What do you crave? Sweets? Salty snacks? Sex? Drugs? Gambling? Screens? Cravings and compulsions can drive us to indulge in behaviors that are not healthy for us, even when we know better!
Neurotransmitters are the brain’s messenger system, but sometimes, they lose balance. These imbalances drive many of the cravings that we experience. When we are not feeling comfortable in our own skin, some of us turn to foods or substances to elicit a feel-good response. While any imbalance can result in cravings, we know that dopamine and glutamate are often the neurotransmitters involved in addictions – be they drugs, alcohol or food. A serotonin deficiency may present as cravings for carbohydrates, both salty and sweet. Imbalanced levels of epinephrine or norepinephrine drive some of us to engage in risky behaviors.
Some signs that your neurotransmitter levels are out of balance:
Poor impulse control
Cravings for food, alcohol, tobacco, etc
Cognitive or mood concerns
Hormones play an important role in maintaining blood sugar balance and restorative sleep patterns and imbalance may result in cravings and disturbed sleep. Your adrenal glands make cortisol (the stress hormone), which impacts blood sugar levels, blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism. The ideal cortisol pattern is highest first thing in the morning and steadily decreases toward nighttime. Over time, continued stress disrupts the delicate balance of hormones, including how much cortisol is made and when it is released. When your body is under constant stress, your nervous system never receives the signal to relax. This causes the cortisol response to become altered, which can lead to other hormones going awry.
Over a period of time with constant stress, the HPA axis (adrenal glands are part of this system) becomes altered, eventually producing less and less cortisol. Without enough cortisol, the body needs to find energy from somewhere else. Our bodies crave sugar, caffeine and other stimulants to counteract lowered cortisol levels and temporarily raise energy levels.
Some signs that cortisol and other hormone levels are out of balance may include:
Difficulty sleeping, and feeling tired but wired
Neuroendocrine testing and follow-up is crucial for identifying the appropriate treatment to get you back on track. Once hormone and neurotransmitter levels are balanced, restorative sleep, diminished cravings, and days filled with energy and vitality could be just around the corner. The Neurohormone Complete Panel is an excellent way to evaluate hormone and neurotransmitter function. This panel tests sex steroid hormones, adrenal hormones, and neurotransmitter levels, all of which can contribute to cravings and compulsions.
The NeuroHormone Complete Panel will test: