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Medical Urine Test, Close-Up

How to Test Neurotransmitters in Urine 101

Neurotransmitters are a type of chemical that helps transmit signals throughout the nervous system. They have a huge effect on the body and help to regulate everything from your mood to your heart rate. Since there are all sorts of disorders that can affect neurotransmitter amounts, it can be helpful to get an idea of a patient’s current levels. One of the simplest ways to do this is with a neurotransmitter urine test.

What Chemicals Will Urinary Transmitter Testing Find?

Before actually starting a test, it is helpful to understand what the test can and cannot do. A neurotransmitter test is not a medical diagnosis by itself. Instead, it is a tool used to get an idea of a patient’s health. Through a urine test, a medical professional can learn about a patient’s levels of

  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Acetylcholine

This has all sorts of helpful applications. Neurotransmitter levels can contribute to mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. They can also affect physical issues like insomnia, obesity, migraines, and fibromyalgia. A test can assist with identifying potential problems, so people can take steps to balance neurotransmitter levels.

Laboratory Assistant With Urine Sample for Analysis Writing Medical Report at Table

How Does a Urinary Neurotransmitter Test Work?

Of course, one of the most common questions people have before neurotransmitter testing is simply whether or not it works. Since most people associate neurotransmitters with the brain, they often wonder why the test uses urine. Chemicals from neurotransmitters can be found all throughout the body, so checking for the chemicals in urine is a viable way to test for those chemicals. 

Neurotransmitters usually circulate throughout the blood, but just like any other material in the blood, they get filtered out through the kidneys. Some of these neurotransmitters then end up in the urine, and then, your body expels them. Ultimately, urinary testing cannot tell exactly the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, you can compare the test results to healthy patients to note any differences.

The big advantage of urinary testing is that it is fast and noninvasive. Patients can do it in the privacy of their own home, and the test is entirely pain-free. Another benefit is that urinary testing is usually quite cheap, so it can be an affordable diagnostic tool. This convenience is very important because it encourages patients to take a test they might otherwise want to avoid.

Understanding the Neurotransmitters Urine Test Process

There are a few different types of urine tests for neurotransmitters available, so the exact details of the procedure vary a little. However, regardless of what type of test you work with, the method follows the same general process. Whenever a professional is providing a neurotransmitters urine test, they will need to follow these basic steps:

  1. Educate the patient. There are several things that can affect a test, so you need to inform the patient before starting the test. Patients need to avoid bananas, nuts, pineapples, and avocados for around 48 hours before their test because these foods can throw off readings. They also need to have an idea of what they can expect with their results. 
  2. Provide collection materials. Once a patient decides they want a test, they will need to get sample collection materials. This is typically a sterile container that can collect and preserve the urine. Patients will also need labeling materials to ensure the lab keeps track of their urine.
  3. Schedule the test. You will need to work with the patient to find the best time for them to take the test. For the most accurate results with a liquid test, patients usually need to take the sample about six hours before they go to bed. For dried urine tests, patients may need to collect urine at four separate times during the day. Neurotransmitter levels shift throughout the day, so people need to test at a standard time to get a baseline reading.
  4. Provide clear guidance on testing labels. This step might seem simple, but it is actually where a lot of tests go wrong. Patients need to be aware of the proper labeling method for their sample. Ensure they have their patient number and all other relevant information. It may be helpful to give them an example of a proper label or check their label before they send in the sample.
  5. Send in the test. Urinary neurotransmitter testing is done in a lab environment. Patients can either drop off their sample at the lab or ship it into the lab. For accurate results, patients need to make sure they can get their sample to the lab within a set time limit.
  6. Get the results. It usually only takes around 24 to 48 hours to actually process the test, but if a lab has a lot of samples, it can take longer. Once the healthcare professional gets the results, they can go over them and provide the patient with more details on the state of their health.
  7. Discuss treatment options. Depending on the patient’s results, they may need further assistance from a medical professional. In addition to talking about ways to adjust neurotransmitter levels, patients may need information on seeking treatment for medical conditions they may have.

Doctor Explaining Results to Senior Patient in Office

How to Understand Neurotransmitter Test Results

Test results for neurotransmitters can look a little complicated, so patients will typically need help from a professional when interpreting their results. First of all, you can compare a patient’s results to healthy averages. If their neurotransmitter levels are generally low, they may need supplementation to increase their numbers. For elevated levels, patients may need to take strategies to reduce damage.

In addition to looking at abnormally elevated or deflated levels, it is also helpful to examine patterns. For example, something like low serotonin alongside high 5HIAA can indicate an issue with MAO A activity. Regular testing can show if a patient’s levels are remaining the same or fluctuating over time. 

Keep in mind that testing mostly just reveals general health trends. It usually cannot pinpoint a problem. There is the possibility that a patient can have normal neurotransmitter levels while having problems with the receptors meant to process these chemicals. Therefore, those with serious health conditions may need more assistance beyond their basic test.

It can take medical professionals a lot of experience to learn all the way neurotransmitters interact with each other, and new information is always showing up. Therefore, it is important to provide detailed assessments with results instead of leaving interpretation to patients. Ultimately, being able to read test results correctly can be just as important as knowing how to perform the actual test.

Get Neurotransmitter Training With PracticalCME Courses

Now that you know the basics, are you ready to learn more? PracticalCME provides training for medical professionals who want to assist patients with neurotransmitter issues. With our comprehensive classes, you can learn to fully understand neurotransmitters, know how to perform testing, and offer diagnoses of imbalances. Register for courses today, or chat now to find out more about our classes.

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