FHP – Ep. 20 – “Getting Unstuck: A Primer on Neurotransmitters” feat. Dr. Barter

FHP - Ep. 20 - "Getting Unstuck: A Primer on Neurotransmitters" feat. Dr. Barter

Dr. Barter will discuss the crucial role that our brain’s chemical messengers, neurotransmitters, play on mood and emotional regulation.



Intro [00:00:03] Welcome to the Fearless Health podcast with host Dr. Ann-Marie Barter. Dr Barter is on a mission to help people achieve their health and wellness goals and help men and women live their best lives fearlessly. Dr. Barter is the founder of Alternative Family Medicine and Chiropractic in Denver and Longmont, Colorado.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:00:24] Thank you so much for joining us here on the Fearless Health podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Anne-Marie Barter. And today, one of the biggest issues that I see when a patient first presents into my office is they generally have a neurotransmitter imbalance or deficiency. It sounds a whole lot worse than it is. And we’ll get into that in a bit. The people think that they’re broken, they’re unfixable, and that this is just a way that they have to live. I’m just a little more sad than most people, or I’m just a little bit more anxious than my friend over here. That’s just the way I was made. These are my genes. It’s actually incorrect. Let’s first start off with what neurotransmitters are. They’re basically the way that our body communicates, right? It’s our body’s chemical messengers and their molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons in neurons to muscles. This is a really, really important. And that’s the real techie background that we won’t get into. But I believe that the single most reason that a patient who is motivated. To do a diet I can’t stay on. For example, we do a 30 day cleanse when patients initially come into our office, we will detox them out for 30 days. And one of the biggest reasons they can’t stay on this diet and can’t stay true to this is because they’re really using some of these carbohydrate rich foods in sugars to help with their neurotransmitters that are really low. So what happens is this turns into a vicious cycle, right? So you feel sad. You feel, though you just don’t want to hang around anybody. You feel a lack of motivation. So you eat sugar. You feel better. Then you crush harder then than you crave more sugar to feel good again and you crash harder. Well, so what I tell people is that they’re trying to help themselves. That’s why they crave these carbohydrate rich foods of these really starchy foods is to make themselves feel better short term, but then they crash harder than they did before. And so. That is your neurotransmitters, and so. When we’ll see somebody feel depleted and fatigued and apathetic, it can’t I can’t muster the ability to work out or when that person lays in bed in their mind, races through, Oh gosh, I have to get this done tomorrow or that day out, and they can’t turn their mind off when they want to relax. These are not symptoms of being broken or being incurable or needing the hard hitting anti-anxiety, antidepressants or antipsychotics. These are just based on our stressful lifestyles. Our blood sugar imbalances, gut issues and all kinds of other things like toxins that will deplete our neurotransmitters. And so then we’re left with this feeling of anxiety or lack of motivation or an inability to finish tasks. And this is how people get stuck and they really, really firmly believe that something is so wrong with them and they can’t be fixed without going on an antidepressant or getting anxiety as a 100 percent. Not true. I.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:03:59] So if I see somebody that comes into my office, it has that feeling of not being able to get out of bed. So for example, if they come in, they’re completely depressed. Hard for them to get off the couch. All they want to watch is TV. I’m interested in seeing friends and family just feel kind of neck. The neurotransmitter that we’re dealing with in that situation tends to be a tone in. And serotonin is our happy neurotransmitter, it’s our happy molecule, it just it, it makes us want to see people get into activities, makes us want to be happy. And be creative, right? And serotonin tends to really we tend to really have a problem with serotonin, especially in the winter, because we need to secrete some of the serotonin. So we have people fill out a form and the form is actually from a company called APACS. And so there’s a variety of questions that we ask. And so some of the serotonin questions are. And let me just preface this. You may have some, but not all of them. You have some of them. Generally, you have a serotonin imbalance. You don’t have to have all of these for this to be you. You’re losing pleasure in hobbies and interests. You feel overwhelmed with ideas to manage the feelings of in a rage or anger, you have feelings of paranoia you feel sat down for no reason. You feel like you’re not enjoying life. You feel like you lack artistic expression. You feel depressed and overcast. Whether you’re losing your enjoyment for your favorite activities was an enjoyment for your favorite foods, losing enjoyment for your friendships and relationships. Difficulty falling into a deep, restful sleep. The feelings of dependency on others. You feel more susceptible to pain, unprovoked anger or losing interest in life, right? And some of those are clearly more extreme than others. But some people just feel a little bit more apathetic or they’re not enjoying life like they once were.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:06:16] And so what we want to look at is what could be causing that serotonin issue. What could be causing the deficiency there? Right? And how do we set up an occasional short term I will plug away and help with neurotransmitters at the end of the day, if you want to really see what’s the point in it or what is causing the main problem? Something else that’s really interesting that I also see clinically is patients with IBS or fibromyalgia or OCD also tend to be pretty depleted in serotonin. That kind of gets the root cause of what is the cause behind that. So. If you have somebody that is struggling with every aspect of their life, their relationship, their job, their outside hobbies and activities, and they just don’t feel interested to do that and then they know what makes them feel good from how they eat, from the eating or diet or perspective. And they’re just totally apathetic about doing that. They’re they’re losing interest in anything that keeps them healthy, keeps them happy, and all they want to do is just veg out and be alone. You should really think about serotonin. So I have a case where I had a patient that struggled with a relationship, a job wanting to do activities that she once loved and staying on a healthy diet. And there were just also these fits of anger just out of nowhere. And it was that ended up to be a pretty major serotonin deficiency.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:08:07] It’s really happened when the weather started changing. We went from fall to where in the days got a lot shorter and less exposed to sunlight. And so we had to figure out why that serotonin was decreasing in this particular case, 90 percent. Well, in general, 90 percent of the serotonin is made in the GI tract in this particular case. This person didn’t have the cofactors to make serotonin, and it also had a gut infection that was robbing the body of serotonin. So you think about it, if you need bacteria to make these neurotransmitters and then you have an infection in there or you have improper bacteria. You’re not going to be able to make that. And so when you get stressed out or life becomes stressful or you have blood sugar swings, which we all do, and most people think, Oh, I’m not diabetic, so I don’t have an issue with that. It’s actually untrue. A lot of people have issues with blood sugar. Do you have to get to the root cause? And in most people, it’s not just one factor. People want to figure out the one thing that’s causing their neurotransmitters to be off or the one thing that they can take to make the neurotransmitters better. But it’s more like a Band-Aid if you just get. Neurotransmitter long term never addressed what the problem is. It’s really no better than just doing an antidepressant long term. So. In this particular case, what we ended up having to do was clean out the guy, and then there was also some environmental toxins. This person was exposed to it, created issues and then stabilizing the blood sugar and fixing the diet again. In the meantime, to keep this patient on the diet because it was such a game changer, we knew. I ended up needing to do short term serotonin to get get everything food to back up. And now. This person has been able to get a new job, love the job, lots of relationship, etc. And so it just really transforms this person’s life. So. I think what I really want to drive home on this is that any time you are addressing neurotransmitters, it’s always a multifactorial approach. It’s never just one thing. And I think that this is so important to cover when you have depression. These people are motivated but not really motivated to follow or stay on a plan. They want to, but they can’t. So it’s meeting them where they’re at. If you hand to depressed a depressed person, a 30 day elimination diet, they’re going to have a really hard time with that and not be able to stay on it. So. When we really see this deficiency, a lot of times people can’t say stay on what they feel like is healthy eating, and then we will also see binge eating is another real big trigger that people have serotonin deficiencies. But in ninety nine percent of my patients when they initially present, a lot of people have issues. And when you think about it, you think about the amount of people that are actually on an antidepressant to stabilize or to boost their mood. It’s a really high percentage. And again, that’s a serotonin deficiency. And when we think about an antidepressant? An antidepressant isn’t really changing the serotonin levels. So why you need it so much is just keeping more serotonin circulating, right? So you’re never boosting your serotonin levels. That’s a misnomer, and that’s why antidepressants are so hard to get off of.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:11:46] But ultimately, if you can figure out what the cause is, also give the cofactors or to create these neurotransmitters. You ultimately tend to feel better and most people definitely have deficiencies in the cofactors, let’s say a huge percentage. I’ve even seen toddlers have deficiencies in the cofactors that only did some behavioral problems. Also, killing off any sort of gut infection or environmental exposure, which, by the way, most of us have is stabilizing the blood sugar to get these people into a good place, right? So another neurotransmitter that I think is so, so, so important is dopamine. Dopamine is critical. And I see a huge amount of deficiencies with this across the board. You’ll definitely see a sense of. Worthlessness. Lack of motivation, inability to finish tasks, need to consume caffeine to stay alert. Hard to increase muscle mass. Loss of interest in sex. Overall, loss of libido gets wedding attacks. It’s just. Fluctuating mood, you can also see fits of anger or rage. And so all of these things are dopamine deficiency. And again, the same things that deplete dopamine deplete serotonin. So it’s a pretty similar list. But again, a huge amount of the population is dopamine deficient. Again, that’s really coming back to our gut infections, to our blood sugar dysregulation, to our environmental exposure. We’re supposed to 70000 chemicals every single day. That’s a lot and a lot of those. Are not studied to know how they’re going to affect our bodies, so we don’t have the full spectrum. But what I will say that I see a lot of I see a lot of mold here and I live in dry Colorado, right? But mold tends to be a secret to pleader of dopamine, especially black mold. So and mold may or may not leave your body, or you may or may not be reactive to mold. And some people have the genes to be more reactive to mold and other people do. So let’s say you lived in a moldy house for a year. Is that enough to have a problem with mold? Absolutely. The researchers actually said that the duration of time that were exposed to mold doesn’t make a huge difference. It’s just if we’re sensitive to it. So a percentage of the population has no sensitivity to mold. There’s a percentage of the population that has a high sensitivity level. That means that they walk into a grocery store and there’s mold somewhere in the grocery store. They may get dizzy attacks, or they may feel really fatigued or tired of having headache or get a skin rash that someone comes out of nowhere. And that’s highly sensitive. Most of us. I’d be like, fall in the middle. And I feel like most people are pretty sensitive to move. It is a mycotoxins and it is generally carcinogenic. We’re talking about black mold. And so we see this that black mold disrupts dopamine severely. So let’s say someone’s living in a movie house. They tend to just not want to get off the couch when they get home, tend to not want to do anything. They just don’t have any motivation to move forward. And so it tends to be more common than you would think. That mold is actually an issue with dopamine dysregulation. So I think that that is actually at the root cause a lot of times of dopamine as well as the other things that we’ve talked about.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:16:10] So. I personally had a severe dopamine issue, and I’d like to tell you about my story a little bit. I moved into a home that was in a premiere area of town, and I got this great deal on it, I think she should be suspicious any time that happens. I moved into this house and house just came with a host of problems. You went. I just started feeling more and more fatigued when I lived there. I occasionally would cough like maybe a couple times a week at my skin, it showed a little bit. And just when I got home, I would just be so tired. And I remember getting to work one day, and I love what I do. Absolutely love it. And I’m so grateful every day that I get to do what I do. And I just sat there and felt like I couldn’t get it together to do what I needed to do. I think some people will call it a panic attack. It wasn’t really a panic attack. I just wasn’t functional. To be there for anybody else is almost how to describe it. I what? I didn’t have enough motivation to do it. I sat there and said, Something’s not right here. This seems like a dopamine deficiency. And I took I took a little bit of a dopamine supplement and in like 10 minutes, I was fully put together for their patients. Just three straight through it was in a great mood, was happy. But every time I came to work in the morning, I really struggled. And I was struggling with this, and then I would stop on the way home and I really wanted to get the chocolate chip cookie. What I preach help all day. So for me, I’m like, I know that I don’t need this. I know that I have a neurotransmitter imbalance, and I can’t figure out why this just came out of nowhere. So fast forward. I left I went away and I came back and my house smelled musty, and I realized that there was a high level likelihood that I had mold. Got the House tested. The guy came in and goes, well, this is the worst black mold situation I’ve ever seen. Had.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:18:32] So the House got cleaned out, and that was amazing, and I felt better and I had gained about. 15 to 20 pounds during the time that I lived there, and it didn’t make any sense, I had trained for a half ironman. Then all these things, I’d run a half Ironman, but I was about 20 pounds heavier than I had ever been before, and my clothes still fit tight. So that indicates that there was a high level of inflammation. So between the lack of motivation, the weight gain, the itchy skin, the intermittent cough, mild mild issues, right? And then I started to see, Oh wow, I am getting some Hashimoto’s symptoms. I’m starting to gain some antibodies to my thyroid. By the way, Hashimoto’s is the most common autoimmune disease had. Something is not right here, I live a really clean lifestyle. This doesn’t make sense, I treat Hashimoto’s every day. People get better. Well, high amounts of mold in my house when I moved out, when they cleaned it out anyway, I felt a lot better. Assembly lost 10 pounds. The rest of the weight took a little bit longer to come off like a couple of months. And then suddenly I never had another dopamine issue. And on lab work actually show low dopamine in general, but I don’t have any of the dopamine. The low dopamine symptoms, right? So it’s a point of view that much so. I think it’s just really important to keep in mind, you’ve got to find the cause of these problems and my life changed substantially, and I think it’s one of the things that I would like to yell from the rooftops. That mold is such an issue is such a bill for me, especially if you’re a highly motivated person and suddenly this happens suddenly is so, so important. It’s a pleasure system right in this. Is our enjoyment and reward system, right? You think about drugs, when you think of that, you think about sugar, you think about all kinds of things that humans seek. Right. So it also helps us with motor coordination. It helps us with attention and learning in the brain. We think about maybe think about dopamine, what could potentially be going on with the system. Animals will be treated as they choose dopamine over food and water in all the studies. That’s how important it is. That’s how powerful it is, and that’s how good it makes us feel. So. You know, a little dopamine is great, but in excess, we also have problems with dopamine, so you definitely want to make sure you’re in the right balance and there are tests that you can run. We generally in our clinic run an oops test or an organic acids test. And while we like to do this, is this kind of gives us a multi-factorial approach so we can look and see what’s going on in the gut. Do you have bacteria overgrowth? Do you have a yeast overgrowth of what could be potentially causing pathogens in the gut? Then we’re able to look at neurotransmitters like what neurotransmitters are off. Do you are you low in the precursors to make these neurotransmitters? You know what’s going on with that? How is your vitamin and nutrient status? What is your antioxidant status like? Are you trying to fight something off or have you been exposed to major toxicity? Are you able to? We’ve heard a lot about methylation empty too far and how you use B vitamins. How is that? I’m looking at a whole variety to maybe see what is going on, right? So. I just think it’s really important to get the whole picture again and see so on a case study for you.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:22:34] I had a patient that presented to me with acne since she was 12 years old. She had a history of the antibiotic use. She had a staph infection infection that was constantly behind her ears, mono inability to fall asleep and using Adderall for concentration problems and inability to, I said, I think, fallen into a deep, restful sleep. And I think. When you look at this case, what we have to do in this case was we have to figure out if she currently had a bacterial infection in her gut or she had an active viral infection. She actually had both. She had a bacterial infection going on. So in our gut, the yeast overgrowth and an active viral infection. She treating those things. And then we also treated her blood sugar, which was really important and also treated her neurotransmitters, which was a game changer. Her husband came in and thanked me because I guess every time around her cycle or PMS, she was pretty mean to him. And so he would run and hide all over the house. So treating that to help help the neurotransmitter sass and then helping to treat the PMS and everything was great, she was able to get off Adderall. She didn’t have the medicines that she had had before. She her acne completely cleared up. Her sleep was completely deep and restful. And so when you’re looking at that, you really want to put the entire case together. Something else she had in this case that I haven’t really mentioned up until this point was she had she had a low level of PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome, her disease. And that is when your blood sugar gets so dysregulated, you make more testosterone. So she was making a lot more testosterone, and that was a big precursor to her skin. So we really stabilized out the blood sugar and then helped to bring those androgen levels for those testosterone levels down to help with that. How so? That was pretty helpful. And we also did a. Another neurotransmitter on this case, because she also presented with high levels of anxiety. Her mind raced when she went to bed, so I treated her with the neurotransmitter yabba dabba is that kind of calming neurotransmitter? We think of. Gabba access, not enough Gabba. We think of Tiger Tigers like bouncing around camp anxiety. He’s just busy. And so if that’s how you feel when you lay down to go to sleep, it tends to be Gabba.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:25:27] So. Just think it’s so important to calm the mind down and to get this deep, restful sleep, because once you can do that, a lot of systems repair by themselves can. So some of the symptoms of having the gavitt deficiency would be to feel anxious or panicked for no reason to feelings of dread or impending doom, to feel knots in your stomach, feelings of being overwhelmed for no reason. Feelings of guilt about everyday decisions, your mind feels restless, difficult to turn your mind off when you want to relax disorganized attention, worries about things you weren’t worried about before inattention or inner excitability. And so it’s I see it, I gather he pretty commonly decreased with a lot of people. There tends to be a lot of neurotransmitter imbalance with that. So I have a case study with GABA. I had a patient present, but just. Felt weighed down with everything and just had tons of musculoskeletal tension all the time was constantly stressed out. You think about somebody that’s super stressed and holding the weight of the world on their shoulders, right backs up her shoulder, tension that back tension. She was lovely in her overall start in in her thirties and just overall good health, but emotionally felt very stressed at work because she started with a new manager in that particular person, took a big interest in her personal life. Just was kind of constantly hounding. She just she kind of felt violated and stopped, right? Each time this person would approach her, she would feel more and more anxious. And it happened to the point where she couldn’t sleep anymore. So just until she could get out of that situation, because it was definitely a trigger where it happened, we stabilized her blood sugar because it was clearly that that was an issue, made sure that she was eating frequently enough and gave her GABA. And after we gave her GABA, she realized that all of her muscles started to relax. She wasn’t as tense as tense. She could deal with this manager a lot better and not feel so threatened. And she noticed that her mind stopped racing. And we only had to do one round of data, and she was completely built up inside. And since she’s never come back down and never needed data again. And so it was that very, very stressful situation that really pushed her over the edge. And you have to think about what what maybe is causing that to come down. Emotional stress does play into it again, as well as your environmental exposures in which we are all exposed into blood infections, into blood sugar, into our stressful lifestyles, into depleting our the precursors that make all of these neurotransmitters. So if you feel like you need Xanax, it’s a pretty good play that you’re gather is really, really low. I’ve also seen something interesting with Darva. Sometimes if someone is really dizzy with all the anxiety and overwhelm a lot of times, I’ve seen Geva stabilize that, which is quite interesting. So I think the neurotransmitters are so important and I just want to drive home on this episode. But because you have these, you’re not crazy.


Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:29:26] Ninety nine point nine percent of the people that I see come in generally have a neurotransmitter imbalance. My job is to figure out you just need more of that neurotransmitter or something causing this deplete, and occasionally it’s simple as, Hey, I just this depleted because of a stressful situation and now everything’s fine and we’re right back on track. Generally, there’s something causing that to get depleted, and it’s really important to get in it to figure out what that could be and what could be causing this to be low. And again, if you don’t have much control around your diet, this is so important to look at. It can take years of being a practice. Just telling somebody to do a diet, a lot of people can’t be compliant in this day and age because it’s too challenging for them. They fall off. They cannot stick to it. It is way too challenging. So if that’s you, I would encourage you to look into a console with a functional medicine practitioner and you can give us a ring for that as well. Thanks for listening. Take care. Bye bye. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed learning with us today, please give us a five star review. Comment like and share our podcast with your friends and family. As always, if you’d like to learn more information about today’s guest, please head over to FearlessHealthPodcast.com for links to their site and other educational resources.

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