Tag Archive for TAAT

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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Personality is Developed in the Womb

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

The personality of a child begins in utero.  We know this to be true by looking at our children and the difficult circumstances many of them faced before even being born.   Its no longer, just the genetic make-up or early trauma, its the first 9 months; the mothers mental health, stress level, and environment.  New research and more media attention is being given to the risk children face from the womb, finally…This isn’t to say that Dr. Daniel Seigel and other attachment gurus have not made huge strides in this area, but now we are this more widely accepted.  Its not just if a mother was using drugs, or alcohol, or malnourished, its the emotional health that has become more widely accepted by those in medicine, and this is something us on the psychological end have been waiting for.

Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, psychologist and family systems expert discusses that “A pregnant women’s mental state can shape her offspring’s psyche.These observations and those of others investigating fetal origins, the study of how the nine months of gestation influences physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional functioning, mirror empirical observations long noted by mental health providers.”  To read her post Personality Begins Before Birth click Here

A recent New York Times article titled At-Risk From the Womb  by Nicholas D. Kristof discusses numerous studies that have proven moms emotional state weighs heavily on the development of the child’s personality.” The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.” Click Here to read more.

What this does for parents trying to conceive is give them a better understanding of just how important it is to have a healthy, happy, pregnancy.  What does for those of us who are parenting children from stressful wombs?  Allows us to better understand that this is how they were shaped, this is how their brain chemistry was developed, it is not that they cant control themselves, be happier or calmer, its that their early environment hindered this. Looking at it from this perspective its not that they cant do____ (focus, control themselves, hold it together), its that their brains haven’t allowed them to do so, yet.  This can be fixed, it will be fixed, we as parents and those helping parents, need to keep this valuable research in mind.

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Running on Empty: Stress and Women

 By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Adults today are more frazzled and overwhelmed than ever before.  For many of us, being stressed has become a way of life; managing a hectic schedule, meeting deadlines at work, striving to be the perfect parent and partner, or dealing with increased financial woes,  all of these daily stressors can have a negative affect on our health.

Dr. Robert Leahy, the director of The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, and author of The Worry Cure, reports that women today “have the same anxiety level as a psychiatric patient did in the 1950s”.  Wow Ladies…what are we doing to ourselves?

This is extremely worrisome for women.  Not only can in contribute to the onset of mental and physical disorders, but it can cause hormonal and immune system imbalances. 

They longer we run on “low”, the more of our neurotransmitters we burn through.  Our excitatory neurotransmitters, those that allow us to meet deadlines, bake 3 dozen cookies for the bake sale, and read your child a bedtimes story (all in the same night), are harder to access. The longer they are activated without downtime the more likely they are to become depleted. Depletion can cause burn out, depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Compare this to a car that’s running on empty, you can’t drive it forever, you need to stop and refill your gas tank…you get the analogy.

Now, I am not trying to stress you out even more, but it is imperative to look at your life and where your daily stressors come from. Your demanding boss, that obnoxious PTA mom who is always delegating her tasks to you, paying bills, or the high expectations you put on yourself; once these are identified take action to reduce their impact on your life.  Talk to your boss about setting up expectations she has for you or making more reasonable deadlines; set up a coffee date with the PTA mom to ask how you and she can work together (or avoid her all together); set up your bank account to pay bills automatically, you won’t even think about them. If you find that you are putting more pressure on yourself than the world is demeaning of you, and it’s more than you can handle it may be beneficial to seek out professional help.

Here are some other ways to manage and reduce stress:

  • One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get it out. Write in a journal, talk to a good friend, and make a to-do list.  The act of writing worries down is shown to automatically reduce stress and improve your memory.
  • Boost your immune system and fight stress with good food and supplements.
    • Find a good immunity complex at your local Whole Foods or Trader Joes, containing high amounts of Vitamins B, C, and D; these are the first vitamins to deplete when you are getting sick or running on empty.
    • Make good fats a staple in your diet. Supplement with an Omega 3 fatty acids, such as a fish oil containing DHA and EPA.  These fats that contribute to well-being, healthy skin and nails, and boost your immune system.
  • Eat to fight stress; don’t overload on carbohydrates and make sure your eating enough protein.  Protein is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (aka the feel good neurotransmitter). 
  • Delegate tasks, instead of taking things on that you don’t have time for ask for help. Recruit a co-worker to help with a project or your partner to help with cooking dinner or taking your place in the carpool when you’re overwhelmed.
  • Exercise is a great way to reduce stress; it releases endorphins in your body to make you feel good, plus it temporarily increases your energy. Try an afternoon jog rather that that cup of coffee, or go for a walk with a friend rather than catching up on the phone.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Therapists swear by combining deep breathing with visual imagery, to even there most anxious patients.  It increases oxygen to your brain; physiologically calming you down and allowing you to move on quickly to the next task, without getting overwhelmed. 

If you are stressed, often times your family and friends can feel it too. Get a handle on it now, before it takes over your life.

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