Amino Acids. Not a lot of us know what those two words together mean, but something worth knowing about them is how important they are when it comes to our mood! What we end up eating has a tremendous effect on our mood, whether we want to believe that or not.
Amino Acids are responsible and essential for the formation and function of our neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are actually what regulate the chemicals in our brain and have the ending effect on our mood. Without the right nutrients and with an overload of stress, we deprive our brain of its needed amount of chemical regulation, which can ultimately lead to illnesses, both mental and physical.
Serotonin, catecholamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and endorphins are the brain chemicals that are directly associated with our every-day moods. Deficiencies in these chemicals can cause an annoying array of symptoms, most of which we would more commonly attribute to a poor night’s sleep, the common cold, or other viral infections like the flu. However, when in good balance, these neurotransmitters have the ability to keep us cool, calm, and collected. We stay more positive, more relaxed, more alert, and more resourceful.
What is odd is that rarely do we associate a good diet with our mood. We get cravings for foods we desire, and while we temporarily feel good when we eat what we crave, if the food we eat is not what our body needs, we suffer from it in the end. Poor diet and digestion, stress, and prescription drug use can all lead to an imbalance, leading us to feeling “under the weather”.
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that has natural calming effects. This helps to regulate our mood, sleep and appetite. When our levels of Serotonin are low, we are more likely to experience trouble sleeping, anxiety, panic attacks and cravings for certain foods.
Tryptophan is the amino acid responsible for the production of our serotonin. Food sources high in tryptophan include brown rice, cottage cheese, meat, peanuts, and soy protein. Amino acid supplements are available to assist in increasing serotonin levels as well. The two most common and popular supplements are L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP. Since we all have a different body chemistry, some foods or supplements may work better for different individuals.
We naturally have a “caffeine-like” chemical in our bodies. Catecholamine acts as a natural mild antidepressant for us, and when our bodies are low on it, we can feel the effects of it through a lack of energy, drive, and focus. L-Tyrosine is the amino acid necessary for catecholamine production. Not only is L-Tyrosine the precursor to thyroid hormones, but supplementation of it will have a tendency of increasing your energy level.
GABA is a natural relaxant. It is derived from glutamic acid and can be supplemented directly. Symptoms of low GABA include stiff and tense muscles, stress, feeling burned out, and inability to relax.
Endorphins are the chemicals that help us feel good. An interesting study showed that those who are low in endorphins are considerably more sensitive to pain, both emotionally and physically. They had a tendency to cry more and craved comfort from people, foods, or other things around them. It is more common for someone low in endorphins to crave foods and alcohol.
Endorphins are metabolized from phenylalanine. The best supplement form is the DL-Phenylalanine form which is used to elevate mood, decrease pain, suppress the appetite and aid in memory and learning.
Another amino acid helpful in balancing brain chemistry is L-Glutamine. Supplementation with L-Glutamine stops carbohydrate cravings and moodiness by preventing low blood sugar in the brain.
There are certain conditions in which taking amino acids would be contraindicated so check with your health care practitioner if you are considering taking any of these supplements. If you need assistance in this area, feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help.
Yours for Optimal Health,
Dr. Tom Rofrano