By Heidi Weiss, NTP, MPH

The first time I saw someone take an amino acid supplement, I didn’t quite believe the transformation. She went from appearing like a shy, scared, introvert to a chatty and engaged person within about 30 seconds. I almost didn’t believe it, but then I tried it myself.

You may remember from biology class that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They play a vital role in our health as the building blocks of our muscles and hormones. It begins in our digestive system, where dietary protein is broken down into amino acid constituents. Amino acids are the substance out of which mood regulating neurotransmitters and some of our hormones are formed.

Low levels of some neurotransmitters can result in anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, obsessions and compulsions, and are associated with addictions and mood disorders.

This is why it is so important to have a good dietary protein intake – not only to build strong muscles and bones, but also to regulate moods and balance hormones. (Not to mention the blood-sugar stabilizing effect of protein, which anyone with a hangry member of the family knows can be a mood-saver!)

As we age, digestion can weaken due to decreased production of enzymes and digestive juices, which can mean that we aren’t completely digesting proteins in our food. 

Enter amino acid therapy. This sub-field of nutritional therapy emerged in the 1980’s based on the research of neuroscientist Kenneth Blum and has been found to aid recovery from eating disorders, drug dependency, and clinical depression as well as the more mild winter blues, stress-induced cravings, emotional fatigue, and lack of focus.

Amino acid therapy works by supplying the body with the building blocks of neurotransmitters that are essential to regulating our moods and cravings specific amino acids. The three most common neurotransmitters target in amino acids therapy are serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

One of best things about amino acid therapy is that it is immediate – you can test your body’s response to an amino acid supplement by taking it and almost instantly know whether it might help you. 

We recommend working with a professional trained in amino acid therapy. If you would like to learn more about the amino acid support we offer at Lemon Tree Wellness, please email us or book a free consultation here. 

REFERENCES

Banderet LE, Lieberman HR. Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans. Brain Res Bull. 1989; 22:759-762.

Benkelfat C, Ellenbogen MA, Dean P, Palmour Rm, Young SN. Mood-lowering effect of tryptophan depletion. Enhanced susceptibility in young men at genetic risk for major affective disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1994;51(9):687-697.

Byerley WF, Judd LL, Reimherr FW, et al. 5-Hydroxy-tryptophan: a review of its antidepressant efficacy and effects. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987; 7:127-137.

Cangiano C, Ceci F, Cascino A, et al. Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56:863-867.

Delgado PL, Charney DS, Price LH, Aghajanian GK, Landis H, Heninger GR. Serotonin function and the mechanism of antidepressant action. Reversal of antidepressant-induced remission by rapid depletion of plasma tryptophan. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1990;47(5):411-18.

Gelenberg AJ, Gibson CJ. Tyrosine for the treatment of depression. Nutr Health. 1984; 3:163-173.

Meyers S. Use of neurotransmitter precursors for treatment of depression. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Feb;5(1):64–71.

Muhler, H. The GABA system in anxiety and depression and its therapeutic potential. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan;62(1):42-53.

Puttini PS, Caruso I. Primary fibromyalgia syndrome and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan: a 90-day open study. J Int Med Res.1992; 20:182-189

Reinstein DK, Lehnert H, Wurtman RJ. Dietary tyrosine suppresses the rise in plasma corticosterone following acute stress in rats. Life Sci 1985;37(23):2157-2163.

Smith KA, Fairburn CG, Cowen PJ. Relapse of depression after rapid depletion of tryptophan. Lancet 1997;349(9056):915-19.

 Williams JL, Everett JM et al. The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: a Systematic Review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2020 Mar;75(1):12-23.