Tag Archive for Norepinephrine

What Are Amino Acids Anyway?

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

All to often, unless your in this industry, we forget about what our 7th grade biology teacher that taught “amino acids are the building blocks of life.” What does that really mean to us as adults?  Amino acid imbalances can effect us all.  Due to diet, trauma, genetics, fatigue, stress, and GI issues, some of our children are at a neurological disadvantage from the get go, and many adults become at risk do to many of life’s circumstances.  A stressful job, athletic training, depression or anxiety, or stress at home can literally hijack your Neurotransmitter levels, which amino acids create.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to do something about this naturally?  Here are the basics on Amino Acids and how they effect you and your child.

What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the breakdown products of proteins, some of which are not readily available in diet and need to be supplemented in a concentrated form.  They are the building blocks of proteins.  Proteins play a very important role in maintaining our health and make up a big part of the diet. The three main macronutrients found in food include carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Proteins are required in our diet, as they are an important building block of muscle and brain tissue.

Amino acids, derived from protein intake, are precursors to brain chemicals such as serotonin, a natural anti-depressant-like chemical produced in the brain. Without the proper amino acids in our brains can become depleted of these crucial chemicals, otherwise known as neurotransmitters. However, often times we cannot get amino acids from diet alone. Neurotransmitter depletion can be the root cause of many mood and health issues; depression, insomnia, Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety, memory loss, weight gain and addictive disorders, aggression, and increased sensory sensitivities.

The History of Amino Acid Therapy

There is a long, well documented, history of using amino acids for depression and other issues related to brain chemistry imbalances.  Discovered in the early 1900s, amino acids were used up to the late 1980s as the physician’s mainstay for treating these types of conditions.  While the advent of pharmaceutical medications all but eliminated this natural treatment option from the allopathic repertoire, amino acids have continued to be a popular option for complementary / alternative medicine modalities and an essential for those seeking natural methods for brain chemistry balancing.

Can’t You Get Amino Acids From Food?

The amino acid profile of various proteins varies greatly. Foods that contain protein, whether they are vegetarian or animal in origin, contain different combinations of amino acids. While we do need to keep up our overall daily intake of protein in order to maintain our health, proper neurotransmitter balance cannot always be achieved through diet alone.  Stress, trauma, ones GI issues, and physical exertion can all play a role. Protein intake increases the level of amino acids circulating around in the blood stream. Once proteins are broken down into amino acids by the digestive system, they are then released into the blood stream. In order for these amino acids to be taken up into the brain, they have to be carried across the blood-brain barrier using a specific transport system. This transport system will not help to correct amino acid imbalances within the brain. For example, if you have become depleted in serotonin because of high stress, dietary deficiencies or other lifestyle factors, the tryptophan uptake will not increase in any capacity across the blood-brain barrier.

Why We Need Amino Acid Supplements

Amino acid therapy is often used to help address many of the symptoms listed in Table 1.  Each neurotransmitter has a specific amino acid, which is required for its synthesis and plays a particular role within the brain and body.

Table 1:  Amino Acid Precursors

Neurotransmitter Neurotransmitter plays a role in:
Serotonin Sleep cycle, depression, anxiety, carbohydrate cravings, PMS (inhibitory)
Dopamine Focus, attention, memory, motivation/ drive, mood, addictive disorders (inhibitory/excitatory)
Norepinephrine Energy, drive, anxiety, focus, metabolism, mood (excitatory)
Epinephrine Energy, drive, anxiety, focus, metabolism, mood (excitatory)
Gaba Reduces excess stimulation (inhibitory)

Since each of us has a unique neurotransmitter profile, recommended supplements in any program should be specific to your imbalances which are derived through testing, without testing it becomes a “guessing game.”  While single amino acids can work to balance the brain, testing for these imbalances is the only way to know for sure what is out of balance. Using this method often requires several different products and should also include mineral cofactors, vitamins and a high quality omega-3 fatty acid.  Protocols that are created after your results are received incorporate your individual requirements and provide a program of highly targeted amino acids specific to your imbalances.  All of your brain nutrient needs are combined into a few products making it easy and convenient to buy and use.  Individual protocols can make the difference when based on proven testing methods. Restoring neurotransmitter levels and achieving your correct balance can change your life.

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