Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals which help the transmission of signals from one neuron to the next.  They work with the receptors in the brain to influence and regulate processes throughout the body like mental performance, emotions, pain response, and energy levels.  Neurotransmitters work primarily in the central nervous system as chemical messengers. Dysfunction of neurotransmitters leads to impaired health and well-being.  

Common Symptoms of Neurotransmitter Imbalances

  • Mood Changes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar 
  • Addiction
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Brain Fog
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration Issues
  • Appetite Issues

Hormones vs. Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are released by the brain through the central nervous system, work locally, and their actions happen more quickly.  Hormones are secreted by the endocrine system, released into the bloodstream and act on distant cells. Some hormones are produced in the brain, released into the blood and then affect other parts of the body.  There is growing research suggesting that many hormones work as neurotransmitters and vice-versa. Hormones and neurotransmitters work together and changes in hormones can lead to neurotransmitters imbalances. In turn, neurotransmitters also affect hormone production and function.  Understanding the relationship between both provides a comprehensive view of the body’s function and what factors may be contributing to various symptoms.  

Factors That Cause Hormone Imbalances 

  • Gut Dysbiosis – For example, gut flora predisposes the body to produce excess estrogen or estrogen deficiency as certain species of gut bacteria metabolize estrogen. Additionally, dysbiosis promotes intestinal permeability and leads to inflammation which disrupts hormone balance.  
  • HPA axis dysfunction – The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis regulates hormone production in the body; therefore, an imbalance in the axis, and sex, adrenal, and thyroid hormones are affected.  High levels of cortisol, caused by factors like stress, cause hormone resistance meaning that the receptors become less sensitive and they don’t activate properly. Additionally, high cortisol levels contribute to leaky gut syndrome.  
  • Insulin/leptin resistance – Factors like poor diet, lack of exercise, and inadequate sleep lead to increased insulin and leptin resistance which cause problems with blood sugar regulation.  Leptin tells the brain to use the body’s fat stores for energy when the brain stops recognizing these signals and reads that it needs more food, turning up hunger signals. Insulin surges increase testosterone levels causing conditions like PCOS, infertility and hormone imbalances.  
  • Liver detox – The liver is important to detoxifying hormones in the body.  When the phase one and two liver detox processes are compromised, hormones are only partially metabolized or broken down.  These partially broken-down hormones can’t activate hormone receptors or initiate responses like fully active hormones, competing with active hormones and throw off normal processing.  This results in possible normal hormone lab values but with hormone imbalance symptoms. Factors like nutrient deficiency caused by the standard American diet, exposure to mold, heavy metals and chemicals contribute to faulty liver detox.  
  • Essential fatty acid metabolism – Fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats like omega 3 and omega 6s, and they influence prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins modulate hormone receptor sensitivity.  Omega 6 fatty acids are in processed plant oils like soybean, corn, sunflower oil which are all found in packaged/processed foods. Too much Omega-6 diminishes or exaggerates the response by the receptor, causing an imbalance in hormones.  
    All these mechanisms contribute to one another, for example,  if cortisol and HPA axis issues exist it will interfere with insulin and leptin signaling, causing leaky gut and inflammation.  Leaky gut and inflammation, in turn, increase cortisol production, causing insulin resistance and interferes with liver detox resulting in a buildup of excess hormones.  Identifying the underlying problem, rather than just replacing hormones is vital to address all the issues.  

Identifying Imbalances 

The Neurohormone Complete Plus Panel from Labrix uses saliva and urine to uncover hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances.  Adding the neurotransmitters provides insight on how the HPA axis function may be contributing to the symptom manifestations like mood swings, fatigue, and pain. 

In addition to testing hormones like estrogen (Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), Estriol (E3) ) and the estrogen quotient, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol, this test also exams key neurotransmitters to determine which may be affecting the body.   

Key Neurotransmitters 

Serotonin – involved in the regulation of sleep, appetite, and aggression.  An imbalance causes depression, anxiety, worry, obsessive thoughts, carb cravings, PMS and sleep disturbances.  

GABA – a major inhibitory neurotransmitter, important for balancing excitatory neurotransmitters.  High levels of GABA contribute to sluggish energy, sedated feelings, and brain fog. Low levels are associated with adrenal stress response dysregulation. When GABA is inhibited, poor impulse control can occur, leading to many anxious or reactive behaviors.  

Dopamine – responsible for the pleasure/reward pathway regulation, memory, and motor control.  Elevated levels are associated with hyperactivity, anxiety, autism, mood swings, and attention disorders while low levels contribute to loss of motor control, cravings, loss of satisfaction and addictive behaviors.  

Epinephrine – Better known as adrenaline, it regulates muscle contraction, heart rate, breakdown of stored sugar, blood pressure, and is involved in stress response.  High adrenaline is linked to hyperactivity, sleep issues, and low adrenal function. Depleted epinephrine leads to poor concentration, fatigue, depression, insufficient cortisol production, chronic stress, and delayed recovery from illness. 

Norepinephrine – Involved with attention, focus, heart rate regulation, blood flow, inflammation suppression. Stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, and hyperactivity result from high levels, while low levels are associated with lack of energy, focus, and motivation. 

Glutamate – the most abundant neurotransmitter in the nervous system and involved in most brain functions like cognition, memory, and learning.  Often panic attacks, anxiety, concentration issues, OCD and depression come with low levels of glutamate. Low levels result in agitation, memory loss, sleeplessness, low energy, and depression.  

Glycine – is both a neurotransmitter and amino acid, the building block of proteins. Glycine improves sleep, calms aggression, and serves as an anti-inflammatory agent. Compromised cognitive processing is associated with high levels of glycine, while low levels contribute to poor sleep, memory issues, and reduced cognitive function.  

Histamine – involved in the sleep/wake cycle and inflammatory response.  Allergy-like symptoms are common with high levels, as are gastrointestinal concerns and inflammation.  Elevated levels interfere with sleep. Low histamine affects digestion and appetite control, learning, memory, and mood.  

Phenethylamine (PEA) – promotes energy, elevates mood, regulates attention, and aggression and is a common biomarker for ADHD.  Elevated levels contribute to anxiety and high cortisol levels. Low PEA is associated with depression and ADHD symptoms.  

Why Have Neurohormone Testing Done?

Neurotransmitters are potent chemicals which regulate many physical and emotional processes like mental performance, emotional state, physical state, and pain.  Consider this panel if you are experiencing symptoms like a depressed mood, anxiety, adrenal dysfunction, fatigue, poor sleep, cognitive fog, ADD/ADHD, loss of appetite, cravings or sexual dysfunction.   This panel may also be helpful for assessment of perimenopause, hormone shifts associated with aging and fertility issues. Assessing hormones and neurotransmitters is the most efficient way to uncover imbalances that are causing your symptoms.  


Labrix. (n.d). Neurotransmitter Imbalances & Mood Disorders [PDF].  Retrieved from 

Labrix. (n.d.).  Neurotransmitters Fact Sheet. [PDF]. Retrieved from

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