Our BRAIN requires amino acids to make neurotransmitters which regulate our brain power, our memory and our mood. What we eat has a tremendous effect on our levels of neurotransmitters and therefore on mood. Stress and nutritional deficiencies alter our brain chemistries and are common precursors to many illnesses and disorders including anxiety and depression.
Being HAPPY and BALANCED requires a symphony of brain chemicals which include serotonin, catecholemine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and endorphin. When in balance, these neurotransmitters help us in being alert, optimistic, calm and resourceful. A proper diet helps us to maintain a good balance; however imbalance can result from improper diet, poor digestion, stress, prescription drugs, and deficiencies or imbalances involving other nutrients.
Being CALM and HAPPY requires serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Low levels of serotonin lead to anxiety, sleep disorders, food cravings, panic attacks, etc. L-tryptophan is the amino acid integral to the production of serotonin. Food sources of tryptophan include brown rice, cottage cheese, meat, peanuts, and soy protein. The amino acid supplements for increasing serotonin levels are L- tryptophan and 5- HTP. Both can be used to increase serotonin levels in the body – the one that will work best for you depends on your body chemistry. I am a fan of 5-HTP, but I find it needs a buffer such as theanine to balance it.
Being RELAXED requires GABA, the relaxing neurotransmitter. 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. I tend to recommend B vitamins instead of GABA since most people are unable to make GABA due to this deficiency. A product worth mentioning is Phenitropic – a GABA derivative that many use for insomnia and for stress.
FEELING GOOD requires endorphins. People low in endorphins are very sensitive to both physical and emotional pain, they cry easily and crave comfort. They also love certain foods or 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.
For CALM and FOCUS, try theanine. It is included in 2 of my favorite stress formulas. Theanine relaxes the body and calms the mind. It helps promote sounder sleep while also having antioxidant properties that protect the brain. As with any supplementation, there are certain conditions in which amino acids would be contraindicated. Check with your health care practitioner if you are considering taking any of these supplements.