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Amino Acids, Nature’s “Chill Pills”

By on May 8, 2017
Anxiety and Mood an artistic representation of giant blue eye as woman's brain in painting and smaller painting of herself in a blur of motion and circular strokes

Anxiety, mood swings and depression plague many of us at different times in our lives. Recognizing the catalyst or the underlying cause can be as elusive as the solution.

Justifiable blame often begins and ends with an out of control stress response referred to as “fight or flight”.  

The constant release of adrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal glands is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain (HPA axis).  This response sets the stage for massive deficiencies in our “feel good” hormones, chemicals and neurotransmitters. Ultimately, these deficiencies lead to anxiety and depressive disorders.  Additionally, long term stress effects blood sugar regulation, which may also contribute to mood fluctuations.  

Enter the heroes, amino acids!  These 20 amino acids are joined together in unique sequences to perform millions of biological functions from tissue repair and the regulation of vitamins, minerals, and hormones to their role in methylation, gene expression, blood sugar regulation, and cognitive and neurological functions. Nine AA are referred to as “essential” as they can only be acquired through the diet.  The remaining 11 are created in the body through the utilization of essential AA and other nutrients.  Thus, they are classified as “non-essential” amino acids.  Any amino acid missing or in short supply affects the availability of others and over time the deficit of these vital nutrients compromising the body’s ability to maintain the integrity of many metabolic functions.   

Stress depletes stores of amino acids simply because when we are under stress our need for certain amino acids increases and typically we require more than what we have in reserve.  Stress also compromises the production and utilization of AA, many of which are vital for mood regulation. 

Consider the essential amino acid L-tryptophan, during times of stress, a “perfect storm” of deficiency is created.   Stress profoundly compromises the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, the master of our feel good chemicals.  Serotonin is vital in the production of many other mood supporting hormones (melatonin and oxytocin), catecholamines (dopamine) and neurotransmitters (GABA). When we are low in serotonin, we compromise the levels of many other neurological chemicals that support mental health.  Thankfully, by supplementation with specific amino acids, we can help address any shortages and their negative impacts.  

5-HTP is the intermediate metabolite between L-tryptophan and serotonin.  Supplementing with 5-HTP quickly and effectively raises serotonin levels, supporting the production and utilization of other neurological chemicals.  Effective dosing suggests 50-100 mg 2-3 times daily.  For some individuals there is a remarkable improvement in mood, and anxiety disorders in a very short period of time.

L-tyrosine is the direct precursor to L-DOPA which converts to dopamine, a catecholamine that functions as a neurotransmitter controlling the pleasure centres in the brain also helping to regulate emotional responses, learning, and memory.  Dopamine converts to norepinephrine and adrenalin ultimately supporting adrenal function.  

GABA is a primary, inhibitory neurotransmitter. It calms the central nervous system and when taken as a supplement it can quickly transform your fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) response to  a rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) response.
L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the human body and it plays a role in a diverse number of metabolic functions.  It is known to regulate blood sugar.  Hypo- or hyper-glycemia (low or high blood sugar) can be a common occurrence during times of chronic stress and is often said to be one of the catalysts in mood swings and episodes of sadness. 

Amino acid supplementation offers a clinically-proven, safe, and effective approach to controlling anxiety, stress and bouts of depression.  Your local health food store offers a diverse selection of amino acids with professional sales staff to guide you in selecting the right products for your personal needs. 

Marva Ward is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP) and works for Puresource as the National Product Educator for the NOW brand of supplements in Canada. 

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About Charleen Wyman

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