Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They contain about 16% nitrogen. A deficiency of protein can result in edema. Some act as neurotransmitters or precursors to neurotransmitters, and are able to cross the blood-brain barrier. They also enable vitamins and minerals to perform their jobs properly. Even if vitamins and minerals are absorbed and assimilated by the body, they cannot be effective unless the necessary amino acids are present. The liver produces about 80% of the amino acids needed. The remaining 20% must be obtained from the diet, called essential amino acids. A lack of vital proteins in the body can cause problems ranging from indigestion to depression to stunted growth. When the brain senses the lack of any of the essential amino acids, it immediately sends a signal to the muscles to release some of their tissue. This doesn’t mean that eating a diet containing enormous amounts of protein in the answer. Excess protein puts stress on the kidneys and the liver. Vegetarians and vegans especially need essential amino acids.
Supplemental amino acids are available in certain amino acid formulas, multivitamins, and protein mixes. Free form means it’s in its purest form, requiring no digestion and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The L- comes from the Latin, levo meaning “left” and D- for dextro meaning “right”. This denotes the direction of the rotation of the spiral that is the chemical structure of the molecule. Products with L- forms of amino acids are considered to be more compatible with human biochemistry. Individual amino acids shouldn’t be taken for long periods of time. A good rule of thumb is to take them for 2 months, then stop for 2 months.
Arginine plays a role in muscle metabolism and helps to excrete excess nitrogen. It also can increase muscle mass, plays a role in insulin production (as well as other enzymes and hormones), and is part of collagen formation and building new bone and tendon cells. Those who do strength training can find arginine useful to increase nitric oxide levels to increase blood flow and performance. Foods high in arginine include chocolate, dairy products, gelatin, meat, oats, and walnuts. Citrulline is a precursor to arginine. Long term use can be dangerous.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids): Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine
Isoleucine, an essential amino acid, is needed for hemoglobin formation and stabilizes and regulates blood sugar and energy levels. It is metabolized in muscle tissue. BCAAs are good for athletes. Food sources include almonds, cashews, eggs, chickpeas, fish, lentils, and meat. It should always be taken with the other two BCAAs. Leucine is an essential amino acid. Leucine and other proteins foster muscle growth. They promote healing of bones, skin, and muscle tissue, and is good for those who have had surgery. Food sources include brown rice, beans, meat, and nuts. Valine is an essential amino acid and has a stimulant effect. It is needed for muscle metabolism, tissue repair, and the maintenance of a proper nitrogen balance in the body. Food sources include dairy products, grains, meat, and mushrooms. The three amino acids should always be taken together to avoid imbalance which can cause problems.
Carnitine is technically not an amino acid (its chemical structure looks like one) and is related to the B vitamins. Its role is to move long chain fatty acids to provide energy, especially for muscles. It enhances vitamins C and E, which are antioxidants and therefore is good at lowering oxidative stress. The body can make its own carnitine if it has enough iron, B1, B6, C, lysine and methionine. It can be sourced from animal products such as meat. Acytyl l-carnitine is involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism, and delivers fats to the mitochondria.
Cysteine and Cystine are similar. Each molecule of cystine has two molecules of cysteine joined together. Both contain sulfur that help form skin and is important in detoxification. Cysteine is important in collagen production, can rid the body of harmful toxins, and is the precursor to glutathione. Glutathione detoxifies the liver as it binds to harmful substances. Cysteine is made from l-methionine, which is needed by B6, B12 and folate. NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) or Cystine increases glutathione levels in the lungs, kidneys, liver, and bone marrow. Those with diabetes might have problems taking it.
GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid, acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA is made in the body from glutamic acid. Its function is to decrease neuron activity and inhibit nerve cells from overfiring. Niacinamide and inositol are needed in addition to prevent stress by occupying receptor sites in the motor centers of the brain. Too much GABA can increase anxiety, shortness of breath, numbness around the mouth, and tingling in the extremities.
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid, where it can be found in the muscles. It can readily cross the blood-brain barrier, and is called brain fuel. The brain converts it to glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter that increases the firing of neurons in the central nervous system. Glutamic acid is converted into either glutamine or GABA. Glutamic acid is a component of folate, a B vitamin that helps the body break down amino acids. Glutamine helps to maintain the proper acid/alkaline balance and is a component in the synthesis of RNA and DNA. It promotes mental ability and helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract. Nitrogen is released when an amino acid is broken down. The body benefits from nitrogen, but when it is free nitrogen ammonia can form, which is toxic to brain tissues. The liver can convert nitrogen into urea which is excreted in the urine, or the nitrogen may attach itself to glutamic acid, forming glutamine.
Glutamine helps to build and maintain muscles. Stress and injury (including surgery) cause the muscles to release glutamine into the bloodstream. It also helps to strengthen the GI tract lining, allowing nutrients to be absorbed more efficiently. Under stress, about 1/3 of glutamine present in the muscles can be released. Glutamine also preserves glutathione in the liver. It can be found in food, but cooking quickly diminishes it. Raw spinach and parsley are good sources. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a different substance.
Glutathione is technically not an amino acid, like carnitine. It is a compound known as a tripeptide, produced by cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in the liver, where harmful compounds are excreted through the bile (yummy!). The liver releases some glutathione into the bloodstream where it protects red and white blood cells. It can be found in the lungs and the intestinal tract. It can reverse some of the damage done by cigarettes, in particular aldehydes. Glutathione levels decrease as we age. To raise glutathione levels it is best to get it from NAC.
Lysine is an essential amino acid. It helps calcium absorption and aids in nitrogen balance. Lysine aids in the production of antibodies, hormones, and enzymes, and helps in collagen formation and tissue repair. It can fight cold sores/herpes, especially taken with vitamin C, and avoiding foods high in arginine. The body cannot produce it and lysine deficiency can cause many problems. Food sources include cheese, eggs, fish, milk, potatoes, red meat, and yeast.
DLPA or Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and has a direct effect on brain chemistry. Phenylalanine can be converted into tyrosine which is then able to synthesize dopamine and norepinephrine. This amino acid can elevate mood and decrease pain. Phenylalanine has three forms, L, D and DL. The DL form is a combination of D and the L. Aspartame is made from phenylalanine and aspartic acid (another amino acid). Phenylalanine should not be taken by pregnant women, people with anxiety attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, or melanoma.
5HTP is mainly sourced from the giroffonia simplicifolia seed, native to Africa. “5-HTP (5 Hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally-occurring amino acid and is the precursor and metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan. 5-HTP is converted to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT), with the help of B6. This occurs both in nervous tissue and in the liver. 5-HTP crosses the blood-brain barrier (while 5-HT does not). Supplementation with 5-HTP therefore increases production of serotonin.” (Source: herb wisdom)
Ribose is a naturally occurring sugar made in the body from glucose and is essential for ATP, the compound that stores and uses energy in all cells, and is needed in RNA. Ribose is typically used for workout trainers for energy. Chemically it is a sugar, but it has no caloric value to humans. (Source: Dr. Weil)
Serine is sold here as PS100 by Jarrow. It stands for phosphatidylserine and is non-gmo derived from sunflower lecithin. Serine is needed for fat metabolism, muscle growth, and supporting a healthy immune system. It is a component of brain proteins and the protective myelin sheaths that cover nerve fibers. It is important in RNA and DNA function, cell membrane formation, and creatine synthesis. It is not healthy to have high levels of serine. It can be made from glycine in the body, but needs proper amounts of B3, B6 and folate. Food sources include meat, soy, and dairy.
Taurine is found in the heart muscle, white blood cells, skeletal muscle, and central nervous system. It is needed for bile, which is essential for fat digestion, fat soluble vitamin absorption, and the control of serum cholesterol levels. It is needed for sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium utilization. Taurine protects the brain, especially if the brain is dehydrated. Children have about 4 times the amount of taurine in their brains than adults. Taurine helps zinc in maintaining healthy eyes. Candida, stress, excess alcohol consumption, intestinal problems are all associated with high urinary losses of taurine. Food sources include eggs, fish, meat, and milk, but not vegetable proteins. The liver can synthesize taurine from cysteine and the body can use methionine, as long as sufficient amounts of B6 are available.
Theonine is an essential amino acid that balances proteins in the body. It helps form collagen, elastin, and tooth enamel. It is the precursor of the amino acids glycine and serine, and is present in the heart, central nervous system, and skeletal muscle, and helps to prevent fatty buildup in the liver. It strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid necessary for producing vitamin B3. The brain uses it to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is vital in transfering nerve impulses from one cell to another and helps promote sleep. Proper amounts of B6, C, folate, and magnesium are all necessary to form tryptophan naturally in the body. Food sources include cottage cheese and meat. Tryptophan supplementation has had a bad rap over the years. Contaminated tryptophan has contributed to the deaths of 38 people, according to the FDA. It is now considered safe, but is always best to choose high quality supplement brands.
Tyrosine is the precursor to adrenaline and the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. Inadequate amounts of tyrosine can lead to depression. It also acts as a mild antioxidant and helps produce melanin, and proper functions of adrenal, thyroid (tyrosine attaches to iodine atoms to form thyroid hormones), and pituitary glands. It also aids in the metabolism of phenylalanine, while phenylalanine can help produce tyrosine. Food sources include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy, and pumpkin seeds. The supplement should be taken at bedtime so it doesn’t compete for absorption with other amino acids. People taking MAO inhibitors should strictly limit their food intake with tyrosine, as it can affect blood pressure.
(Source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing)