Psychological problems seem to be everywhere in today’s society.  The knee jerk reaction is to medicate.  The problem with these drugs is that they really don’t hold up to well against placebo.  As a matter of fact, for the vast majority of patients, they are just plain ineffective.

Before we go into the gist of this article, we need to cover some basic neurochemistry.  There are certain amino acids that our body’s use to convert to neurotransmitters.  The most famous of which is probably tryptophan, which the body uses to convert to serotonin.  Tyrosine gets converted to epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline) in the adrenals as well as dopamine in the dopaminergic cells of the brain.  Using this knowledge, you can actually use supplements containing tryrosine and / or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) to help manage depression or anxiety.

This particular study takes an interesting look at what inflammation does to these amino acids in the elderly.  The enzyme indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) breaks down tryptophan, keeping it from being used to make serotonin.  Inflammation seem to speed up this enzyme, breaking down tryptophan before it can be used to produce serotonin and help the brain and our moods function better.

The enzyme guanosine-triphosphate-cyclohydrolase-1 (GTPCH1) is required to produce a compound called BH4, which the body then uses to produce, ultimately, tyrosine and the neurotransmitters noted above.

If all this seems a little too complex for dinner conversation, just remember that inflammation is a major player in much of what goes on in our bodies and brains.  Managing any concern or condition (in this particular case, psychological problems in the elderly) needs to incorporate methods to lower inflammation.

This means a plant based diet.  Lowering of omega-6 fatty acids and increased intakes of omega-3.  It means no processed foods.  Exercise.  Stress management.  The list is almost endless. 

The bottom line is that treatment of any psychological problem needs to encompass the entire body to be the most effective it can be.  Anything short of this is not good medicine.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.