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Scoliosis and Brain Chemical Imbalances

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Most of the US-based scoliosis research looks at scoliosis as predominantly (if not only) an orthopedic, spine-only issue. The truth is that the signature characteristic of scoliosis, the visible spine curvature, is the main outward sign of the condition. However, it is definitely not the only problem associated with scoliosis.

European research has been increasingly focused on studying the neurological and hormonal factors, causes, and effects of scoliosis. The newer proposed theories of scoliosis causation look at an interconnection between specific hormone levels and the brain's sensitivity to them. Various hormones, such as leptin, melatonin, calmodulin, and growth hormone have all been looked at in cases of scoliosis. Different models show that abnormal levels or these hormones, or abnormal reaction to blood levels of these hormones by the brain, can trigger the perfect storm of events that results in the characteristic spinal curvature we all recognize.  

In order to understand why the brain is not responding to these hormones, it is important to understand how the brain communicates with itself and different parts of the body. Nerve pathways are like city streets. Nerve pathways contain junctions, similar to street intersections, that allow a nerve pathway to transmit a message across the intersection. At each intersection is a street light, or neurotransmitter, that tells the nerve transmission to proceed. These neurotransmitters are essentially 'traffic cops' that control the flow of nerve messages throughout the nervous system. These neurotransmitters are stored in different areas of the brain, and different neurotransmitters do different things. Some neurotransmitters speed up messages, and some slow messages down. Therefore, if some of these neurotransmitters are deficient, then many intersections will not have good traffic flow. Conversely, some neurotransmitters can be elevated, which overexcites the flow and number of messages being transmitted.

Neurotransmitters are typically made from certain B vitamins and amino acids. Therefore, a diet deficient in these nutrients may facilitate a lack of neurotransmitter production. Physicians who treat patients with scoliosis can test for these neurotransmitters by urinalysis. That way, any patterns of imbalance can be addressed concurrently with the spinal curvature. It makes sense that if the spine is curving because the nerve pathways are not communicating correctly, then normal communication should be restored so that the physical exercises portion of the treatment can have a bigger, more lasting impact. For example, many patients with scoliosis are deficient in serotonin. Serotonin neurological pathways control many brain functions and communicate with many parts of the brain and spinal cord. Serotonin-controlled nerve pathways are responsible for food satiety, happiness, and dynamic postural control.

In addition to controlling these neurological functions, serotonin is also converted into melatonin, one of the hormones implicated in scoliosis development. Melatonin deficiency, more specifically, has been cited as a reasonable cause of scoliosis. Therefore, increasing serotonin will not only help nerve transmission, it will also help increase the production of melatonin. The most direct means of increasing serotonin from the diet is by taking a supplement called 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. This is an amino acid that gets directly converted into serotonin in the bloodstream. 5-HTP is a supplement commercially available at health food stores or from health care professionals.

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