Category Archives: Other Health Issues

GABA Stops or Prevents Seizures

GABA, also referred to a gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and serve different functions in the body. Historically this amino has been used as a natural sedative, to help with relaxation and sleep since it is acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. However, it also has anti-anxiety and anti-seizure properties, and is an anti-convulsant.

GABA is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that the body produces it (you can also get it from protein foods or take a supplement) but sometimes it is still deficient depending on what is happening in the body.

According to studies, this amino acid can aid with sleep, inhibition, calming the nerves, drug dependency (including alcoholism), is used in antiepileptic drugs (epilepsy), and according to a study entitled ‘Molecular mechanisms of antiseizure drug activity at GABAA receptors’ by L John Greenfield Jr, is used to prevent seizures.

GABAA receptor (GABAR) helps prevent seizures

GABAA receptor (GABAAR) is, says the researcher, a “major target of antiseizure drugs (ASD’s).” There are actually a number of different agents that act at GABARs’ distinct receptor sites that can eliminate or prevent seizures.

Some of these agents include: loreclezole, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, in which the GABARs are the only known substance used due to its antiseizure ability.

However, this is only one of a few possible antiseizure mechanisms in these agents: topiramate, losigamone, retigabine, felbamate, and stiripentol.

Other agents, which affect GABAergic “’tone’ by regulating the synthesis, transport or breakdown of GABA” also exist. The development of ganaxolone was a response to the neurosteroid allopregnanolone (a progesterone metabolite, which intensifies GABAR function).

This amino is an intrinsic component to epileptic patients. The efficacy of GABAR function can change when someone develops or has chronic epilepsy, so Greenfield says that it “may provide an additional target for ‘GABAergic; ASDs.”

The conclusion was that targeting the altered receptors may “provide a novel approach for seizure prevention.”

Reference:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1059131113001143

Alcohol Mimics GABA – A night cap may get you to sleep, but studies show it may also wake you up

The following article first appeared at washingtonpost.com and was written by Jordan Gaines. We have included the section here that discusses the amino acid GABA, but please read the whole story to discover how alcohol mimics GABA amino acid in the brain.

When you take a swig of alcohol, it goes right into the bloodstream, and it’s in your brain within minutes.

Alcohol mimics gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. When bound to a GABA receptor on a neuron, alcohol allows the influx of negative (or efflux of positive) ions, giving the cell a more negative charge. Thus, the neuron’s attempt to fire an action potential is thwarted.

Alcohol also inhibits the brain’s major excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, by blocking function at glutamate’s NMDA receptors.

Since glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons comprise 90 percent of all brain cells, this is a pretty big deal. Especially since alcohol also enhances GABA absorption back into the neuron, and even more especially since GABA is recycled into glutamate in a vicious cycle: After an evening of drinking, the theory is that GABA dominates the first half of the night, allowing us to fall asleep (and deeply!). But once GABA is metabolized, much of it becomes the excitatory glutamate. And it’s in glutamate-releasing brain regions (such as the reticular activating system which partially modulates sleep/wake and arousal) that the midnight disruptions kick in.

Connection between Folic Acid and Amino Acid Homocysteine

There is a connection between folic acid and amino acid homocysteine, but what is it? Folic acid and amino acid (homocysteine, one of the 22 amino acids) functions are quite different, but the former does affect the latter. In fact, blood levels of homocysteine in the body are lowered in the presence of folic acid.

Folic acid is also known as folate; however, folate is slightly different. Folate—a bioavailable and natural form of vitamin B9—comes from the word ‘foliage’ because it is found in leafy greens, such as spinach and other greens, but also from fortified/enriched cereals and animal foods like eggs or liver, as well as plant foods like broccoli, brussel sprouts, lentils, beans, asparagus, cantaloupe, and bananas. Folic acid is merely the synthetic form of folate, and is found in supplements.

Folic acid/folate (vitamin B9) helps the body produce energy, is needed for mental and emotional health, and helps prevent neural tube birth defects like spina bifida, which occurs during the first month of pregnancy, especially in high risk pregnancies. Folic acid deficiencies can occur in people due to alcoholism, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The terms (and products) folic acid and amino acid are two different things; where folic acid is vitamin B9, and amino acids like homocysteine, cysteine, leucine, lysine, carnitine, and so on, are simply the building blocks of proteins. All 22 common amino acids are found in protein foods such as meats (chicken, pork, beef, etc.) as well as fish and eggs. Eggs, then, are actually a good source of both folic acid and amino acid content.

So what is the connection between folic acid and amino acid homocysteine?

Although amino acids are necessary for health, sometimes it is not good to have too much of a good thing; homocysteine is one of these amino acids where elevated blood levels of the amino acid can actually cause health problems.

According to Dr. Weil, elevated homocysteine levels are “linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Elevated homocysteine levels are thought to contribute to plaque formation by damaging arterial walls. High levels may also act on blood platelets and increase the risks of clot formation; however, whether high levels of homocysteine actually cause cardiovascular disease has yet to be agreed upon. … In addition, some evidence suggests that people with elevated homocysteine levels have twice the normal risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

The folic acid and amino acid connection is affected by diet as well. People who eat a lot of meat in comparison to leafy greens (that have folate/folic acid) or fruits tend to be highest in homocysteine levels. B vitamins and folic acid help reduce homocysteine levels. Additionally, says Dr. Weil, “homocysteine is also produced in the body from another amino acid, methionine. One of methionine’s main functions is to provide methyl groups for cellular reactions. … Typically, homocysteine then receives another methyl group from either folic acid or vitamin B6 to regenerate methionine.”

Folic acid supplements usually come in .4 to .8 grams, but prescription strength is at 1 g/day, although older pregnant women or high risk moms can take up to 4+ g/day (doctor prescribed). If you are low in folic acid and amino acid levels supplements can be taken for either. High stress and increased coffee consumption can also raise homocysteine levels, however. Homocysteine levels can also be elevated due to psoriasis, kidney disease, or even low thyroid hormones.

Other than talking with your doctor, one of the best ways to deal with the folic acid and amino acid connection, especially if there is an issue, is to eat healthy, get enough exercise, and make sure your daily diet includes plenty of leafy greens and fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat and fried foods, which may also reduce cholesterol and aid cardiovascular health as an added bonus.

Sources:

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b9-folic-acid

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03423/Elevated-Homocysteine.html

Amino Acids and Gut Health – Glutamine and Other Aminos

There are a number of amino acids that affect the intestines and are necessary for proper functioning. Several amino acids and gut health are connected; in particular, glutamine (which I will cover more in-depth below), arginine, glutamate, glycine, threonine, lysine, as well as sulfur-containing aminos. These amino acids and gut functioning are important because they act as fuels for mucosa in the small intestine, and also for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), intestinal proteins, polyamines, and other products that are necessary for health. Amino acids come from protein foods like meats, fish, and eggs, or from taking supplements. 

What this means—according to a study by WW Wang, SY Quiao, and DF Li—is that glutamine and the other amino acids and gut-promoting effects from these aminos are not only “critical for the absorption of nutrients” but also are required for the “gut integrity, growth, and health in animals and humans.”

The researchers show that amino acids and gut health, in particular, indicate both trophic and cytoprotective effects. Trophic means relating to feeding and nutrition, and cytoprotective means it protects the cells from noxious chemicals and other things that would otherwise bother the intestinal tract and cause health problems.

Amino acids and gut health includes glutamine

According to the researchers RR van der Hulst, MF von Meyenfeldt, and PB Soeters, one of the essential amino acids and gut nutrients is glutamine. This non-essential amino acid (meaning your body can produce it, even though you can also get it through protein foods and supplements), is “an important nutrient for rapidly dividing cells such as cells from the immune system and the gut.”

There are a few conditions that can also cause a lack of glutamine, which can, according to the scientists, result in “functional disturbances of the immune system and/or the gut. Glutamine is produced mainly by the muscle tissue. A decrease in muscle mass during nutritional depletion may result in decreased glutamine production capacity. Furthermore during critical illness, there is an increased demand for glutamine probably as a result of an increased utilization by the immune system.”

Additionally, glutamine as one of the amino acids and gut nutritives, is important because it prevents toxins and/or bacteria from migrating from the gut lumen (the hollow part of the intestine) into the circulation of the system. Not having enough glutamine can deteriorate this barrier within the intestine and would, in this case, require supplementation of glutamine.

Lastly, glutamine (or other amino acids and gut health) may need to be supplemented in case of nutritional depletion, parenteral nutrition, or even critical illness.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18670730

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8974125

Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease has many facets, and the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids also play a role in heart disease. Branched-chain amino acids, also referred to as BCAA’s, also play a key role in organisms in general, concerning the metabolism processes as well as in cardiovascular protection, say VH Lyzohum, TV Zaval’s’ka, et al., from the Ukraine.

The researchers said that branched-chain amino acids were pivotal in the “mitochondrial biogenesis, antioxidant and antiaging processes, its antihypertension and antiarrhythmic effects, its role in obesity and diabetes mellitus” as well. Cardiovascular disease and BCAA/BCKA catabolism’s role in the action of heart failure are related. But how?

Branched-chain amino acids role in heart disease

The images in this article, according scientists, Y Huang, M Zhou, et al., from the Department of Pathophysiology, Key Laboratory of Cell Differentiation and Apoptosis of Chinese Ministry of Education, at the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, in Shanghai, China, are of the “potential impact of reduced expression of PP2Cm in stressed heart in BCAA catabolism and cardiac remodelling. … BCAA, branched-chain amino acids; BCKA, branched-chain keto acids…” and show the role of branched-chain amino acids.

But what exactly is the role of branched-chain amino acids in such heart disease? The researchers’ question was whether it was an epiphenomenon or an actual culprit?

Their research showed that in order to understand the pathogenesis of why the heart fails, there has to be metabolic remodeling. They claim that even though we have knowledge about heart failure, less is known about why amino acid metabolism has to do with the onset of heart disease itself. They said, “Although most amino acid catabolic activities are found in the liver, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) catabolism requires activity in several non-hepatic tissues, including cardiac muscle, diaphragm, brain and kidney.”

The researchers focused on new discoveries from genetic models that were developed using branched-chain amino acids catabolic defects as well as studies in metabolomics (for both humans and animals). What they found out is that, indeed, the “potential role of BCAA catabolism in cardiac pathophysiology and have helped to distinguish BCAA metabolic defects as an under-appreciated culprit in cardiac diseases rather than an epiphenomenon associated with metabolic remodelling in the failing heart.”

If you haven’t yet done so, please visit our other health news portals, too.  Learn more about amazing health benefits of medicinal mushrooms at Medicinal Mushroom Information Center at http://medicinalmushroominfo.com.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24605627

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21502372

Anorexia Patients’ Serotonin Levels Helped by Amino Acid Tryptophan

Serotonin is the feel-good chemical that the human brain produces in the body. People with higher serotonin levels generally are more resistant to depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions. People with adequate levels of serotonin also feel better about life, themselves, and their place in the world. Anorexic patients, suffering from the eating disorder called Anorexia nervosa, have mental and emotional as well as physical issues surrounding this disorder, and consequently can have too-low serotonin levels. Raising serotonin can be done by natural means, such as taking the amino acid L-tryptophan. Tryptophan is a neurotransmitter in the brain, which can help raise serotonin levels.

 Tryptophan is used by the body and produces serotonin in the brain, which is severely lacking in those with anorexia. This eating disorder is associated with an obsession of being overweight, so they eat very little, and sometimes nothing at all, which leads to emaciation. Body image issues are at the forefront, self-worth is low, causing a spiraling effect since anorexics think they are too fat even if they are skin and bones. Very low food intake (and therefore low in tryptophan) depletes the serotonin in the brain, since it is tryptophan dependent.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that comes from protein foods, like meats (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc.), as well as fish and eggs. A diet deficient in meats is also deficient in not just tryptophan, but also the rest of the common 22 amino acids that make a body healthy and resistant to disease and other health issues.

Study using tryptophan for serotonin levels in anorexic patients

A study by DJ Haleem from the Neuroscience Research Laboratory at the University of Karachi in Pakistan was done regarding anorexia patients and tryptophan. Haleem said “Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) show extreme dieting weight loss, hyperactivity, depression/anxiety, self-control, and behavioral impulsivity. Tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin and an essential amino acid, is only available in the diet. It is therefore likely that excessive diet restriction and malnutrition decrease brain serotonin stores.”

When serotonin is low, then the availability of tryptophan “decreases serotonin neurotransmission at postsynaptic sites, leading to hyperactivity, depression, and behavioral impulsivity,” said Haleem. He suggested that tryptophan “supplementation may improve pharmacotherapy in AN.”

The effectiveness of tryptophan on serotonin levels for anorexia has not yet been evaluated, but the fact that higher serotonin levels make us feel better is well documented. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is easily bought over the counter at health food stores for supplementing the diet.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854305

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anorexia/DS00606

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) Help Liver Patients

Supplements containing branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) granules improved the outcome for patients with liver disease.

Liver cirrhosis is caused by advanced liver disease. The liver tissue is gradually replaced with scar tissue, resulting in a loss of liver function. This loss of liver function causes fluids to be retained in the abdominal cavity, leading to massive swelling and greatly reducing quality of life.

Liver cirrhosis can also lead to esophageal varices, which are dilated veins in the bottom of the esophagus. The dilated veins are formed when the blood flow through the liver is disrupted due to liver scarring. These veins often bleed, and must be treated with endoscopy.

The cirrhosis and complications results in lack of nutrition for the patient, as nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Nutritional supplements are therefore part of the treatment.

An article in J Gastroenterol investigated the benefits of branched-chain amino acid enriched nutrients for patients with liver cirrhosis.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are essential amino acids, which mean we must get them from our food. BCAA’s are crucial to our wellbeing, as they not only create the antibodies which fight infection, but also make up our muscles and internal organs.

Sakai Y, Iwata Y, et al, researchers at the Hyogo College of Medicine, Japan, investigated the usefulness of BCAA supplements for liver patients undergoing endoscopic treatment for esophageal varices.

BCAA-enriched nutrients improve outcome for liver patients

The researchers gave patients BCAA-enriched nutrients, and evaluated their nutritional status over time. They examined weight gain and albumin on the first day, day seven, and day 50.

The BCAA-enriched nutrient mixture maintained the weight in the cirrhotic patients. Their non-protein respiratory quotients were also significantly improved.

The researchers concluded that including BCAA’s with nutritional energy supplements would be beneficial for cirrhotic patients undergoing endoscopic treatments.

Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24633624

What are Carnitine and Carnosine Amino Acids Used for?

There are two amino acids that often get mixed up: carnitine and carnosine. What are they and how do they differ? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Normally, when you eat proteins your body breaks them down into their basic units, called amino acids. Then your body puts them back together in a new way to build protein in your body, such as muscles and organs, and it is used for other bodily functions as well.

Carnitine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot produce it on its own, so it must be gotten through diet, specifically from protein foods (meats, fish, and eggs have all 22 common amino acids), but can also be taken as an amino acid supplement.

Carnosine is a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body produces it on its own; therefore, it is not usually needed as a supplement.

Both carnitine and carnosine can be taken as supplements, but be careful doing so without checking with your doctor (whether separately or together) first since they can have side effects, especially if you are taking certain medications. Normal amounts of carnitine and carnosine that are gotten through food do not apply.

Carnitine and carnosine are usually connected with other amino acids:

Carnitine is synthesized from the amino acids methionine and lysine.
Carnosine is made from the amino acids histidine and alanine.

Carnitine and carnosine health benefits

Carnitine helps the body burn fat by transporting fatty acids, and it also flushes toxins out of the mitochondria within cells. Carnitine is found in concentrations within the cardiac muscle and skeletal muscles. It also could possibly aid in reducing symptoms of people with an overactive thyroid. People who have diabetic neuropathy may also find some pain relief, thanks to carnitine.

Carnosine works differently than carnitine. In effect, it is an antioxidant. It functions within the brain, nervous system, and skeletal muscles. Interestingly, this amino acid can help remove excess zinc and copper out of the body in a process known as chelation. It may also help with cataracts and speed up wound healing.

Carnitine and carnosine are complimentary for diseases

Carnitine and carnosine both have anti-aging effects, plus reduces the speed of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) age-related patients.

Another area is autism, where the carnitine and carnosine both function to help autism as an alternative treatment. When comparing these two amino acids for autism treatment, Michael Chez, M.D., et al. (Nov 2002 Journal of Child Neurology) and Dan Rossignol, M.D., (Oct 2009 Clinical Psychiatry), reported that carnitine got a grade “B” for improving symptoms of autism, while carnosine got a grade “C” for improving communication and behavior.

These two amino acids also help improve cardiovascular function, but they do so in different ways. Carnitine reduces the symptoms of heart angina and peripheral vascular disease. Carnosine reduces the risk for developing atherosclerosis plus can help reduce cholesterol.

An important note: some physicians believe people should avoid taking D-carnitine because it can interfere with L-carnitine, which is naturally found in the body. Because of this, you should ask your physician before taking both carnitine and carnosine as supplements.

Reference:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/493759-carnosine-vs-carnitine/

Help COPD with Amino Acids for Lung Disease

According to some researchers and there are a few amino acids for lung disease that exist and may help such issues. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is one of these lung conditions may be aided by amino acid supplements; in particular, those with even severe COPD. This lung disease affects the ability to breath and also reduces energy levels in those who have it. COPD may have different causes, but it can be a result of smoking cigarettes long term, as well as conditions such as emphysema. 

According to one study by RW Dal Negro, A Testa, et al., in Italy it was amino acids for lung disease that helped the patients with COPD. By supplementing COPD patients with certain essential amino acids they were able to determine if pulmonary rehabilitation might have improved health status and produce higher rates of physical performance.

Essential amino acids are several of the 22 commonly known amino acids. “Essential” means that they have to be gotten through diet since the body cannot produce them on its own. The list of essential amino acids may include: Valine, Threonine, Methionine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan, Lysine, and Histidine.

Amino acids for lung disease – chronic COPD

A total of 88 COPD out-patients who had a 23 BMI (body mass index) or less were selected randomly to receive essential amino acids for lung disease (COPD) for a period of three months. After 12 weeks of the test period the patients receiving amino acids for lung disease had showed significant improvements in physical performance.

Also, the COPD patients scored higher on the SGRQ score (which measures breathing). Additionally, other areas were affected positively, as compared to the placebo group, who had taken the essential amino acids for lung disease (COPD), including improvements in: fat-free mass, serum albumin, increased muscle strength, oxygen saturation, and cognitive dysfunction.

The results produced greater confidence levels in the patients and the researchers for improvements in these symptoms that COPD usually negatively affects its patients. Essential amino acids may, then, help reduce symptoms of COPD, so it is clear that amino acids for lung disease can aid the patient in breathing easier as well as help their physical performance in a number of areas.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23193843

Part 1: Amino Acids for Men – Virility and Libido (Arginine)

The amino acids for men are the same ones that can be taken for women; however, there are specific aminos that help stimulate biological processes and boost sexual performance and virility. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common issue for middle-aged to older men or men with prostate problems. The consequences include a drop in self-confidence, and reduced virility, fear, anxiety, potency, and sometimes close relationships, which can lead to depression. Amino acids for men and these issues, however, may help offset some of these symptoms.

Sexual performance can have a positive effect on men’s sexual health. Specifically, the amino acids for men include arginine and ornithine. I will cover arginine here in part 1, and ornithine in part 2 of this article.

Amino acids for men – arginine

Arginine is a precursor for NO (nitric oxide), which has health benefits for the body. By increasing arginine in the body, nitric oxide will increase as well, which dilates the blood vessels and helps with blood circulation. Blood circulation is what also affects the penis.

Truly this is one of the best amino acids for men available because the nitric oxide already improves arterial elasticity, which can help reduce blood pressure as well as improve erectile processes as well. Nutrients and oxygen can also be transported more efficiently to the organs. All of this together can have a positive effect on sexual performance, endurance, and potency.

Arginine is one of those amazing amino acids for men that have no side effects. Plus it is less expensive than synthetic pills. Of course, it is does not work immediately as virility takes a few days to show up; however, the harmless qualities of arginine makes it a viable alternative or supplement.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been studied, says Amino Acid Studies, by pharmacologists like Professor Dirk Stichtenoth at the Institute for Clinical Pharmacology whom said, “Initial evaluations indicate positive effects” for arginine and ED. In their study at Cologne University in 1999, 26 patients with potency issues were prescribed arginine (1500mg/day). In only seven weeks a significant improvement was experienced by 73% of the participants in their erectile function.

A similar study was done in Tel Aviv University around the same time with 46 men who had ED with 31% increase in sexual function. Of all the amino acids for men out there, arginine is one of the most highly prized for the benefits for virility and potency, with absolutely no side effecs.

CONTINUE TO Part 2: Amino Acids for Men – Virility and Libido (Ornithine)

Reference:

http://www.aminoacid-studies.com/areas-of-use/virility-and-libido.html