Neurotransmitters: What is Neurotransmitter Deficiency Disorder and how can it cause depression, anxiety, and many other common conditions?

by Dr. William Nelson, NMD

William Nelson, NMD explains what Neuretransmitter deficiency disorder is and how it could be linked to many common conditions such as anxiety, depression, panick attacks, fibromyalgia, and others.Neurotransmitters (NTs) are essential chemical messengers that regulate brain, muscle, nerve and organ function. The most common neurotransmitters 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 neurotransmitters 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) 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 neurotransmitter 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 neurotransmitter 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. My weight loss patients consistently lose 1.5-2.5 lbs. per week without hunger while improving their lean muscle/body fat ratios. Patients with chronic depression, anxiety, and or insomnia have experienced a new sense of well-being while weaning off their prescription SSRI drugs.

FAQs regarding Dr. Nelson’s Neurotransmitter
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 we slowly wean them off their prescription drugs.

Q. How does amino acid therapy increase neurotransmitter 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 neurtransmitter 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%) could experience gastro intestinal symptoms such as nausea, cramping, diarrhea, etc. This occurs in people with severe neurotransmitter deficiency, usually 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. Evaluation consists of a urine test for NT levels. Treatment consists of the following:

  • Conditioning Phase – a one to two week period to prepare the patient for higher levels of therapeutic amino acid dosing.
  • Therapeutic Phase – a period lasting anywhere from two months to 1 year+ where high levels of amino acids are given to restore the NT levels.
  • Maintenance Phase – ongoing treatment with a small amount of amino acids to maintain the levels of NTs. This provides enough amino acids to replace the NTs 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.

Q. What amino acids are used in this therapy?
A. The amino acids used depend on the unique situation and NT levels found in the urine test. 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.

Dr. William Nelson, NMD


Dr. William Nelson is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor in private practice in North Scottsdale. He specializes in metabolic typing and science based natural therapies for the treatment and prevention of all chronic and acute health concerns. His office address and phone number are:
8711 East Pinnacle Peak Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
(480) 563-4256.