Amino acid therapy may be used to treat a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder, addictions, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and more.
Amino acids are basic building blocks used in the body to build proteins, such as muscle and other tissue, and they also serve as precursors to neurotransmitters. Humans utilize 20 amino acids and 9 of those are called “essential” because we can’t synthesize them and they must be obtained from our diet.
Neurotransmitters (NTs) are the chemicals in the brain that control our thoughts, emotions, memory, energy, movement, sensation and more. Some NTs are excitatory and some are inhibitory and the balance of the two is important for optimal brain and body function.
Some amino acids act directly as NTs. Glutamate and aspartate are excitatory, while glycine and GABA are inhibitory. The glutamate-GABA system is the main area of clinical significance.
The main neurotransmitters in the brain are serotonin and the catecholamines including dopamine and norepinephrine. The amino acid precursors and NT function are:
- Tryptophan -> 5HTP -> Serotonin (mood, appetite, memory)
- L-Tyrosine -> L-Dopa -> Dopamine (pleasure, reward, motivation) -> Norepinephrine (alertness, concentration, energy)
Amino Acid Therapy
Normally we get all the amino acids we need from our diet. But with many conditions our diet is not sufficient in providing the large amount of amino acids necessary for full and balanced NT production. This is when supplementing with specific amino acid blends becomes a valuable treatment.
The main focus with amino acid therapy is on the serotonin-catecholamine system. When this system is balanced, it seems to control and balance the glutamate-GABA system.
Amino acid therapy is not as simple as giving a standard dosage of amino acids supplements. The natural production and breakdown of NTs in the body share some of the same enzymes to promote the reactions. Giving too much of one amino acid can cause a depletion of competing amino acid-NT pathways.
For example, giving only 5HTP will lead to the production of more serotonin, but can deplete the supply of dopamine and norepinephrine. For this reason it is important to also supply L-Tyrosine. The key is supplying both in the right amounts.
Standard starting dosing for serotonin dominant conditions
L-Tyrosine 500mg 2 caps 2x/day
5HTP 50mg 2 caps 2x/day