In this time of high stress and almost out-of-control mental health and addiction statistics, Amino Acid Therapy fills a crucial niche and expands the mental health resources toolbox tremendously.
What Are Amino Acids: Amino acids are small molecules, which when bonded together form the protein in the food we eat. When we digest this protein, starting in the stomach, and finishing in the small intestines, it breaks back down into its component amino acids. Different plant and animal proteins have differing rations of these amino acids, some of which can also be made in our bodies from others. These amino acids then cross into the bloodstream, going everywhere in the body, accomplishing many different functions. Some go towards building muscle, and there are many Amino Acid products on the market designed for body builders. They make blood, other tissues, messenger neurotransmitters and hormones, and enzymes. Some pass through the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain to make our mood mediating chemicals, neurotransmitters (NTs).
What Are Neurotransmitters: There are a variety of neurotransmitters systems active in the brain and body. When they are in good supply, we are able to cope with stress gracefully. However, if they are depleted by malnutrition (not enough precursor amino acids from the protein we eat, not enough vitamin and mineral co-factors from our fruits and veggies, and not enough essential fatty acids), ongoing-stress, illness, genetics, and continuous use of mood-altering chemicals such as caffeine, nicotine, THC, etc., we become out-of-balance and much less able to effectively deal with stress. This depletion then leads to symptoms such as depression, worry, anxiety, insomnia, lack of motivation, overwhelm and irritability. Often these symptoms get so distressing that we seek relief in the form of mood-altering substances and behaviors which can become habitual, or relapse back into those behaviors if we are in recovery. Here I will focus on four primary neurotransmitter systems:
- the Catecholamines, which include dopamine and adrenaline. They give us brightness, motivation and get-up-and-go.
- GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) gives us the ability to relax our bodies and calm ourselves so as to flow with stress, rather than be overwhelmed by it.
- Serotonin gives us emotional stability and flexibility, sense of humor, and the ability to sleep through settling down our minds and creating melatonin.
- The Endorphins, which give us pain relief, comfort and a sense of bonding or connection.
Mental Health Support: The good news is that by taking free-form amino acid precursors, such as L-Tyrosine for the Catecholamines, GABA for GABA, 5HTP or Tryptophan for Serotonin, and D-phenylalanine, which supports adequate endorphin activity, our brain will quickly make more NTs, thus quickly giving us symptom relief, often within 20 minutes! These amino acids are easily available over-the-counter, or online. Adding a good multi-vitamin for the co-factors, and fish oil, helps as well. Amino acids are anti-addictive, meaning that over time you get to take less and less to get the same effect, rather than more and more, because they are rebuilding NT stores, rather than depleting them as do addictive, mood-altering substances. However, there are certain keys to taking amino acids safely. To get support in using amino acid therapy for yourself or a family member, contact a Certified Recovery Nutrition Coach at Client Resources (addictionnutritionacademy.com). To learn how to effectively use amino acid therapy for yourself or your clients, our 5-month training course is offered twice a year, and is designed to give you confidence and competence in the art and science of Amino Acid Therapy. Click here for more information Level 1 CORE Training (addictionnutritionacademy.com).