September 16, 2015
Ask Labrix Doctors:
Neurotransmitter Testing FAQs

Labrix currently tests the neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate. Neurotransmitter imbalances can be easily identified with a single, noninvasive urine sample. Testing provides a tool to understand each patient’s specific imbalances, which can be corrected with targeted nutritional therapy, diet, and lifestyle interventions. For some practitioners, this is a new tool, and they have questions before getting started. Below are some of the most common questions we have received from providers like you!

Q: Does neurotransmitter testing measure brain levels of neurotransmitters?

A: This is a common question. In fact, it is a common criticism of neurotransmitter testing. The testing that Labrix utilizes measures whole body levels of neurotransmitters; urine testing is not solely reflective of CSF levels. The truth is, testing whole body levels is likely to be more helpful in making treatment decisions for our patients. We know that up to 80% of the serotonin that is secreted in the body is secreted in the gastrointestinal tract. Almost all epinephrine, and some amount of norepinephrine, is secreted in the periphery, from the adrenal medulla. And emerging research is highlighting the influence of gut microbes; these bacteria actually secrete neurochemicals that affect how we think and feel. Because neurotransmitters function both in the central nervous system and in the periphery, measuring whole body levels will give a better overall assessment of what our patients are working with. We know that neurotransmitter testing is a good general guide to treatment and correlates well with symptoms, and if you look at the literature, has considerable validity over the last 20 years or so.

Check out this bibliography to read more about the validity of neurotransmitter testing.

Q: When should I consider neurotransmitter testing? What signs or symptoms should alert me to utilize this testing in my patients?

A: Consider neurotransmitter testing…

  1. When a pronounced mood complaint is part of a patient’s initial treatment request, or if they are currently using an SSRI, SNRI, etc.
  2. When the patient reports significant neurotransmitter symptoms on the Labrix requisition form, i.e. cognitive and mood concerns, stress, insomnia and fatigue, decreased motivation, cravings and addictions, and/or pain issues.
  3. If you have been working with a patient and his/her hormones are beautifully balanced, but s/he is still experiencing symptoms (i.e. persistent fatigue, sleep issues, mood swings and cognitive issues).

Q: Can I use this test with children?

A: Yes. We discovered that with most neurotransmitters, levels are higher in younger children, so we did an investigational study to evaluate ranges in children. Based on this information, Labrix has two pediatric ranges: one for children age 1-6, and the other for children age 7-17.

Q: Should I test neurotransmitters while my patients are on amino acids? What about antidepressant drugs like SSRIs? How will they affect the testing?

A: It depends on what you are looking for:

  1. If your patient is doing well since starting treatment, and you want to check for supplementation levels, then have her continue to take aminos while testing (just don’t take the morning of the test until after the urine has been collected).
  2. If you are interested in knowing endogenous levels, stop amino acids for at least two weeks before testing.
  3. Patients can test neurotransmitters while using antidepressants. You will get a snapshot of your patient’s imbalances while they are taking the drug.
  4. As for the effects of antidepressants, this will vary for each individual. Most people do not do baseline testing before beginning a pharmaceutical. However, it is generally understood that antidepressants will, over time, deplete neurotransmitter levels.

Q: So patients can take amino acids while using psychotropic drugs?

A: Yes! Neurotransmitter imbalances often still exist when patients take psychotropic drugs. Addressing these imbalances can improve your patient’s health and symptom picture. If weaning is a goal, addressing imbalances will support them as they transition off of the drug. Additionally, if the patient is using an SSRI or SNRI, testing can help to avoid issues like serotonin syndrome by assessing serotonin levels before adding 5-HTP or other serotonin boosting supplements.

Q: How often should I retest my patients?

A: While patients often report feeling differently within days of starting amino acid therapies, it can take some time for neurotransmitter levels to change significantly. Typically, testing between 3-6 months after treating neurotransmitter imbalances will allow time for the body to respond to therapy, and for neurotransmitter levels to change appropriately.

Labrix has staff physicians on call Monday-Friday, 8:00-5:00 PST ready to chat with you and talk through any questions you may have. No appointment is necessary.

And remember, because it is especially important to understand the interrelationships of the neurotransmitters as well as their relationships with adrenal and sex hormones, an optimal approach measures neurotransmitter levels in addition to a full hormone panel. Changes in sex hormones and adrenal hormones can lead to neurotransmitter imbalances, while conversely neurotransmitter imbalances can affect hormone production and function. Testing both neurotransmitters and hormones provides a comprehensive view of the body’s functional neuroendocrine status, and brings to light additional factors that may be contributing to symptoms.

Labrix Clinical Spotlight Series:
Hormone and Neurotransmitter Combo Testing

Labrix' Senior Staff Physician Lylen Ferris, ND discusses the benefits of testing both hormones and neurotransmitters to help treat a variety of common physical and mental health concerns.

Labrix Advanced Workshop

Labrix CEO Dr. Erin Lommen extends a personal invitation to providers to come join us at Labrix Advanced Workshop in Las Vegas.

Advanced Workshop
Las Vegas, NV
January 16-17, 2016

Join Labrix founders and staff physicians for 2 full days of training and case studies, focusing on hormone, adrenal and neurotransmitter optimization. The workshop is just $199: Register today!

Early Bird Offer: Register by Sept 30 and receive $50 testing credit on your account after completion of workshop. Promo code: MARKETING

Greenville, SC
September 26-27, 2015

Labrix co-founder Jay Mead, MD will be speaking at the American Academy of Thermology conference, September 26-27, 2015. Dr. Mead will be presenting on scientific updates regarding hormone testing.