Neurotransmitter Testing

Chicago Nutrition Center testing for neurotransmitter levels in your body that are affected by a wide array of dietary, environmental, and lifestyle factors, making it extremely common for people to have deficiencies of certain transmitters.

Neurotransmitter Testing at Chicago's Essential Health Solutions

What Are Neurotransmitters?
Symptoms Associated With A Neurotransmitter Imbalance
Neurotransmitter Testing
List & Descriptions of Neurotransmitters and Hormones Tested

What Are Neurotransmitters?

The simplest way to think of neurotransmitters, perhaps, is as the messengers of the body's internal communications system. They are various chemicals that transmit information within the brain and within the body. They relay signals back and forth between neurons (nerve cells) or between neurons and other cells of the body (like glands, organs, and muscle tissue). In addition, they may amplify those signals, as well as modulate (or change) them.

The cells of the body would not know what to do if it weren't for the neurotransmitters telling them what the brain wants it to do. And the brain wouldn't know what's happening to the body if it weren't for the neurotransmitters reporting this information to it from the cells.

Some neurotransmitters are already familiar to many of us, though we might not have known they were neurotransmitters. For example, amino acids, responsible for building proteins and other functions involved with the metabolism. Epinephrine (aka adrenaline) is a neurotransmitter, responsible for triggering the body's protective stress response or "fight or flight" state. So is histamine, responsible for triggering certain immune responses such as an allergic reaction. Even zinc can be a neurotransmitter, if it's coming from a synapse of the brain and not food or supplements. Scientists have identified over 100 neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitter levels in the body are affected by a wide array of dietary, environmental, and lifestyle factors, making it extremely common for people to have deficiencies (or lower levels than their body requires) of certain neurotransmitters.

With this understanding of neurotransmitters, it is easy to see how an imbalance in any one of them could cause any number of problems. Imagine when some part of a communications relay goes out of whack in the real world (like a dropped call). Now imagine the same thing happening inside your body when too little of a needed neurotransmitter is available.


Symptoms Associated With A Neurotransmitter Imbalance

Different neurotransmitters are responsible for different effects we experience every day of our lives, such as cognition, learning, memory, arousal, and reward. They affect our mood, our sense of satiety (such as having eaten enough), our motor system, our endocrine system (controlling, among other things, our body's ability to convert calories into energy), as well as our temperature and our sleep.

Just some of the symptoms that can be caused by one or more neurotransmitters being out of balance are:

Poor concentration/attention deficit
General malaise
Compulsive behavior
Hormonal imbalances
Digestive/gastrointestinal troubles
Insomnia and other sleep-related problems
Other more serious conditions that can be caused by a neurotransmitter deficiency include:
Depression and panic attacks
Chronic fatigue
Adrenal dysfunction
Migraine headaches
Pms and menopausal symptoms

Neurotransmitter Testing

It is easy enough to correct a neurotransmitter deficiency, but it must first be identified in order to be corrected. Fortunately, we are lucky enough to live in today's world where the technology exists to test the body's levels of these neurotransmitters.

Here at Essential Health Solutions we use the latest neurotransmitter testing panels available.  With neuroscience advancing so fast, the panels available for testing neurotransmitters are updated regularly, and we make sure to keep pace with the latest technological advancements.

After your consultation, the doctor will discuss with you which neurotransmitter levels should be tested and will review your test findings with you.

List & Descriptions of Neurotransmitters and Hormones Tested Top
This list contains all the neurotransmitters and hormones we test for with our Chicago Nutrition Testing service along with a brief explanation of each one.
Neurotransmitters Top
Epinephrine - More familiarly known as Adrenaline, this neurotransmitter and hormone is essential in the body's process of metabolizing fat. It comes from the amino acid, norepinephrine. Being both a neurotransmitter and a hormone it has dual functions: as a neurotransmitter it regulates mental focus and attentiveness; as a hormone it is involved in the "fight or flight" response associated with fear and anger (i.e. rapid heartbeat). Low levels can be involved in fatigue, weight gain, and poor concentration; high levels can be involved in acute stress, anxiety, restlessness, and sleep problems.

Norepinephrine - Also important for focus and attention, this neurotransmitter and amino acid comes from dopamine. Norepinephrine is the precursor to epinephrine. Low levels can be involved in a lack of mental focus and poor concentration; high levels can be involved in anxiety and indicative of stress.

Dopamine - The precursor to both epinephrine and norepinephrine, dopamine has numerous functions, not least of which are memory, motor control, pleasure, reward, thrills and addiction. But dopamine also plays a key role in many systems of the body, including the cardiovascular system, central nervous system, renal system, and of course the endocrine (or hormonal) system. Low levels can be involved in a loss of motor control, a loss in satisfaction, cravings, compulsions, and addictions; high levels can be involved in hyperactivity and anxiety.

DOPAC - The job of DOPAC is, quite simply, to metabolize dopamine. Levels of DOPAC, then, relate to the levels of dopamine that can be made and stored.

Serotonin - Serotonin has several roles, one being the regulation of body temperature. But the one it is perhaps best known for is its heavy involvement in the regulation of mood. A serotonin deficiency can relate to compulsions, low mood, headaches, and anxiousness. Severe serotonin deficiencies can be indicated in cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders as well. Other roles serotonin plays are in regulating sleep, memory, and in diminishing appetite. As such, low serotonin levels can be related to trouble sleeping, memory troubles, and a heavy appetite; high levels can be related to trouble staying alert and a low appetite.

5-HIAA - Short for 5-Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid, this is serotonin metabolite like DOPAC is a dopamine metabolite. 5-HIAA is required for serotonin to be made and stored in the body. Abnormal levels can be involved in aggression, depression, suicidal behaviors, chronic psychotropic medication use, and Parkinson’s Disease.

GABA - This is the primary neurotransmitter responsible for preventing over-stimulation, or "excitability". All neurotransmitters are either "excitatory" (stimulating) or "inhibitory" (inhibiting); to prevent over-stimuation, there must be a balance between the two types of neurotransmitters in our bodies at all times. This is where GABA comes in, compensating for an excess of glutamate and thereby maintaining a constant balance of stimulating and inhibiting neurotransmitters in the body, so long as GABA levels aren't imbalanced, that is.

Glycine - An inhibitory neurotransmitter that functions similar to GABA, Glycine is also a non-essential amino acid. When the body experiences an excess of stimulating neurotransmitters, glycine and taurine are released to compensate, restoring balance. Imbalances in glycine can related to overall neurotransmitter imbalances in the body on a macro level; think of glycine (and taurine - below) as part of the body's checks-and-balances system. Additionally, glycine is instrumental in the activation of glutamate which itself is essential for proper brain development, memory, and learning.

Taurine - Taurine's primary role is to support GABA function (described briefly above as critical in preventing over-stimulation, or excitability). Therefore, like another inhibitory neurotransmitter, glycine, taurine levels can be elevated in order to compensate for an excess of excitatory neurotransmitters. Taurine is also involved in regulating the effect of harmful free radicals on the cells of the body.

Glutamate - Counter to GABA, glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is necessary for learning and memory, including the brain's ability to adapt to genetic and environmental influences. It influences behavior and motivation. High levels of glutamate can be involved in impulse-driven behaviors and addictive cravings, and it can be indicated in cases of trauma and degenerative diseases, though an excess of glutamate alone is unlikely to cause those conditions to manifest; low levels can be related to problems with learning and memory, as well as to overstimulation (if GABA levels can't keep up to compensate).

PEA - This amino acid promotes energy and elevates mood, which explains why PEA has been associated with the antidepressant effects of physical exercise. In addition, a PEA imbalance has been associated with headaches. Low levels can be indicated in cases of depression; high levels can be associated with psychopathic behavior. PEA supplementation can be used to help increase focus and attention.

Histamine - Depending on the receptor it binds with, histamine can activate a wide array of disparate biological activities: it can help regulate (or disturb) the sleeping-waking cycle, it's involved in inducing inflammation (generally in reaction to exposure to an allergen), or it can regulate the production and flow of other neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and acetylcholine in the body.

Tyramine - Tyramine is used in the processing of releasing dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.  Therefore an excess or insufficient levels of tyramine can result in the same symptoms as an excess or insufficiency of these other neurotransmitters.  In some people, tyramine has been found to trigger migraine headaches.  People taking MAO inhibitor drugs may have difficulty breaking down tyramine and can experience symptoms of hypertension after ingesting tyramine-rich foods, as can people in general who ingest excessive tyramine in their diet.

Tryptamine - Tryptamine is vital in the release of serotonin, and therefore plays an active role in sleep.  Symptoms of excessive or insufficient tryptamine therefore would be the same as those for excessive or insufficient serotonin.


Hormones Top
DHEA - Produced by the adrenal gland, DHEA (its full name is dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroidal hormone that is converted in the bloodstream into estrogens and androgens (like estradiol, estrone, and progesterone). It is involved inenergy, mental and physical stamina, mental/emotional outlook on life, and the functioning of the immune system.

Cortisol - This is the primary hormone involved in the stress response. Produced by the adrenal gland, cortisol (also known as hydrocortisone) is a steroidal hormone involved as well in regulating blood pressure and the metabolizing of carbohydrates. High levels are indicative of increased stress and have been associated with sleep difficulties, chronic insomnia being the extreme. Low levels can be involved in low blood pressure, fatigue, and weight gain.

Estradiol - The primary and single-most potent form that the estrogen produced in women's bodies takes during their reproductive years. It is, in fact, the most powerful of the naturally-occurring female hormones. Produced in the ovaries, estradiol supplementation is often used to treat estrogen deficiencies as well as menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms and conditions.

Estrone - Another of the three kinds of estrogen produced in women's ovaries, estrone is prevalent during pregnancy, and like estradiol is also sometimes used to treat estrogen deficiencies as well as menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms and conditions.

Estriol - The third and weakest of the three naturally occuring types of estrogen in women, estriol is produced by the placenta and is only present in notable quantities during pregnancy.  In non-pregnant women, estriol levels remain consistently low, akin to levels in men, including after menopause.  Mostly estriol is tested in a pregnant woman's blood to indicate the health of the fetus.  It is not  a definitive determinant of fetal health, however, and other conditions can lead to false positive and negative results, including anemia, preeclampsia, and kidney function impairment.

Progesterone - The third of the three types of estrogen produced in women's ovaries (this one during ovulation particularly), progesterone is also produced, albeit in lesser amounts, by the adrenal glands. Progesterone is the kind of estrogen that enhances the beneficial properties of all the 3 types of estrogen, balances the levels all 3 together, and helps prevent problems associated with estrogen deficiencies or excesses. It is a precursor to almost all of the steroidal hormones produced in the body. It helps maintain pregnancies and regulate menstrual cycles. It is known to have soothing and calming effects as well as the properties of a diuretic.

Testosterone - Testosterone is involved in several important bodily functions: it helps regulate the body's energy levels, including both mental and physical motivation and acuity; it's involved in maintaining the sex drive; and it's involved in building healthy muscles, bones, and skin. Low levels can be involved in osteoporosis (or a loss of bone density), reduced muscle mass, mental fatigue and burnout, low stamina, night-sweats, resistance to insulin, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, depression, immune dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - Known to be a bio-marker for aging, this is one of hormones that testosterone turns into in the bloodstream. Its full name is Dihydrotestosterone and it promotes the growth of body, the loss of hair from the scalp, and problems with the prostate gland.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) - Also known as Lutropin, LH is produced in the pituitary gland, and when present in high levels in women, triggers ovulation.  Also called Interstitial Cell-Stimulating Hormone (ICSH) when present in men, LH stimulates testosterone production.  In both males and females, LH is necessary for reproduction.  Levels are typically low in childhood and after menopause.  High levels in childhood may be associated with early puberty, while high levels in one's reproductive years could be associated with premature menopause and certain conditions involving the reproductive system.  Excessively low LH levels in one's reproductive years could indicate gonadal failure, pituitary impairment, eating disorder, amenorrhea (in females), or a number of other conditions.  LH acts synergistically with Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH).

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) - A product of the pituitary gland, FSH regulates growth and development, including puberty and reproductive function.  An increase in FSH in women triggers ovulation.  In men, FSH is critical for spermatogenesis and is involved in the production of secondary spermatocytes.  In both men and women FSH stimulates germ cells to mature.  FSH acts synergistically with Luteinizing Hormone (LH).  In childhood FSH levels are low; typically they're highest in post-menopausal women.  High FSH levels in people in their reproductive years could indicate any of several conditions associated with infertility or subfertility, while low levels can cause gonad function failure.

Prolactin - Released by the pituitary gland, prolactin stimulates breast development and production of milk in women, and therefore levels are particularly high in pregnant women.  There is no known function for it in men.  Irregularities in prolactin levels may be associated with impotence, infertility, amenorrhea, decreased libido, and breast milk production unrelated to childbirth.  High levels of prolactin can be associated with chest wall irritation, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, pituitary yumors, or antidepressants and estrogens.  There are also many triggers that only temporarily increase prolactin levels, including stress, high protein foods, recent excercise and breast stimulation.

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) - Produced and regulated mostly by the liver but also the brain, testes, uterus, and placenta, SHBG, as its name suggests, binds directly to sex hormones, namely androgens and estrogens.  In males it is essential in testosterone regulation and transport, while in females it's essential in transport and regulation of estradiol.  Increased SHBG can be both a function of lower testosterone levels overall and a cause of lowered free testosterone levels. High SHBG may also be associated with high levels of thyroxine or estrogen, and can be found in liver disease, hyperthyroidism, anorexia, and hypogonadism.  Low SHGB levels couldbe associated with high levels of growth hormone, insulin, prolactin, and androgens, and can be found in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome, hirsutism, and Cushing Disease.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) - Produced by the pituitary gland, TSH instructs the thyroid gland to produce and release thyroid hormones into the blood stream, namely Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).  High TSH levels usually indicate hypothyroidism, while low TSH levels could be the result of Graves disease, toxic nodular goiter, or certain medication use, including steroids and opiod painkillers like morphine.  A TSH test is a helpful indicator of overall thyroid health.

Free Triiodothyronine (fT3) - Of all the T3 the body produces, only a small portion of it is unbound to carrier proteins; it is this unbound, or free T3 that scientists believe is responsible for most of the biological role T3 is attributed with playing in control of the metabolisim.  Therefore, a simple T3 test may not be sufficient to determine how much triiodothyronine is actually available to be used for the body's metabolic regulation.  Excessive free T3 could indicate hyperthrodisim and may be associated with symptoms of increased heart rate, weight loss, diarrhea, trouble sleeping, anxiety, hand tremors, muscle weakness, sensitivity to light, and inflammation, irritation, or discoloration of the eyes.

Free Thyroxine (fT4) - Like with fT3, this test measures the available and biologically acive thyroxine in the blood that has not already bound to a carrier protein.  It is the free thyroxine levels and not the overall thyroxine levels that indicate how much T4 is available for the body to utilize in its metabolic regulatory functions.  Increased active thyroxine is associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure, respiration, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, basal metabolic rate, and increased activity of sympathetic neurotransmitters (e.g. epinephrine, dopamine).


After neurotransmitter testing, there are options for neurotransmitter balancing using several natural methods that can make the nessessary changes in the neurotransmitter levels which can include a combination of dietary and nutrition supplements which may include herbs, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.  The reccomendations for each person is unique to their body and circumstances and are explored in depth during the individualized nutrition counseling session following the neurotransmitter testing.


Call us to set up an appointment for Neurotransmitter testing in our Chicago office located on Ravenswood and Foster in Andersonville.  773.878.7330