Biochemical tests for Brain Chemistry Imbalances

When someone comes to our clinics for help with recovering from addiction we take some initial tests for brain chemistry imbalances. The most common laboratory biochemical/nutritional tests that we use are listed here. These tests are not often performed in routine medical screening.

Neurotransmitter tests measure blood platelet levels of dopamine, noradrenalin, adrenalin, serotonin and acetycholine. These levels are a good indicator of levels found in the fluid in the brain (the cerebrospinal fluid – CSF), thus indicating excesses, deficiencies and imbalances in neurotransmitters. This test is also available through doctors and nutritional therapists.

Kryptopyrrole or HPL test is a urine test for a chemical that, if raised in the urine, indicates increased oxidative stress and is associated with mental-health problems such as depression, confusion, anxiety and insomnia. It is a very useful indicator of a person’s need for zinc and vitamin B6, supplementation of which tends to normalise HPL levels. This test is available through doctors and nutritional therapists.

Zinc taste test is based on the fact that sufficient zinc is required to detect bitter, sour or metallic tastes. The client is given 10ml of a solution containing zinc, then asked to swish it around in his or her mouth for about ten seconds before swallowing it. Then they are asked to describe what they taste. If they report a distinct bitter, sour or metallic taste or a distinctly unpleasant taste, they are not zinc deficient. If they report no taste, or a ‘watery’ or ‘chalky’ taste, but not bitter, sour or metallic taste, they are most likely to be zinc deficient. Many nutritional therapists use this test. In our experience, it links well with other signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency, and is a good and inexpensive tool for monitoring the success or failure of zinc therapy.

Homocysteine is a potentially toxic amino acid associated with heart disease, strokes, cancer, abnormal blood clotting and over 100 other medical conditions (see The Homocysteine Solution for details). It is frequently elevated in those with a chemical addiction and especially alcoholics. The optimal level is 6–7µmol/l. The higher your level the more specific homocysteine-lowering nutrients, mainly B vitamins, you need. An extremely high level, above 20 µmol/l, is associated with an increased risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures and therefore should be corrected before beginning alcohol withdrawal. It is an excellent tool for indirectly measuring SAM, folic acid and methylation status. When it’s elevated, SAM, folic acid and methylation status is usually inadequate, so it’s a good functional test of whether you are lacking in these nutrients. Homocysteine can and should be tested by your doctor if you have any of the above, but rarely is. You can test it yourself with a home-test kit.

Essential fatty analysis, using red blood cell membranes. Low levels are often found when conditions of addictions occur together, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, cognitive impairment and irritability. This usually matches nicely with physical examination findings of essential...

Want to keep reading? Members have full access...

Join Today!


First month free

Then £7.99 per month & free cancellation at any time

FREE health check

Find out your health score & see how healthy you are

Personal Health Plan

Detailed report, analysis & tailored action plan

Free Vitamin D3

With your first purchase at HOLFORDirect (suitable for vegans)

Save money

20% off all Patrick Holford supplements & events plus free delivery over £30

Exclusive Health support

Ask Patrick your questions, access to Low GL recipes & research updates