Natural Cures for Chemical Imbalances
Emotional disorders related to anxiety and depression often are treated with medications that restore chemical balances within the brain. These chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, regulate moods and determine our overall sense of well-being. The actual cause for these imbalances is not known, however there are alternative treatments available to help alleviate symptoms.
Optimal emotional health is dependent on a certain balance of neurotransmitter levels within the brain. Over time, the effects of stress, poor dietary habits and even one’s outlook on life can throw these chemicals off balance. Dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, norepinephrine and GABA are the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating moods and emotions. Diets low in potassium, magnesium, zinc or any of the essential vitamins may contribute to chemical imbalances within the brain. Anti-depressants are designed to target specific neurotransmitter deficiencies, however the cause of the imbalance remains untreated.
The effects of stress on the mind and body include fatigue, loss of sleep and anxiety. Chemical imbalances within the body prevent normal processes such as sleep and producing energy. To protect itself from stress, the brain releases certain neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Endorphins are pain-blocking or stress- blocking transmitters. Prolonged periods of stress require the brain to produce more of these chemicals, which, in turn, throws off the balance of other neurotransmitters. How a person reacts to stress affects how neurotransmitter levels are produced within the brain.
Many have turned to natural supplements as an alternative cure for chemical imbalances. St. John’s Wort, 5-HTP, Valerian Root and Kava Kava are just a few of the natural supplements used to restore neurotransmitter levels within the brain. Not unlike antidepressant medications, each one is designed to target a specific neurotransmitter group; however, supplements are formulated to have a holistic effect, meaning the drug has a more natural effect on the body’s system. Prescription medications are, instead, targeted formulas which work to alter only one process.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapies
While no known specific cause for chemical imbalances has been identified, some theories attribute a person’s thinking and behavior patterns as the source of neurotransmitter deficiencies. Psychotherapy approaches point to a direct connection between our behaviors and how they trigger certain response within the brain. In turn, these effects take on a cyclic nature where behavior and chemical response reinforce one another. Cognitive behavioral therapies are a form a counseling that helps individuals redirect the thinking patterns and behaviors that prompt certain chemical reactions within the brain.
One of the many benefits of exercise–be it running, walking or housework–is how it increases the endorphin levels in the brain. Endorphins are called the “feel good” neurotransmitters, as their presence in the system promotes a natural high and sense of well-being. Feelings of depression are associated with low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Exercise stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which, in turn, increases serotonin and norepinephine levels in the brain. These chemicals are produced naturally as a result of the body’s activity.