Category Archives: Tryptophan

Tryptophan In Antidepressants to Cure Major Depressive Disorder?

Dr. AA Badway, from Cardiff Metropolitan University (Wales, UK), published an article which points to the essential amino acid tryptophan as a possible key to developing new antidepressant serotonin-boosting drugs to treat Major Depressive Disorder.

The article, published in July 2013, focused on Major Depressive Disorder, which is also known as clinical depression, unipolar depression, or recurrent depression. This mental disorder causes pervasive, persistent low moods, where the patient can no longer experience pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. It is usually also accompanied by low self-esteem.

Major Depressive Disorder is an extremely debilitating condition which greatly impacts quality of life. Major Depressive Disorder affects private and work life, impacting eating habits, sleeping habits, and general overall health. In some cases, the disorder has led to suicide.

Serotonin deficiency is one of the causes of Major Depressive Disorder. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that transmits signals between the brain and the body. Serotonin has many effects, including the regulation of moods.

Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder includes antidepressant medications which cause the synthesis of serotonin, and thus these medications have a mood stabilizing effect.

Serotonin is synthesized in the body by the amino acid tryptophan.

Tryptophan’s role in serotonin synthesis

Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids, which means we must obtain it from our food. Tryptophan is widely available in most proteins, like eggs, fish, meat, soybeans, and sesame seeds.

There are several factors which cause decreased levels of tryptophan, and which result in the serotonin deficiencies which could cause Major Depressive Disorder. One factor, accelerated degradation of tryptophan in the liver, is one of the factors which must be addressed when developing new antidepressants.

The article concluded that enhancing the availability of tryptophan to the brain will result in normalized levels of serotonin synthesis, and could form the basis for new antidepressant drugs.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23904410

Does L-tryptophan Affect Women More Than Men?

An interesting study from Europe has found that depletion of the amino acid L-tryptophan affects emotional processing, specifically how we recognize fear. But are women affected more than men?

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means we must obtain it from our diet, or in supplements. L-tryptophan found in many animal and plant proteins. It has numerous functions, and has been the subject of several clinical studies for its role as producing the crucial neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin is primarily found in the central nervous system, where it performs important functions. Serotonin affects memory, learning, and emotional response.

Serotonin levels are directly related to L-tryptophan intake. This means lack of L-tryptophan results in low serotonin levels, which could lead to insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Low levels of serotonin also affect mood.

L-tryptophan depletion: fear recognition different in men and women

Researchers (C Harmer, R Rogers, et al) from the University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK, selected healthy male and female volunteers to examine their responses to emotional expression, particularly fear, if their serotonin levels were low.

In this double-blind trial, the volunteers were randomly given either an amino acid drink specifically lacking in L-tryptophan, or a control drink containing a balanced mixture of amino acids. The acute L-tryptophan depletion reduced their serotonin functions.

The volunteers were given a facial expression recognition test five hours after the drink was administered. Six basic emotions were used: fear, anger, disgust, surprise, sadness, and happiness.

Results were interesting, with a distinct difference between male and female response for fear recognition only.

L-tryptophan depletion significantly impaired the women’s ability to recognize fear as a facial expression. The male volunteers were not affected, and recognized fear even if their serotonin levels were low.

Recognition of all the other basic emotions was comparable in the two groups.

The researchers concluded that acute L-tryptophan depletion does affect emotional response, and that this effect is greater in women, compared to men.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12677354

Amino Acid Supplements for Addiction Recovery

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and so they come from protein foods; however, some people do not produce or assimilate amino acids as well as others, and so amino acid supplements can be utilized, especially in cases where addiction is an issue. Addiction recovery is commonly found in products that are taken internally in some way (consumption, inhalation, etc.). Amino acid supplements may help.

Food, drugs, and alcohol, are common addictions in society today. The “white foods” like sugar, white flour, white rice, and white potatoes, can act as addictive foods to someone who is prediabetic or diabetic, similarly to how alcohol or marijuana, caffeine, speed, or cocaine, can act as an addiction to someone else.

Amino acid supplements can help curb these appetites for unhealthy habits, and aid in bringing back a sense of control because they activate the neurotransmitters in the brain that affect these issues.

Amino acid supplements for addictions

Consider these addictions:

FOODS/DRINKS: Sweets, starches, chocolate, caffeine, aspartame, alcohol, etc.

DRUGS: Heroin, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, speed, cocaine, ecstasy, valium, etc.

These items may be as much of an emotional addiction as they can be a physical addiction, depending. Be sure to ask your physician before trying to treat addictions or go through addiction recovery by supplementing with amino acids.

Amino acid supplements chart for addiction recovery

Treating or reducing symptoms to help smooth out the process of recovery may be aided by taking essential or non-essential amino acid supplements.

Here is a chart showing amino acid supplements for addictions from the Addiction Recovery Guide folks, reprinted from: Blum K, Ross J, Reuben C, Gastelu D, Miller DK.  “Nutritional Gene Therapy: Natural Healing in Recovery.  Counselor Magazine, January/February, 2001

Supplemental Ingredient

Restored Brain Chemical

Addictive Substance   Abuse

Amino Acid Deficiency   Symptoms

Expected Behavior   Change

D-Phenylalanine or DL-Phenylalanine Enkephalins
Endorphins
Heroin, Alcohol, Marijuana, Sweets, Starches, Chocolate,   Tobacco Most Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) conditions sensitive to   physical or emotional pain. Crave comfort and pleasure. Desire certain food   or drugs. Reward stimulation. Anti-craving. Mild anti-depression. Mild   improved energy and focus. D-Phenylalanine promotes pain relief, increases   pleasure.
L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine Norepinephrine
Dopamine
Caffeine, Speed, Cocaine, Marijuana, Aspartame, Chocolate,   Alcohol, Tobacco, Sweets, Starches Most Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) conditions. Depression,   low energy. Lack of focus and concentration. Attention-deficit disorder. Reward stimulation. Anti-craving. Anti-depression. Increased   energy. Improved mental focus.
L-Tryptophan or 5 hydroxytryptophan (5HTP) Serotonin Sweets, Alcohol, Starch, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Chocolate,   Tobacco Low self-esteem. Obsessive/compulsive behaviors. Irritability   or rage. Sleep problems. Afternoon or evening cravings. Negativity. Heat   intolerance. Fibromyalgia, SAD (winter blues). Anti-craving. Anti-depression. Anti-insomnia. Improved   appetite control. Improvement in all mood and other serotonin deficiency   symptoms.
GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) GABA Valium, Alcohol, Marijuana, Tobacco, Sweets, Starches Feeling of being stressed-out. Nervous. Tense muscles. Trouble   relaxing. Promotes calmness. Promotes relaxation.
L-Glutamine GABA (mild enhancement)
Fuel source for entire brain
Sweets, Starches, Alcohol Stress. Mood swings. Hypoglycemia. Anti-craving, anti-stress. Levels blood sugar and mood. GABA   (mild enhancement). Fuel source for entire brain.

Whether you have mental health or emotional health issues, chemical dependency, food related issues such as diabetes, weight gain/weight loss problems, or other health problems, please discuss taking any amino acid supplements with your doctor before attempting addiction recovery.

References:

http://www.addictionrecoveryguide.org/holistic/nutrition

http://www.medhelp.org/tags/health_page/45/Addiction/Amino-Acid-Protocol?hp_id=15

Table of Amino Acid Abbreviations

Students and teachers come together with terms like “Amino acid abbreviations” – but scientists use these abbreviated forms to refer to the 20+ names of amino acids as well.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and they can be gotten from food. Before we get into the amino acid abbreviations you may want to know that there are two main types of amino acids (with a few exceptions)…

Essential and Non-essential amino acids

Essential amino acids does not mean they are “essential” as in necessary… it simply means that they can only be gotten from the food you eat so must be included through diet or dietary supplementation. Protein foods like meats (beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and eggs, as well as fish, are excellent sources of amino acids. Many meat-eating Americans actually eat an overabundance of protein compared with what the human body requires, which can lead to acidity (which leads to disease), cardiovascular and other diseases.

Non-essential amino acids are those that your body can produce naturally. Occasionally, someone is born with a deficiency in their body’s ability to produce the amino acids necessary for proper functioning, leading to diseases or disorders where people have trouble breaking down certain amino acids. An example of the latter is Maple Syrup Urine Disorder (MSUD) which is what newborn babies are screened for soon after birth.

There are 22 different amino acids in all (some of them semi-essential), but about 20 of them are more common. Their names, 3-letter, and 1-letter amino acid abbreviations follow.

Table of amino acid abbreviations

Amino Acid

3-Letter

1-Letter

Alanine

Ala

A

Arginine

Arg

R

Asparagine

Asn

N

Aspartic acid

Asp

D

Cysteine

Cys

C

Glutamic acid

Glu

E

Glutamine

Gln

Q

Glycine

Gly

G

Histidine

His

H

Isoleucine

Ile

I

Leucine

Leu

L

Lysine

Lys

K

Methionine

Met

M

Phenylalanine

Phe

F

Proline

Pro

P

Serine

Ser

S

Threonine

Thr

T

Tryptophan

Trp

W

Tyrosine

Tyr

Y

Valine

Val

V

Aspartic acid or Asparagine

Asx

B

Any amino acid

Xaa

X

Termination codon

TERM

For more information on amino acid abbreviations or more detailed information on amino acids in general, please see other articles at the Amino Acid Information Center. There are also many excellent resources on the Internet or in encyclopedias.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Class/MLACourse/Modules/MolBioReview/iupac_aa_abbreviations.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amino_acid#In_human_nutrition

http://www.newbornscreening.info/Parents/aminoaciddisorders/MSUD.html

Amino Acid Chart

Many people know that you can get all 22 amino acids from protein foods such as meats (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, etc.), fish, and even eggs, but some people do not know how many plant-based amino acids in food there are, let alone which ones for which kinds of foods; I will cover some of them here in chart form for easy use.

Below is a breakdown of some of the essential amino acids that are in a variety of vegetarian (non-meat, non-dairy, non-egg, and non-fish) or vegan sources of foods… these are plant-based amino acids. The term “essential” amino acid means that you can only get these kinds of amino acids in food since your body cannot make them on its own.

Amino acids in food from plant proteins

According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) an adult needs about 0.8 to 1.0 g protein/kg of body weight. You can calculate this by dividing your weight (in lbs) by 2.2. That is how many grams you need each day of protein.

When you eat protein foods the proteins break down to their basic units called amino acids. Amino acids in food then help build back proteins within the body, needed by muscles, organs, and the immune system. About 15-25% of your daily calories should be from protein foods. Too much protein can strain the liver and kidneys.

Uses of amino acids in food

Arginine is considered as a semi-essential, or “conditional” essential amino acid depending on the health status and what stage of development the individual is in.

Histidine is most important during infancy (utilized for proper development and growth). It is essential for both adults and babies.

Isoleucine is used for muscle production, as well as maintenance and recovery. This is especially important after you have worked out/exercised. It helps in hemoglobin (in red blood cells) formation, blood clotting, energy, and regulating blood sugar levels.

Leucine is used in tissue production, repair, and production of growth hormone. It helps prevent wasting of muscles and is useful in treating Parkinson’s disease.

Lysine is used for calcium absorption, nitrogen maintenance, bone development, hormone production, tissue repair, and antibody production.

Methionine is used as a “cleaner” of the body… it helps emulsify fats, aids in digestion, is an antioxidant (helps prevent cancer), prevents arterial plaque, and removes heavy metals.

Phenylalanine is a precursor for the amino acid tyrosine and signaling molecules such as dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), as well as the skin pigment melanin. It helps with memory and learning, elevates moods, and aids in brain processes.

Threonine monitors proteins in the body that processes to maintain and recycle.

Tryptophan is utilized for the production of niacin, serotonin, plus helps in pain management, mood regulation, and aids sleep.

Valine is for the muscles in recovery, endurance, and energy, plus it balances levels of nitrogen. It is also used in treating alcohol-related brain damage.

Amino Acid Chart of Food Sources

AMINO   ACIDS –> Arginine Histidine Isoleucine Leucine Lysine Methionine Phenylalanine Threonine Tryptophan Valine
almonds x x x x x
amaranth x
apples x x x x x x
apricots x
asparagus x x
avocadoes x
bananas x x x
beans x x x x
beets x x x x
black beans x
brazil nuts x x
broccoli x
brussels sprouts x x x
buckwheat x x
carrots x x x x x
cantaloupe x x x x x
cauliflower x x x
cashews x x x
celery x x x
chickpeas x
chives x x
citrus fruits x
coconut x
collards x x
cucumbers x x x
dandelion   greens x x x
endive x
fennel x x
flax seed x x x
garlic x x
grapes x x
greens x
green  vegetables x x
hazelnuts x x
kale x
kidney beans x x
leeks x
legumes x
lentil x
lettuce x x
lima beans x
mushrooms x
nori (seaweed) x x
nutritional yeast x x
nuts x x
oats x
okra x
olives
onion x
papayas x x
parsley x
parsnips x x
pears x x
peas x x
pecans x x
pineapple
pine nuts x x
pomegranates x x x
potatoes x x x
pumpkin seeds x
radishes
rice x
seaweed x
sesame seeds x
snap beans
spinach x
spirulina x
sprouts
squash x
sunflower   seeds x
tomatoes x x
turnip greens
turnips x
walnuts
watercress

There are certain other amino acids in food that could, or even should, be added to this amino acid chart, but this is a good start for most common vegetables, nuts, legumes, and other plant foods.

Amino Acid Chart Reference

http://yumuniverse.com/plant-based-protein-information-chart/

Health Benefits – Amino Acids

Amino acids provide certain health benefits to the human body. They are the building blocks of proteins and help the body’s metabolic functions. Of the 22 amino acids known to science, only 9 are considered to be essential to the human body, with some sources claiming the number is 10.

List of amino acids include Essential, Non-essential, and Conditionally Essential

To avoid amino acid deficiencies and to experience optimum health you must consume the essential amino acids since they cannot be produced by the body. Some medical professionals, like Naturopath Dr. Eliezer Ben-Joseph, who advises his patients and the public on alternative health matters through his Natural Solutions Radio show, suggest a list of 10 amino acids to include in your diet, which include: Arginine, Histidine, Methionine, Threonine, Valine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan, and Leucine.

10 of the remaining 22 non-essential amino acids, which your body can manufacture on its own include Alanine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamine, Glutamic Acid, Glycine, Proline, Serine, and Tyrosine. Dr. Ben-Joseph suggests that if you are stressed or have a disease then these amino acids are “conditionally essential”: Arginine, Glycine, Cystine, Tyrosine, Proline, Glutamine, and Taurine.

Amino acids help build cells and repair tissues as well as create antibodies to ward off viruses and bacteria. Additionally, they help with enzymes and they body’s hormonal system. Dr. Ben-Joseph suggests these 8 amino acids provide these health benefits:

Tryptophan: is a natural relaxant, alleviates insomnia, and reduces anxiety/depression

Lysene: helps the body absorb calcium

Methionine: supplies sulfur to help hair, nails, and skin

Histidine: repairs tissue, good for digestion/ulcers, blood pressure, nerves, sexual function

Phenylalanine: aids the brain to produce Norepinephrine, which helps the brain and nerve cells

Valine: calms emotions, helps with mental vigor and coordination of the muscles

Leucine & Isoleucine: helps the body manufacture other necessary biochemical components

You can never be certain that you are getting enough of the aminoc acids that your body needs.  It may be a good idea to incorporate amino acid dietary supplements in your health regimen.  Each one serves a different function so it is important to ensure your body obtains the necessary nutrients.  As with anything else, be sure to check with your doctor before taking amino acid supplements or any dietary supplements.

References:

http://naturalsolutionsradio.com/blog/natural-solutions-radio/amino-acids

http://naturalsolutionsradio.com/blog/articles/references/minerals-amino-acids-chart

Amino Acids – Natural Cure For Alcoholism?

Could amino acids become a natural cure for alcoholism?  Based on the information in two great books by Julia Ross – “The Diet Cure” and “The Mood Cure”, this could certainly be the case.

According to Ross, overeating or drinking alcohol is actually a form of using food or alcohol as self-medication.  It is not about having poor willpower… it is because you are low on certain brain chemicals that make you emotionally strong.

Ross claims that if you are using alcohol to feel good – and the same applies to sugar and carbohydrate addictions – it is because something is interfering with your body’s ability to produce its own natural brain drugs.  What does this mean?  For example, a continuous stress lowers your natural sedative, stimulant and pain reliever reserves.  When you run out of them, your body wants to feel good and basically tells you to eat foods or drink alcohol – do anything that would fix the problem and make you feel good again.

Regular use of sugars, alcohol or drugs (even pharmaceutical drugs) can teach your brain not to produce those brain chemicals.  “Hey, why should I produce these neurotransmitters, when you are feeding me alcohol, doing the job for me,” your brain asks.  The more you condition your body with alcohol, the fewer neurotransmitters it produces.

What does this have to do with amino acids?  Everything!  Your brain relies on proteins, which are the only source for amino acids, and amino acids are what your body uses to make all of its mood-enhancing chemicals.  If you aren’t getting enough protein, or if you have conditioned your brain to interfere with the ‘conversion’ process, you start getting cravings.  This leads to an interesting conclusion: consuming amino acid supplements could become a natural cure for alcoholism and other sugar cravings.

Natural cure for alcoholism – false hope or a viable option?

In order to understand how you could use amino acid supplements to eliminate or reduce alcohol cravings and therefore gradually cure your alcoholism, it’s important to understand the role of various brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that impact our mood.  They are a) dopamine/norepinephrine (improves mental focus and energizes you naturally), b) GABA (a Valium/Diazepam like natural sedative and relaxant), c) endorphin (a natural painkiller) and serotonin (helps you sleep and keeps you ‘happy’).

If you have plenty of all four, you are living a balanced life.  But when your reserves get depleted, you may resort to overeating and alcohol consumption.

If you want to learn the intricacies of exactly how amino acids work, we highly suggest that you read Julia Ross’s two great books.  However, if you have mood related issues, here is a list of amino acids that convert into proper brain chemicals, balancing your mood and potentially eliminating the need to use other substances, such as alcohol, carbohydrates or sugar.

The first brain chemical on our list, dopamine/norepinephrine increases your energy level.  The corresponding amino acid that produces the same effect is L-Tyrosine.  L-Tyrosine typically works fast and provides you with additional energy.

Some people eat chocolate or drink alcohol because they are tired and want that initial energy boost that comes from consuming those products.  If low energy level is your one of your problem areas, try L-Tyrosine and see if it could become part of your natural cure for alcoholism.

Then again, some people drink to relax.  GABA is often called natural valium (valium is also known as diazepam), which is used to relieve anxiety and other side effects associated with alcohol withdrawal, and L-Taurine can relieve tension as well.  L-theanine helps you reduce stress and relax as well. In other words, add these three amino acids for your natural cure for alcoholism toolkit!

Then there are those people who drink to get rid of emotional pain, the source of which they may not even remember anymore. There are two powerful amino acids that are used to alleviate emotional pain: L-glutamine and DLPA or DL-Phenylalanine. L-Glutamine is the second best choice for your body to fuel your brain.  Sugar – or glucose – is the primary option.  This makes it easy to understand why sugary products, carbohydrates or alcohol, which convert to glucose, are an easy way to stop a craving.  However, L-Glutamine amino acid reaches the brain within minutes.

The last amino acid, L-Tryptophan, is sometimes called “a natural Prozac”.  When a series of contaminated batches of L-Tryptophan came from Japan to the U.S. in the late 1980’s, the Food and Drug Administration banned it.  It is again available and is a very powerful product.  It plays an important role for the synthesis of melatonin and serotonin – hormones that regulate mood and stress response. L-Tryptophan helps support relaxation, sleep, positive mood and immune function. L-Tryptophan is the precursor to Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which is deficient in people who have depression.

A ‘watered-down’ version, 5-HTP, is widely available in most health food stores.

I want a natural cure for alcoholism but I have no idea what to do next?

How much of each one of these amino acids should you take to address your emotional issues, cravings or even create a natural cure for alcoholism?  This is a difficult question to answer. Julia Ross provides detailed instructions in her books, including the dosage, what time of the day you should take each supplement and which one of these supplements should never be taken together – after all, why take energizing and relaxing supplements at the same time?

If you do not decide to read the works of Julia Ross or Dr. Joan Mathews Larson, who is often considered to be the inventor of this amino acid therapy to cure alcoholism naturally, then you will need to make your own educated decision on which supplements to use and determine the proper dosage.

While supplement bottles typically post a recommended dosage, please remember that certain inactive ingredients in supplements (used as lubricants in the manufacturing process) reduce the absorption of the product’s active ingredients.  If you follow dosage recommendations, and do not get the results you are after, get a copy of The Diet Cure and see the dose ranges that Dr. Ross presents.

Are amino acid therapies a natural cure for alcoholism? According to Dr. Larson, her detox center’s long-term success rates quadrupled from 20% to 80%, utilizing the strategies explained in this article.  If you are suffering from any addictions, including alcoholism, amino acids might be a long-sought after solution for you!