Neurotransmitters

Acetylcholine


The neurotransmitter acetylcholine affects thinking and movement. An acetylcholine imbalance can cause mental problems that involve cognition (thinking, learning, memory, understanding, etcetera).

In addition, an imbalance of acetylcholine may be responsible for physical problems that include dry mouth, gastrointestinal maladies, twitching and convulsions that cause uncontrollable movement, paralysis (not being able to move at all).

Areas of the human body that utilize or are affected by acetylcholine are called cholinergic. Substances that produce similar effects to acetylcholine are called cholinergic. Substances that impede acetylcholine activity are called anticholinergic.

Low Acetylcholine Levels
Increasing Acetylcholine Levels
High Acetylcholine Levels
Decreasing Acetylcholine Levels
Acetylcholine And Racetams
Acetylcholine Related Notes
Acetylcholine Related Links


Symptoms Of Low Acetylcholine Levels

Acetylcholine levels may be reduced by things like genetics, stress, vitamin deficiency, limited sleep, high blood sugar levels, hazardous chemicals. People who consume alcohol regularly and endurance athletes may have a greater risk of deficiency.

Mental symptoms associated with low acetylcholine levels include:
--- Anxiety.
--- Moodiness.
--- Memory Loss.
--- Disorientation.
--- Impaired Thinking.
--- Learning Disabilities.
--- Difficulty Comprehending Language (spoken or written).

Low levels of acetylcholine may interfere with cognition. Individuals diagnosed with Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease have lower levels of acetylcholine in their brains, when compared to people who do not suffer from these illnesses.

Physical symptoms linked to low acetylcholine levels include:
--- Dry Mouth.
--- Nerve Damage.
--- Lack Of Energy.
--- Pain (mainly in muscles).
--- Difficulties With Movement.

Reduced levels of acetylcholine can have an effect on mobility. Substances that prevent a neuron from releasing acetylcholine can cause paralysis. Substances that bind to and block acetylcholine receptors (antagonists) can also cause paralysis.

If you have symptoms that you think might be related to a lack of acetylcholine, it is a good idea to your doctor or consult a qualified health care practitioner. If left untreated, low levels of acetylcholine can lead to serious permanent health issues.


How To Increase Acetylcholine Levels

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors slow the breakdown of acetylcholine. This results in increased levels of acetylcholine and acetylcholine having a longer duration of action.

Choline is converted to acetylcholine in the human body. For most healthy individuals with low acetylcholine levels, they can be increased by eating foods that contain choline, taking choline supplements, or in some other way ingesting choline.

Supplements with a relatively high choline content include:
--- Alpha-GPC.
--- Citicoline (CDP choline).
--- Other supplements that contain choline.

Foods that contain choline include:
--- Milk.
--- Eggs.
--- Spinach.
--- Chicken.
--- Broccoli.
--- Tofu (firm).
--- Cauliflower.
--- Wheat Germ.
--- Brewer's Yeast.
--- Chicken Breast.
--- Kidney Beans (cooked).
--- Lean Beef (especially liver).
--- Products that contain soybean.
--- Fish (especially cod and salmon).
--- Nuts (especially almonds and peanuts).


Symptoms Of High Acetylcholine Levels

There are individuals who associate high acetylcholine levels with improved brain function and being smarter. As a result, they may eat large amounts of food that contain choline or take choline supplements to boost acetylcholine.

This is usually not a problem but can be taken to a point where it increases acetylcholine to excessive levels, and unintentionally ends up being detrimental instead of beneficial. It is true that not enough acetylcholine can interfere with thinking

If low levels continue for extended periods of time they can end up causing permanent problems. But if acetylcholine levels are within normal ranges, increasing them will not result in better brain function.

Too much acetylcholine can interfere with thinking and learning as much as too little. If you decide to follow a diet that includes large quantities of choline, or take choline supplements, do so in moderation.

High acetylcholine levels are generally not a problem with healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet. However, some medications and illnesses may contribute to increased acetylcholine and cause problems.

Symptoms of excessive acetylcholine levels may include:
--- Impaired Thinking (confusion, memory loss...).
--- Feeling Tired (without a reason).
--- Blurred vision.
--- Depression.
--- Irritability.
--- Headache.
--- Dry mouth.
--- Stomach Problems.
--- Nausea and Vomiting.
--- Pain (especially in muscles and joints).
--- Muscle Twitching and Convulsions (followed by paralysis).


How To Decrease Acetylcholine Levels

For those people that are sure that there is a need to reduce the effects of high levels of acetylcholine, substances referred to as anticholinergics may be appropriate. Consult a physician before taking anticholinergics.

Anticholinergics inhibit acetylcholine from working by blocking acetylcholine from binding to and triggering acetylcholine receptors in nerve cells located in the central and the peripheral nervous system.

Anticholinergics can be divided into three categories depending on their specific targets in the central and/or peripheral nervous system. They are antimuscarinic agents, ganglionic blockers, neuromuscular blockers.

Several hundred compounds have anticholinergic properties. They include over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications. Some of those medications include:

--- Antiarrhythmics (Disopyramide, Procainamide, Quinidine).
--- Antiemetics (Dimenhydrinate, Meclizine, Prochlorperazine).
--- Antihistamines (Azatadine, Diphenhydramine, Hydroxyzine).
--- Antiparkinson Agents (Benztropine, Biperiden, Procyclidine).
--- Antipsychotics (Chlorpromazine, Clozapine, Mesoridazine).
--- Antispasmodics (Atropine, Belladonna, Scopolamine).
--- Muscle Relaxants (Carisoprodol, Cyclobenzaprine).
--- Tricyclics (Amitriptyline, Imipramine, Nortriptyline).

Many antihistamines including benadryl (diphenhydramine) are available over-the-counter, and act as fairly effective as anticholinergics. Other medications listed above that have anticholinergic properties might require a prescription.

Be aware that anticholinergic substances may cause unwanted side effects that include confusion, constipation, disorientation, hallucinations, blurred vision, dry mouth, flushed skin, slurred speech, urinary retention, less control of bodily movements.

Long term use of anticholinergic substances can contribute to problems like dementia. They can cause anticholinergic syndrome, a group of symptoms caused by reduced acetylcholine levels or inhibiting neurotransmission of acetylcholine.

Nicotine and caffeine can be used as an anticholinergic syndrome antidote. Nicotine by activating nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Caffeine by reducing sedation and increasing the activity of acetylcholine. Another substance for this purpose is physostigmine (also called eserine).


Acetylcholine And Racetams

Acetylcholine use in the body is affected by at least some, and probably most if not all, of the group of drugs known as racetams. Racetams can improve thinking, reduce anxiety, reduce or eliminate depression.

One of the ways that racetams are thought to work includes utilizing acetylcholine more efficiently. Because of this, racetams that affect acetylcholine may be of value to those experiencing problems related to acetylcholine levels in the body.

Racetams may cause some people who consume them to experience headaches. By taking them with a choline source, (like alpha-GPC or citicoline) headaches can be reduced or eliminated. Choline may also increase the potency of racetams.


Notes

1 --- Substances classified as acetylcholine receptor agonists and acetylcholine receptor antagonists can affect the acetylcholine receptors themselves, or act in an indirect manner by affecting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.

2 --- Acetylcholine receptors in the body include:
a) Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) also called ionotropic acetylcholine receptors are very responsive to nicotine.
b) Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChR) also called metabotropic acetylcholine receptors respond to muscarine.

3 --- Acetylcholine is involved with REM sleep. REM is a sleep stage associated with dreaming. Some drugs like racetams and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may induce more vivid dreams, and be of interest to those interested in lucid dreaming.

4 --- If your body has a negative reaction to choline in foods or supplements, possible troubles may include:
--- Excessive Sweating.
--- Nausea and Vomiting.
--- Upset Stomach and Diarrhea.
--- Other Gastrointestinal Problems (stomach and intestines).


Links
Anticholinergic drugs dementia risk.
Medications with anticholinergic properties.
Symptoms of excessive levels of acetylcholine.
Wikipedia acetylcholine page.
Wikipedia choline page.
Wikipedia cholinergic page.
Wikipedia anticholinergic page.