Ask the Experts: What are amino acids, and which ones do I need to help calm my irritability and anxiety?
Amino acids power the nervous system, they help keep emotions, sleep, and our cognitive performance regulated. During periods of time when you are highly stressed, if you don’t have adequate levels of amino acids, you will have a more difficult time dealing with your stressors. Amino acids are found in protein in our diet. They can be found in eggs, beef, fish, chicken, peanut butter, seeds, and yogurt.
Amino acids do a little bit of everything. They help keep serotonin and dopamine levels in check so that we feel happy, and less irritable. They also help balance the nutrients that we put into our body and make sure they get to the places they are needed. Amino acids synthesize neurotransmitters; therefore, they balance out our neurotransmitters which help to keep a positive mood.
Having an MTHFR mutation means that you have a reduced ability for active folate to get through to receptors and to the body processes that it is needed. For example, if you have a homozygous C677T mutation, then you have about a 60-70% loss of enzyme function. This is critical, meaning that your body is going to sacrifice the quality of certain processes such as the creation of neurotransmitters and the breakdown of adrenaline, which can cause that irritability and anxiety. Your system is lagging and if on top of that slowed system, there aren’t enough amino acids in the body, you can run into some real problems.
Important amino acids to help boost mood and neurotransmitter productions:
GABA or Gamma-aminobutyric acid serves as the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. An inhibitory neurotransmitter is meant to balance the brain, by not stimulating neurotransmitters. The brain needs a break, and can’t be run by excitatory neurotransmitters, otherwise, there is an overload of adrenaline. GABA increases the production of alpha waves in the brain, which creates a relaxed and focused mental state. GABA allows the electrical impulses in the brain to continue flowing smoothly and keeps the body and mind calm. Increasing GABA in the brain results in increased control in stressful situations as well as diminishing anxiety. Do you need additional GABA supplementation? Click here.
5HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid that is made after consuming tryptophan, which can be found in turkey, eggs, and cheese. This is the precursor to Serotonin, our happy neurotransmitter. This amino acid increases serotonin levels, making your mood happy and calm, and increases melatonin levels which helps with sleep. Looking for a supplement with 5HTP? Click here!
Theanine is known as an NMDA antagonist. NMDA are glutamate channels that are critical for a developing central nervous system. These channels allow the proper flow of breathing and moving, along with supporting learning, memory, and neuroplasticity (the brain’s way of compensating and adjusting to disease). However, too much NMDA function can cause major problems such as excitotoxicity (neurons dying from over-excitement) and neurodegeneration (loss of neuron function, neuron death). Theanine is an antagonist that inhibits or stops excitotoxicity, which can help control behavior. With overexcited neurons comes anxiety and hyperactivity, and Theanine naturally interferes with these neurons. Click here to learn more about reducing anxiety.
Taurine is an important amino acid because it protects neurons from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the number of free radicals and the body’s capability to counteract these effects with antioxidants. Taurine assists in this process because of its antioxidant properties and its ability to improve mitochondrial function by its stabilization of the electron transport chain. Taurine also modulates glutamate toxicity. Glutamate is a neuroexcitatory substance, which can create uncontrollable hyperactivity in the brain if there is an excess amount. It also helps maintain healthy GABA levels. Find our Digestive Enzymes which contain Taurine here.
Do I need To supplement?
Amino acids work rapidly. They metabolize out of the body quickly, which is why amino acids should be taken or consumed every day. Amino acid supplementation works faster than dietary protein. When eating chicken, it takes hours for the body to process, digest, and absorb the amino acids before they start to create an effect in the brain. If you are regularly eating proteins, then you might regulate your body accordingly but if you are lacking in protein, supplementation will make you feel the effect much quicker.
Do you have an MTHFR mutation? Take our survey to get information regarding your specific mutation.
“5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).” University of Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/5hydroxytryptophan-5htp.
Abdou, A M, et al. “Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans.” BioFactors (Oxford, England)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16971751.
“Amino Acids.” Amino acids, www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=129
Blanke, Marie L. “Activation Mechanisms of the NMDA Receptor.” Biology of the NMDA Receptor., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK5274/.
Lieberman, Harris . “Read “The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance” at NAP.Edu.” National Academies Press: OpenBook, 1999.
Ripps, Harris, and Wen Shen. “Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid.” Molecular Vision, Molecular Vision, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501277/.