Brain Chemistry, Mood and Amino Acids – Podcast #57
Brain chemistry is the sum of all the chemical messaging that takes place in the brain, which allows it to carry out its daily functions, such as generating movement, speaking, thinking, listening, regulating the systems of the body, and countless others.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani and Evan Brand begin this podcast by sharing patient stories that deal with blood sugar issues and eliminating sugar cravings as well as patients
with autoimmune conditions being treated with dietary work and adrenal work. You can reach out to either of them so they can help you put together an action plan on the next steps to do to improve your health. Discover the differences between conventional medicine and functional medicine and how patients’ symptoms are being addressed and what treatments are being given.
They also get into in-depth discussion about brain chemicals and neurotransmitters. Dr. Justin effectively demonstrates the process of the action potential and the neuro conductivity that take place. Find out how long a person should use amino acids therapeutically in order not to create any deficiencies as Dr. Justin explains it thoroughly in this interview and he tells us what other nutrients you need to be taking while on this type of treatment.
In this episode, topics include:
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Hey, it’s Dr. J. Evan, what’s going on, man?
Evan Brand: Hey, not much. I just finished up some matcha, some organic matcha and schizandra, so I’m feeling pretty turned on in terms of my brain function today.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Turned on. I like it, man. That sounds good. That sounds really good. Yeah, I’m having–
Evan Brand: Yeah.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: A pretty spectacular morning. It’s Friday. It’s–it’s hot. It’s sunny in Austin, so I mean I can’t really complain. Actually flying out in a few hours to go up to San Francisco here for the–for the weekend, so I’m pretty excited about that.
Evan Brand: That sounds good. What are you doing up there?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: You know what? We’re just doing a little bit of R&R, gonna travel a little bit. I lived in San Francisco for 5 years so heading back to the old hood.
Evan Brand: Wow, so it will feel like going home then?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Getting’ away from some of this Texas heat. Yeah, I know.
Evan Brand: True. I’m sure it’s hot. That’s one thing I’m glad to be back in Kentucky, man. We’re not burning up like–like I was there. I was waiting for the snow to come and it never came.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, well, I hang out in the lake a lot in the summer and that kinda cools off.
Evan Brand: That’s true. That’s true.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Go down at the Barton–Barton Creek Springs downtown there, it’s really nice.
Evan Brand: Yes, it is.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome, buddy. Awesome. So anything new with you? Any patient stories this week?
Evan Brand: Yeah, actually I just posted a testimonial on my YouTube page or my website if people wanted to see it. It was a patient that I saw inside of the chiropractor’s office. One of my very, very few in-person patients that I see these days because I’m like you, a lot of people are not in the local area that need help. So anyway, she basically eliminated her sugar cravings–I guess I would say I eliminated or maybe she just felt the effects, within 2-3 days of her supplement protocol. So when I did the initial symptom gathering process on her, I saw that she had some blood sugar issues going on which surprise, most people do and–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Right, exactly.
Evan Brand: So I recommended some supplements that were gonna some blood sugar. Some Aqueous Chromium and a couple different other biotics products that have some good, you know, blood sugar support nutrients in there and her testimonial was verbatim to this. “I usually have trouble going through the candy aisle, but I went into the grocery and I felt like going straight to the vegetable section.” I was like, “Wow!”
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Oh, wow!
Evan Brand: That’s pretty cool! So–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That is awesome.
Evan Brand: She said her stress is already better. She had a lot going on with her husband. He’s got some pretty bad health issues and so that stress bucket is full, but she’s already feeling a little bit calmer which has then in turn reducing her amount of emotional and stress eating that she identified with on the questionnaire. She was one of those people that she feels stressed out, she’ll go and eat like a candy bar and now she is able to–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Right.
Evan Brand: To work through those times.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Well, that’s awesome, man.
Evan Brand: What about you?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s a great story. Well, I had a patient. I’ve actually had a couple of patients in the last week where they had some severe autoimmune conditions. This one patient I saw has an autoimmune condition called hidradenitis suppurativa.
Evan Brand: Yup.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So this is a–a really interesting autoimmune condition that like attacks the skin and creates these major boils or welts, almost to the point where they have to be, you know, surgically removed because they become so massive. This patient had some surgery scheduled to actually get some of these hidradenitis suppurativas removed and we talked and we just did a little bit of dietary work and a little bit of adrenal work off the bat and within 1 month when she got ready to see the general surgeon to have the lesions looked at, they were gone. And the surgeon was like, “What did you do?” This–that happened? The surgeon was flabbergasted and this it really comes down to a lot of the chronic conditions that medicine is seeing are autoimmune and medicine is not addressing the underlying issues of autoimmunity which is stress, which is a leaky gut, which is a lot of food-induced stuff, and there’s a lot of infections and underlying issues on top of that, and now with this patient, we didn’t even have a chance to dive deep enough into the real deeper functional medicine issues but just an autoimmune diet made a massive difference. And this is just so cool because, you know, conventional medicine doesn’t really have a solution for this but in the functional medicine world where we live, there’s so many things we can do.
Evan Brand: That’s awesome. That’s a great story. Yeah, I’ve actually had a podcast on that topic. I can’t remember the name of the book now but there’s an author that wrote a book about that and she struggled a ton with it and it’s crazy because it’s a very underrecognized condition. Some people at first think they have eczema and–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah.
Evan Brand: These other kind of generic skin issues and then they really have an autoimmune skin issue which sounds terrifying.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Oh yeah, and the cool thing about our podcast, I’m really loving our dynamic. We’re getting a lot of great feedback on your show, on my show, and I think the podcast that we’re producing is just different than most because we’re having a lot of clinical feedback and we’re really helping people walk away with a lot of action items. I don’t want people just to walk away feeling like they just got some brain candy and it’s like, you know, they got some stuff for jeopardy, right? I want them to feel like they got some brain candy but they also got like an action item that they can walk away with and make their life better, performance-wise, whether it’s a biohacking thing or a clinical pearl. Just something they can walk away with. They can be like, “Yeah, I’m gonna–I’m gonna be better after listening to this podcast, healthier in some way.”
Evan Brand: Right. Yeah, I mean, I’m coming up on 150 episodes of my podcast and I’ve really felt for a while that I’m helping people but in a certain way some of these episodes that I’ve put up and I’ve even not up an episode since with some people because I feel like it was blabber and too much about them and not enough about action and things like that, and so I’m really trying to shift the show. So hopefully, people are enjoying that on my end as well, and I’ve gotten some feedback that that verifies it and the downloads are, you know, higher than ever. So apparently, something’s working.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, and anyone listening to this and feeling like, you know what, maybe they’re at a crossroads at their health where they’re not quite sure what to do, reach out to Evan or reach out to me, and we can kind of put together an action plan on what the next step so we can move forward on to get to the underlying cause of your health issues versus just covering up symptoms which is really the only option in the conventional medical model.
Evan Brand: Yeah, or ignoring them or saying they don’t exist like Lyme disease for example. That’s a whole another podcast topic, but very timely.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, or just numbing you out and give you an antidepressant or again, being a functional medicine doctor is stressful, too, because you get to hear all the horror stories. I can’t tell you how many patients that come see me each week, have seen their medical provi–you know, medical provider, their GP or whatever, and they’ve been told it’s all in their head. I just–I can’t-
Evan Brand: Yeah.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I mean, 4 or 5 times a week it makes me wanna pull my hair out because I see people suffering and we see it, they’ve come back on tests where they have functional issues and their conventional doctors are just like, “Yeah, it’s all in your head.” And then they look at them like they’re making it up and I’m like, “Oh, my God.” There’s a physiological and biochemical explanation, and just because it doesn’t fit into the mold of, you know, cutting it out or drugging it, it doesn’t mean it’s all in their head.
Evan Brand: Totally. Yeah, I’ve seen that, too. It’s always crazy to look at the symptoms and then you look at the prescriptions they’ve taking, and it’s like, “Why? Why Lexapro? Why Valium?”
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah.
Evan Brand: Wh–why do you need this stuff? And I know there’s a time and place for that model for some people and maybe there’s extreme scenarios but oftentimes there’s a much better alternative that happens to come from a plant or some type of botanical extract or something, so there are options out there. I guess that’s–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah.
Evan Brand: Kinda what you’re getting at.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And it may be in their head from the perspective of their gut’s inflamed and inflammation in the gut creates inflammation in the brain, and there may be some brain inflammation meaning it is in their head. But not from the perspective that the MD is meaning that they’re making it up, right? There may be an underlying etiology and biochemical issue that is partly affecting the brain but they’re not making it up though.
Evan Brand: Right.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Cool. Well, let’s dig in. We chatted a little bit about amino acids and brain chemistry and mood. I wanted to dive in deep to that because conventional medicine for the most part it’s anti-depressants, it’s anti-psychotics, it’s benzodiazepines like Xanax and such. It’s Wellbutrin, right? SSNRIs, things that modulate norepinephrine or dopamine or the reuptake of serotonin or increased GABA receptor site sensitivity, all these drugs they do nothing but change the location of a lot of these brain chemicals, which I might add all come from protein. So this is powerful, right? In the conventional medical kind of field, we have drugs that change the location of these brain compounds or these neurochemical compounds, and in functional medicine world, from just the supplement standpoint, when we give specific amino acids to alter brain chemistry we’re trying to change the amount of these brain chemicals by altering building blocks versus conventional medicine’s just changing the location, and this is a fascinating kind of comparison. You wanna break it down a little more?
Evan Brand: Oh, yeah. Neurotransmitters are basically brain chemicals. That’s the easy way to remember them and scientists–I haven’t identified per–personally any but I know they’re out there. Scientists have identified over a hundred and they actually have no clue how many neurotransmitters there are in total. But typically when we’re talking about helping people with health symptoms, we’re focusing on just a key group of neurotransmitters such as the GABA, the serotonin, you have the dopamine. You have your adrenalin and then you have your noradrenalin or your epinephrine and norepinephrine, wherever you are in the world, whatever you call it. And these basically to me, they run the show. Hormones are equally if not more important, but to me, neurotransmitters are huge and I’ve–I mean, I just wrote an entire book. It’s not out with the publisher yet, but I just wrote an entire book on neurotransmitters, basically talking about the way that different herbs and supplements interact with this brain chemistry and how you can tweak it towards your benefit, whether somebody listening that just wants some cognitive enhancements, some, you know, brain power, some focus ability or if you’re somebody who can’t go out of your house or go to the grocery store without having a panic attack. There’s a wide spectrum of people that are struggling, that can get help once they first measure with lab testing and then accurately treat or align or balance those underlying brain chemical deficiencies or imbalances.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Absolutely. So the first thing we have to look at is that all of our brain chemicals for the most part are made from protein and protein is like the pearl necklace and the individual pearls are like the amino acids. So amino acids, especially L-tyrosine which gets converted into dopamine, L-trytophan and 5-HTP which gets converted into serotonin, so these are like our master neurochemicals and they all come from protein. So first step is making sure the diet is protein-rich, good quality, natural organic sources of protein. That’s number one. Number two, are we digesting these proteins, right? Do we have enough hydrochloric acid and enzyme secretions to be able to break it down. And then number three, if we aren’t able to break it down, what are the underlying infections, dysbiosis, SIBO, parasites, H. pylori, etc. that are creating this malabsorption? So we kinda look at the front-end how’s the supply chain coming in? Are we putting enough good amino acids and proteins in our mouth? Are we breaking them brown? Is there an infection in the gut that’s affecting that breakdown? Once we know that front-end chain’s okay, the next is well, where are our protein levels at in our brain? Where our amino acid level’s at in our brain and we can use symptom surveys that look at dopamine or serotonin symptoms and we can also look at organic acid tests which I think are really cool that can give us a indirect indicator of the metabolites of dopamine which is like vanillin mandelate or homovanillin mandelate or we can look at serotonin in which a good metabolite is 5-hydroxy and doloacetate. So we can look at these from a empirical perspective, symptoms, but also from a lab perspective.
Evan Brand: I like to do both. For me–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah.
Evan Brand: It’s really fun to look at the symptoms and see how accurate some of those symptom questionnaires can be. I really enjoy Julia Ross’ symptom–symptom questionnaire I guess we’ll call it. It’s amazing. I’ll sometimes laugh at some of the symptoms I’m going through and I’ll tell Hannah, my wife, instead of saying like, “I’m feeling blue or low, I’ll just say, ‘Oh, God, I’m low on serotonin today.’”
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah, exactly. And again, conventional medicine, right? Let’s kinda break it down here, alluded to it briefly. So I’m gonna do a little demo here, you being able to see me on video, it’ll make more sense to you, I’m gonna try to describe what I’m doing. So I’m putting my–my two knuckles together like this. So you can see here, I have one fist on the left side connecting with the other fist on the right side, and I’m gonna leave a little gap between the fists. So my left arm here, this is my presynaptic neuron, the little gap between my left fist and my right fist is my synapse or the synaptic cleft, and then my right fist here is my post synaptic neuron. So again, the action potential and the neuro conductivity is happening from this left arm over this little synaptic cleft into the right arm which is my post synaptic neuron. So I know, big talk, we’ll try to put some demos or pictures in the transcription, so head over to beyondwellnessradio.com for that. So you’re gonna see all of the serotonin and dopamine precursors are all up here in–in this presynaptic neuron, it gets released out into this synaptic cleft and that serotonin and dopamine hangs out and it kinda helps bridge that gap from that action potential from that presynaptic neuron to that post synaptic neuron. Now most drugs, they prevent the reuptake, so the whole idea here is these neurochemicals sit in this synaptic cleft and they get pulled back up into that presynaptic neuron and get recycled. And what these drugs do is they prevent the reuptake of these neurochemicals so they accumulate and they sit longer in between that synapse where they could have a–a physiological effect. Now the only problem with that is it works but in the short run it works, but in the long run it doesn’t work because all these meds are doing, they’re just changing the location of where these compounds live. So instead of being up in that presynaptic neuron, they’re now in that synaptic cleft. Now the problem is, these neurochemicals get recycled and broken down faster the more they’re in that synaptic cleft. So the more, the longer you’re on these medications, you actually create more deficiencies with these brain compounds because they’re being recycled faster and that’s why anyone that’s on one of these medications, they’re gonna have the experience of having their dosage–their medication either changed to a stronger one or having an increase in the dosage. So the whole idea of being able to come off, unless that underlying cause is fixed, typically those symptoms gets worse when you come off these meds. So that’s why the amino acids are so different because we’re coming in and actually changing the supply, not just the location.
Evan Brand: Incredible. Yeah and that explains why–you know, I’ve had some people that have had prescriptions for benzo–I’ll always just call them benzos for short.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yup.
Evan Brand: But the Xanax or–
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yup.
Evan Brand: Valium, you know, that are mostly acting on the GABA receptors, if I’m not mistaken, since those are GABA antagonists, that would be downregulating your actual production of GABA so when they try to come off, they have less GABA than they had before they even started the Xanax and now their panic attacks and their anxiety is tripled or quadrupled what it was before they even started the medicine.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Absolutely, plus the underlying physiological, the underlying biochemical reasons of why they were having anxiety to begin with is just totally ignored, whether it’s excessive stimulation by the adrenals because they’re making too much catecholamines or adrenalin or because they’re gut’s on fire and they’re burning through their neurochemicals, those underlying reasons are ignored. So the problem only gets worse and worse overtime and then they are reliant upon this constant stream of medications just to control the symptoms so they can function.
Evan Brand: Yeah, if I go back to the lady that I was discussing at the beginning of the podcast, you know, she was having a lot of blood sugar issues, to me, you know, there’s a piece of the adrenals that are going–that are going haywire because the piece of the blood sugar is going haywire, she’s in her mid-50s right now so she has been dealing with this stuff for a long time, and she has gone to the mainstream doctor before and said, “Hey, I’m completely overwhelmed with my husband. I’m trying to take care of him. I’m very sick, etc., etc.,” and the only thing they had to offer her was a) either an anti-depressant or b) an anti-anxiety medicine to handle the stress. And she said flat out and–and they can see it on the video, she said, “I don’t want the drugs,” and she wouldn’t have gotten better because the blood sugar is the issue or her stress bucket is too full and she doesn’t have enough stress bucket, so that’s kinda where I’m trying to help fix her as opposed to leading her astray. I mean, it’s just–it’s really scary to be honest with you, how quickly some of this stuff could get derailed. I’ve talked to you about my blood sugar stuff being–being low in the middle of the day and you’re like, “Dude, Evan, go eat, man,” Like, “What are you doing?” Because if I–say, I went to the doctor for some reason and said, “Hey, I’m feeling low and fatigued and maybe a little bit anxious in the middle of the day.” They’re not gonna ask, “Are you skipping meals and you’re blood sugar is low?” They’re gonna say, “Well, hey, let’s get you on something.”
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s the difference between conventional medicine and functional medicine. So the first pillar is gonna be blood sugar, right? Because blood sugar is gonna create your–or is gonna stimulate your adrenals to make more adrenalin or more cortisol to help bring that blood sugar back up and stabilize it which can cause the jitters. Anyone, you know, gets that feeling where they get those–the little–little Spidey senses going or they get that little tingling, that little butterflies because of stress, well, one of the biggest hormonal stressors is blood sugar imbalances. That’s number one. Number two, most people have chronic stress that has now affected their gut and they have malabsorption, they have infections, they have inflammation in their gut and inflammation in the gut creates inflammation in the brain. Alright? Now it’s important, right? A lot of like–like people talk about serotonin in your gut, well, serotonin in your gut–serotonin can’t cross the blood brain barrier, it can’t, same with dopamine. But the precursors, the substrates to serotonin and dopamine can, meaning the 5-HTP can cross that blood brain barrier. The L-tyrosine can cross the blood brain. So these are important things because when we have malabsorption and gut issues and stress, we can therapeutically use these amino acids at specific doses together. We don’t wanna use them single at least not longer than 2 or 3 months and we can therapeutically boost up brain chemicals. And it’s important you never wanna take these without B6 as well because B6 is an important carrier, it’s gonna escort that helps these things cross the blood brain barrier and convert into their end-stage neurochemicals.
Evan Brand: It’d be good to go a little bit deeper on that. You said don’t take for 2-3 months and I’ve had people that have been on 5-HTP for 2-3 years and they’re wrecked. And I want you to explain why, because like, “Huh? Why–why not?”
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Well%2