Any behaviour or function – concentration, memory, mood, sleep, thirst, appetite, alertness and emotions – involves the functioning of your whole nervous system. That is regulated almost entirely by amino acids and their biochemical companions: vitamins, minerals and essential fats. Everything you think, feel and do, as well as everything you eat, drink or smoke, has a direct effect on your neurotransmitter – your brain messenger – balance and brain function.
Some people will say that you get all the amino acids you need from eating protein. That is true – if you are in optimal health, are not reward-deficient and have no history of addiction or cravings. That is not true for you. Also, different amino acids and combinations of them produce different effects, so finding the correct balance is quite complex. It is worth the effort: studies show that it is possible to reduce stress, depression and anxiety as well as increase glucose and neurotransmitter receptor sensitivity, and to restore serotonin, dopamine, enkephalins, taurine and GABA with amino-acid supplementation, to give a feeling of wellbeing.
There are essential and non-essential amino acids. There is an important third category:
conditionally essential amino acids. These become essential during illness or chronic stress including addiction. The body’s machinery is unable to generate enough, so more sources are required, from food or supplementation. Examples of conditionally essential amino acids which often become essential as a result of addiction are glutamine, tyrosine and taurine.
Supplementing Amino Acids
For a normal, healthy person, eating protein is the best way to get essential amino acids. But taking amino acid supplements is the best way to guarantee you receive optimal amounts for rebalancing neurotransmitters, vital when suffering from addiction/dependency.
One advantage of supplements is that they are more easily absorbed. Taking supplements with a carbohydrate such as fruit can be even better because carbs promote insulin release which helps deliver tryptophan, for example, to the brain.
The most effective starting dose for most amino acids is 500mg per day which can be increased gradually to 3,000mg per day; the two exceptions are 5-HTP which ranges from 50- 500mg/day, and L-glutamine which ranges from 500-15,000mg/day. It is best to start with a lower dose and increase it until you feel the benefits. Most people respond to their daily dose being divided into two or three doses a day.
Also try to boost amino acid intake through diet. Below are some examples of means which provide substantial amounts of amino acids.
Five Meals Rich In Amino Acids
- Oat porridge, soya milk and two scrambled eggs.
- Baked potato with cottage cheese and tuna salad.
- Chicken breast, potatoes au gratin (potatoes with a white sauce and cheese) and green beans.
- Wholewheat spaghetti with a bean, tofu or meat sauce.
- Salmon, quinoa and lentil pilaf with green salad and yogurt.
Some people start with a supplement powder containing a balance of ‘free form’ amino acids. This can be taken on its own,sprinkled on cereal or added to a fruit smoothie. Or you can get it in formulated complex capsules. However, they compete with each other so they are not as effective as taking individual amino acid supplements. A good protein powder shoud provide these kinds of amounts in a daily serving:
- Glutamine/glutamic acid 2,000mg
- Tyrosine 1,000mg
- Gaba/taurine 1,500mg
- Tryptophan 1,000mg
- Phenylalanine 1,000mg.
Some people find their perfect solution by having a daily amino acid complex, then adding
specific amino acids depending on their need. Trial and error will probably result in the reward you are seeking.
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