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What Is an Acetylcholine Deficiency?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Acetylcholine deficiency is an abnormally low level of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that plays a role in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Patients can develop deficiencies for a number of reasons, and a doctor will need to perform some testing to find out more about a patient's specific case. Treatment can vary, depending on why the patient has low levels, how low they are, and how long the patient has been experiencing problems.

The body absorbs acetylcholine through dietary sources. People ingest precursors to acetylcholine in foods like egg yolks, and the body converts them into a usable form of this neurotransmitter. Many cells have receptors for acetylcholine, and the body has a steady demand for it. Two common functions involving this molecule are control of muscle movement and memory formation, illustrating its broad scope of action in terms of how and where it acts in the body.

Patients with this deficiency can develop issues like trouble forming and retrieving memories as well as uncontrolled muscle movements and tremors. As adults age, they tend to produce less acetylcholine, and this leads to issues like age-associated memory loss. When the levels drop lower than normal for a patient's age, she has an acetylcholine deficiency and could be at risk of complications, especially if it becomes chronic and the patient's muscles start to atrophy as a result of not being used enough. Complications of dementia can also become permanent, as the patient's brain will lose functionality even if acetylcholine levels return to normal.

One potential cause is dietary. Patients who do not eat a balanced diet may develop deficiencies in a number of necessary nutrients, including those needed to build acetylcholine. This can be a particular concern with patients who rely on caregivers for nutrition, as they cannot seek out alternative nutrition sources if they feel like they are not eating enough of the right foods. Patients relying on intravenous or parenteral nutrition need special monitoring to check for signs of acetylcholine deficiency and other issues.

Some diseases can also cause acetylcholine deficiency, including Alzheimer's disease and myasthenia gravis. The symptoms of these conditions reflect what happens when the body does not have enough of this neurotransmitter to function normally; patients develop muscle weakness, dementia, and disorganized thinking. Certain medications can also interact with levels of the neurotransmitter, leading to a temporary acetylcholine deficiency until a doctor changes the medication or adjusts the dosage to resolve the problem.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon935052 — On Feb 23, 2014

I was wondering if there was anyone else on this forum who has experienced acetylcholine dysregulation who does not have myasthenia gravis?

By anon349904 — On Sep 30, 2013

@burcinc: That same test showed I had acetylcholine deficiency, and I have the best memory of anyone I know. Seriously. So that doesn't line up with the assessment above. I thought about seeking supplements, but one online article on it says you can only take a reuptake inhibitor and can't increase it from dietary sources, unlike the above. So I will probably not be pursuing this much further.

By anon266261 — On May 04, 2012

I have suffered from anhidrosis for over 30 years and it is getting worse. All the suspect diseases have been eliminated. I've been working on this for years.

I went to the Mayo Clinic in Sept/2011. I asked them for possible root causes and what tests that they would do to confirm or deny a root cause and they refused to answer me and then terminated their services to me!

I'm now at the board of trustee level for an apology and explanation as to why their egos are more important than helping people. Dr. Noseworthy (CEO), refused to return my calls and a registered letter.

Could acetylcholine play a part in my non sweating?

Also, do you know of a doctor that is "on fire" for solving problems in this area?

By ysmina — On Dec 21, 2011

I've been diagnosed with progesterone and acetylcholine deficiency. I've been going through a lot of testing lately because my doctor says that neurotransmitters are all connected to one another. So a deficiency in one might lead to a deficiency in other. It's necessary to treat the underlying cause and not just the apparent deficiency.

For example, both of my deficiencies are said to be related to one another. Aluminum is supposed to be another substance related to acetylcholine. I'm most likely going to be taking acetylcholine supplements, but I might need to take some other supplements to treat any relating deficiencies.

I agree with @feruze that we should not take anything on our own. We might not really be treating the problem that way anyway.

By bear78 — On Dec 20, 2011

@burcinc-- I'm sure a doctor considers those factors you mentioned when they are checking for deficiencies. But neurotransmitter deficiencies are diagnosed with saliva or urine tests so the verbal test you took doesn't really mean anything. It could potentially show what your inclinations are, but only urine testing would tell you for sure if you have a deficiency.

I don't think you should take any acetylcholine supplements without doctor approval. Supplements can be dangerous if you take more than needed.

By the way, do you have any of the acetylcholine deficiency symptoms the article mentioned?

By burcinc — On Dec 20, 2011

There are various tests online that help determine an acetylcholine deficiency among other things. I took one of the tests today and it had many questions on things like personality, memory, attention and physical characteristics.

The questions are categorized and linked to one of several neurotransmitters like dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin. The number of points you get in each category determines how much of each neurotransmitter you have. Points below a certain number mean a deficiency in that neurotransmitter.

Do you think that this is a liable way to determine acetylcholine deficiency? Do doctors use a similar test to this?

My test showed a deficiency in acetylcholine and I have found several companies which manufacture actylcholine supplements. But I'm not sure if this test is dependable enough for me to start taking supplements. I would love to hear from people who have this deficiency. Can you tell me a little bit about the tests you took and how the deficiency was diagnosed?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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