and How They Affect Your Life?
Just like hormones govern many chemical functions in the body, the brain’s chemical functions are governed by messengers called neurotransmitters.
A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger used by neurons (nerve cells) to communicate in one direction with other neurons. These neurotransmitters are either excitatory or inhibitory. Each cell receives its instructions through nerve processes called dendrites and it passes on instructions to the next cell through its axon. The gap between the axon of one cell and the dendrite of the next is called a synapse.
Special molecules in the dendrite are called receptors. They are shaped to receive only one type of neurotransmitter, which fits it like a key in a lock. The result is that if an excitatory neurotransmitter reaches the specific receptor, the cell tends to fire. If an inhibitory neurotransmitter reaches the receptor, the cell does not fire.
If neurotransmitters of either type are in short supply, or if they are blocked from reaching their proper receptors, (as a result of either genetics and/or chemical use) cell function tends to be abnormal. The lack of neurotransmitter function then results in maladaptive behavior.
The human brain is very capable of automatically manufacturing the quantity of chemicals it needs IF it is given the raw materials (nutrients from foods) to do so. However, normal diet does not supply enough of the raw materials the brain needs to manufacture the needed level of neurotransmitters. Additionally, stress, worry, chemical use, poor nutrition, pollution and other factors of modern life are known to deplete neurotransmitter levels.
In order to ingest the required amount of food to provide the necessary amount of amino acids needed to maintain normal neurotransmitter levels we would have to eat each day:
- Several pounds of fish
- Gallons of whole milk,
- Platters of cheese and turkey
Not only is this impractical it is impossible, so therefore another source of nutritional support is necessary so we do not gain hundreds of pounds.
Next we will look at a few of the more familiar neurotransmitters and their function. ->