Amino Acids - Food for Thought?

Our brain is an incredible organ. It contains a storehouse of information that is essential to life itself. Commands are constantly received and transmitted to and from the brain through a complex network of nerves and impulses. From acts of thought and logic, to the mechanics of muscle contraction and sleep, this magnificent relayer of knowledge and bodily messages is reliant on various nutrients to function at its best. Several amino acids are important in fueling the brain, keeping it active and alert, increasing mental concentration and memory recall, and ensuring the messages relayed through the neurotransmitters are passed swiftly and accurately. The most important amino acids include L-Glutamine, DL-Phenylalanine, and L-Tyrosine.


Often referred to as "brain fuel", L-Glutamine is an amino acid found in all protein foods. Its importance to the human body cannot be underestimated, as it is one of the few substances that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier - once L-Glutamine has made its successful journey into the brain, it is converted to glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is said to perform two main tasks inside the brain. Firstly it is thought to act as kindling to brain activity, igniting mind power and providing extra energy, vigour and a feeling of well being. The second task of Glutamic acid is to act as a buffer against the accumulation of excess ammonia in the brain. Ammonia, one of natures most poisonous chemicals, is a by-product of protein metabolism, a natural process occurring continually within the human body. Too much of this toxic substance may cause some damage to the brain and never allow it to function at its true potential. L-Glutamine may be useful then to those suffering from mental fatigue, depression, learning disabilities, mental deficiencies in children, and in some cases of schizophrenia and epilepsy. Students have found this amino acid beneficial during examination time when the brain is subject to a grueling workload. L-Glutamine may successfully increase energy to the brain thereby enhancing concentration for homework and revision, and helping to provide more clarity and alertness during pressuring exams.

Further benefits of L-Glutamine include experiments by Dr.William Shive at the University of Texas, where he has consequently discovered that L-Glutamine protected rats against alcohol poisoning - other scientists have observed that L-Glutamine may actually curb alcohol craving and sugar cravings. As an aid in the treatment of peptic ulcers, L-Glutamine may be extremely beneficial - Dr.Shive (mentioned above) has isolated L-Glutamine from cabbage leaves and found it assists in the healing process of the digestive enzyme membrane, thereby shortening the healing time for this condition considerably.

L-Glutamine is a safe, natural food substance, with many benefits to the human form.

L-Tyrosine and DL-Phenylalanine to Overcome Depression.

In the body, L-Tyrosine (LT) and DL-Phenylalanine (DLP) act as forerunners to certain natural compounds known as neurotransmitters, which control the basic process of nerve impulse transmission between cells. These determiners of our mental and emotional well-being are said to be responsible for positive mental attitude, alertness and ambition. they include noradrenaline and adrenaline. Because L-Tyrosine and DL-Phenylalanine are both involved in the metabolic pathway that leads to the production of neurotransmitters they are often found together in a supplemental form. As a natural therapeutic acid, the amino acids LT and DLP may prove to be a very real alternative to habit forming drugs which are often prescribed for depression and stress related anxiety. A study carried out by Dr Alan Gelenberg of the Harvard Medical School showed clearly that a lack of L-Tyrosine resulted in a deficiency of the hormone noradrenaline, at a certain location in the brain where it relates specifically to mood problems such as depression.

Antidepressant drugs rely on manipulating an increase in noradrenaline and adrenaline to elevate moods. Unfortunately the neurotransmitters are then dispersed instead of being reabsorbed as would naturally occur. Eventually this may lead to depletion of these vital constituents. This may mean the original depression is only aggravated. Normalising the levels of neurotransmitters by taking a more natural approach would therefore seem to be a more desirable process for treating depression.

Improving Memory and Mental Alertness

Most of us at some time or another have suffered from some type of memory loss. It may be the inability to recall a person's name, the title of a book or movie, or whether you'd carried out as simple a task as closing a window. These types of memory loss can be the source of much frustration and stress. There are other more serious and distressing types of memory loss though that may leave the bearers with little awareness of who or even where they are. Continued use of L-Tyrosine may result in improved memory and mental alertness. It might also be useful in problems associated with high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, allergies, and to assist in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

L-Tyrosine/DL-Phenylalanine and Weight Loss

L-Tyrosine is reported to help those on weight loss programmes. Its participation in several glandular functions may be important in controlling appetite and speeding up metabolism, thereby creating extra energy, burning up unwanted fat and stimulating muscle growth. L-Tyrosine has a close link with the function of the thyroid gland - when taken with Kelp which is high in Iodine, optimum effect is attained. DL-Phenylalanine is also well known for its possible action in stimulating the release of CCK, a hormone which functions as an appetite suppressant. DLP can help create a feeling of satiety which reduces the desire for eating large meals. The decreased intake of food naturally assists with weight loss.

DL-Phenylalanine and Relieving Pain Naturally

DL-Phenylalanine may also be beneficial in naturally relieving some types of chronic pain. Our own natural built in pain relief system is based in the brain. The brain produces many hormone like chemicals that form a close resemblance to morphine. When pain signals are delivered to the brain the release of these chemicals, known as Endorphins, is triggered. They then travel to the traumatised part of the body. DLP extends the lifespan in the nervous system, of naturally occurring Endorphins, by reducing the effectiveness of enzymes that would normally breakdown these natural analgesics. Results for conditions such as lower back pain normally occur within 24-48 hours with no harmful side effects.

* If symptoms persist seek the advice of you regular physician or health care professional.

* Vitamins may only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate.

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Last Updated Tuesday, 17 March 1998.
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