Amino Acids Helpful in Treating Bipolar Disorder

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Protein is essential for growth and development. It provides the body with energy, and is needed for the manufacture of hormones, antibodies, enzymes, and tissues. It also helps maintain the proper acid-alkali balance in the body.

When protein is consumed, the body breaks it down into amino acids, the building blocks of all proteins. Some of the amino acids are designated nonessential. This does not mean that they are unnecessary, but rather that they do not have to come from the diet because they can be synthesized by the body from other amino acids. Other amino acids are considered essential, meaning that the body cannot synthesize them, and therefore must obtain them from the diet.

Whenever the body makes a protein-when it builds muscle, for instance-it needs a variety of amino acids for the protein-making process. These amino acids may come from dietary protein or from the body's own pool of amino acids. If a shortage of amino acids becomes chronic, which can occur if the diet is deficient in essential amino acids, the building of protein in the body stops, and the body suffers.

Because of the importance of consuming proteins that provide all of the necessary amino acids, dietary proteins are considered to belong to two different groups, depending on the amino acids they provide. Complete proteins, which constitute the first group, contain ample amounts of all of the essential amino acids. These proteins are found in meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, and milk. Incomplete proteins, which constitute the second group, contain only some of the essential amino acids. These proteins are found in a variety of foods, including grains, legumes, and leafy green vegetables.

Although it is important to consume the full range of amino acids, both essential and nonessential, it is not necessary to get them from meat, fish, poultry, and other complete-protein foods. In fact, because of their high fat content-as well as the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in the raising of poultry and cattle-most of those foods should be eaten in moderation. Fortunately, the dietary strategy called mutual supplementation enables you to combine partial-protein foods to make complementary protein-proteins that supply adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For instance, although beans and brown rice are both quite rich in protein, each lacks one or more of the necessary amino acids. However, when you combine beans and brown rice with each other, or when you combine either one with any of a number of protein-rich foods, you form a complete protein that is a high-quality substitute for meat. To make a complete protein, combine beans with any one of the following:

* Brown rice.
* Seeds.
* Corn.
* Wheat
* Nuts.

Or combine brown rice with any one of the following:

* Beans.
* Seeds.
* Nuts.
* Wheat.

All soybean products, such as tofu and soymilk, are complete proteins. They contain the essential amino acids plus several other nutrients. Available in health food stores, tofu, soy oil, soy flour, soy-based meat substitutes, soy cheese, and many other soy products are healthful ways to complement the meatless diet.

Yogurt is the only animal-derived complete-protein source recommended for frequent use in the diet. Made from milk that is curdled by bacteria, yogurt contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and other "friendly" bacteria needed for the digestion of foods and the prevention of many disorders, including candidiasis. Yogurt also contains vitamins A and D, and many of the B-complex vitamins.

Do not buy the sweetened, flavored yogurts that are sold in supermarkets. These products contain added sugar and, often, preservatives. Instead, either purchase fresh unsweetened yogurt from a health food store or make the yogurt yourself, and sweeten it with fruit juices and other wholesome ingredients.

Research indicates there are a number of supplements which may be beneficial for those with this disorder. I have categorized these into amino acids, vitamins and minerals. In this first article we will explore the amino acids. However, a note of caution before we begin.

The purpose of this article is to bring these supplements to your attention so that you may be aware of some additional tools available for your well-being. This article is intended as a source of information to discuss with your doctor and not as a replacement for your doctor. These supplements are just that - supplements. They can in no way replace your prescription medications for manic depression.

Amino Acid Defined

A literal definition of an Amino acid is an organic compound containing an amino group (-NH2) and a carboxyl group (-COOH).

So what does this mean? It means they are literally the building blocks for all life, in that they are the chemical basis for all protein. Protein is one of the biggest components of our bodies (as well as the bodies of all living things). Our bodies use amino acids to form the proteins which build everything from muscles and bones, skin and hair, to internal organs and fluids. These amino acids also play an active role in our nervous system, where they function as neurotransmitters carrying messages from cell to cell. In short, amino acids are absolutely essential for our well-being. (For additional reading about the science of amino acids, take a look at The Amino Acid Collection and Amino Acids - An Overview.)

There are about 20 natural amino acids. These can be divided into two basic groups: essential and nonessential. The essential amino acids are those which your body cannot synthesize. Your body only gets these through your diet. The nonessential amino acids are just as important, but your liver can manufacture them.

Amino Acids and Bipolar Disorder

As it relates to Bipolar Disorder, an overall balance of amino acids is very important. This gives the body a healthy supply of protein which is necessary for normal brain function as well as helping combat depression. In the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, the authors recommend taking, as directed on the label, a free-form amino acid complex twice daily on an empty stomach.

Two in Particular

In considering specific amino acids as supplements for those with Bipolar Disorder, two in particular may be of some help. Tyrosine transmits nerve impulses to the brain, helps overcome depression, improves memory and increases mental alertness among other things. Tyrosine supports the formation of the bulk of neurotransmitters in the body. A reduction in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine can lead to fatigue and even depression.

Athletic Nutrition.com (link no longer available) pointed out that there are no definitive studies as to an effective dosage for Tyrosine. However, Prescription for Nutritional Healing recommends 500 mg three times a day on an empty stomach. This book also warns that Tyrosine should NOT be taken if you are taking an MAO inhibitor.

Taurine is another which has possibilities for helping with Bipolar Disorder, in that it can reduce hyperactivity and anxiety. Taurine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and therefore functions as a mild sedative. The Natural Health Consultants recommend one 1,000 mg dose a day. AMNI (Advanced Medical Nutrition) [link no longer available] stated that 500 mg up to 3 times a day may be taken. You should be aware that excessive levels can lead to depression and short term memory loss.

In closing, I just want to remind you to consult your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements. The individual amino acids in particular should only be taken under the supervision of a medical professional.

by Kimberly Read

Healing Depression & Bipolar Disorder Without Drugs features Gracelyn Guyol’s own story and those of thirteen other people around the country who have cured their depression and bipolar disorder using only natural therapies. In-depth research and the expertise of alternative health-care professionals are included in this landmark guide for patients and caregivers seeking responsible, safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs.

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