after 1 month of treatment and then continue to improve.

Q. What should I expect during a normal course of evaluation and treatment?

A. Evaluation involves an initial office visit to determine overall health history, prescription drug levels, severity of symptoms, and any related health concerns. There is an optional urine test for neurotransmitter levels. Treatment consists of the following: 1. Conditioning Phase – a one to two week period to prepare the patient for higher levels of therapeutic amino acid dosing. 2. Therapeutic Phase – a period lasting anywhere from two months to 1 year+ where high levels of amino acids are given to restore the neurotransmitter levels. 3. Maintenance Phase – ongoing treatment with a small amount of amino acids to maintain the levels of neurotransmitters. This provides enough amino acids to replace the neurotransmitters excreted throughout the day.

Q. Will I need to stay on amino acid therapy indefinitely?

A. Most people need to stay on a low level maintenance dose in order to continue to feel well after their 2 month to 1 year plus treatment phase. If people stop taking the amino acids, their neurotransmitter levels will slowly decrease over time.

Q. What amino acids are used in this therapy?

A. The amino acids used depend on the unique situation. The therapy will include any number of the following: 5HTP, tyrosine, phenylalanine, cysteine, mucuna (herbal L-Dopa), theanine, glutamine, taurine, methionine, GABA, phosphorylated b vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.

Q. What is the approximate cost of the therapy?

A. The cost of the neurotransmitter replacement therapy can range from $80 to $120+ during the therapeutic phase. After the patients symptoms have improved and the urine tests show optimal levels, the cost for the maintenance therapy is significantly less.

Q. What’s the success rate for anxiety and depression using this approach?

A. Anxiety and Depression are conditions that are multi-factorial. Patients that follow the dietary recommendations, take the supplements and don’t give up before the neurotransmitters levels have been restored have a very high success rate. This natural therapy corrects the biochemical imbalance associated with these conditions. Patients working with a qualified counselor or therapist to address the mental and emotional aspects of these conditions have an even higher success rate.

William Nelson, NMD is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor in private practice in North Scottsdale. He specializes in the treatment of depression/anxiety and weight loss using amino acid therapy. Dr. Nelson combines time honored natural therapies with the latest advances in medical science for the treatment and prevention of all other chronic and acute health concerns. 480-563-4256
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  • What is a NMD ?

    Wed, January 16, 2008 - 1:22 PM
    Naturopathic physicians are naturopathic doctors (ND), or naturopathic medical doctors (NMD). After graduation from a four-year college or university, naturopaths are trained in four-year medical colleges just as other physicians are. The difference is that in naturopathic medical school, in addition to learning such basic medical sciences as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, immunology, histology, neuroscience and genetics, naturopaths also take classroom courses in the clinical sciences: obstetrics, gynecology, urology, cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, rheumatology, oncology, gerontology, otorhinolaryngology and dermatology. Of course we aslo learn the naturopathic therapies. These include: clinical nutrition (that is nutrition as both a healing therapy and applied biochemistry), botanical medicine (nutritive and therapeutic herbs), homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs, as well as environmental medicine, physical medicine and hydrotherapy. Naturopaths are trained both in the classroom and in a variety of clinical settings.

    Throughout the naturopathic medical curriculum and professional careers naturopaths are required to take board exams to ensure that both the training and skills come up to the standards required across North America for the naturopathic profession. Just as for medical doctors and osteopaths, naturopathic physicians are required to take Continuing Education courses periodically in order to stay at peak competence.

    In Arizona, naturopathic physicians are licensed to diagnose and treat disease with any combination of the therapies listed above. Thirteen other states, including the recent additions of California and Idaho, also license naturopathic physicians. So does every province in Canada. The difference with other doctors is this: a naturopath can help you feel much better and get rid of disease without drugs. How is this possible? The licensed naturopath receives more classroom hours in medical sciences and natural therapies and their application to patients than any other type of physician. By the time naturopathic students get to the clinical training part of their curriculum, they know how to apply herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrients, physical manipulation, temperature modulation and detoxification for various disease conditions. They then still have two more years of clinical training to apply and refine those skills.

    Just be sure that you ask for a licensed ND (Naturopathic Doctor) or NMD (Naturopathic Medical Doctor), because licensed naturopaths are the ones who are both classroom and clinically trained to practice medicine using herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy and physical medicine, as well as environmental medicine.

    For the most part, naturopathic medicine is still not covered by most medical insurance. There are exceptions. However, as many people have happily discovered, the out-of-pocket costs to a naturopath's patients are often much less than the out-of-pocket costs (that is deductibles and uncovered services and products) for fully insured people who go to conventional physicians and who need pharmaceuticals and/or hospital care. That is, a naturopath's tools, which are basically materials found in nature, plant materials mostly, are so much less expensive than patented prescription drugs that you end up paying less even without insurance. These savings are magnified as time goes on, considering the much greater relative improvement in overall health of the naturopathic patient over the conventional medical patient.

    Naturopathic medicine is perhaps best described by its six defining principles:

    First do no harm
    Healing occurs by way of nature
    Treat the whole person
    Treat the cause
    Prevent disease
    Doctor as teacher
    "First do no harm" was Hippocrates' instruction to physicians and may be thought of as an application of The Golden Rule. Whatever intervention a doctor can make in a patient's health and life, the only acceptable action is ones that will do no further damage to the patient's health. How much more sensible does it get than to remember the rule first learned as toddlers: "Don't hurt anybody."

    Second, naturopaths rely on the healing power of nature to help restore patients to complete health. The really excellent naturopath is one who knows how to "work the modalities": that is to be able to draw from the vast materia medica of natural materials to help the sick get well and be able to apply them to the great variety and complication of illnesses that are common today.

    Another principle is to treat the whole person. Naturopaths know better than to give you a medication that will heal the stomach while hurting the heart, or that will clear up the skin while skewing your hormones out of balance. Naturopaths are trained to respect the whole patient, not just the small part of the body with obvious symptoms. In other words, if you need medicine for your lungs, the job of the naturopath is to make sure that what you get is completely good for all of you.

    The fourth principle is to treat the cause. This means if you have say arteriosclerosis, which has led to heart problems and high blood pressure, the naturopath does not treat the blood pressure right away. The naturopath goes to the cause of the problem and treats the hardening of the arteries, because when you clean out the arteries, the blood pressure comes down, and the heart is able to heal. So that way you solve all three problems instead of just one.

    To prevent disease is another naturopathic principle, and one that is closest to the long-term naturopathic goal of helping patients to achieve a healthy life. This improved lifestyle is what enables the body to regain homeostasis, to strengthen the immune system and to better deflect the constant stresses and toxic conditions that an industrial society imposes. Our study and practice of environmental medicine teaches the importance of removing toxins from the immediate environment (and ideally the larger environment) as well as from the patient's body.

    Perhaps the last principle is most important of all. In order to best help patients; it is even more important for a doctor to be a teacher than a healer. In accordance with the idea that if you give someone a fish he may eat that day, but if you teach him to fish he may eat for a lifetime, the doctor must teach how to heal. Ultimately, the most successful patients learn to take responsibility for their own health, with the doctor acting as a resource and tutor toward that goal.

    The Naturopathyworks website serves to acknowledge time-honored and successful natural medicine treatments. Here you will find an introduction to some of the most effective and health-promoting natural treatments in use today, as well as a sampling of the research on these treatments showing that natural medicine does indeed work. We hope you find your visit to be an informative one!

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