Find out what Amino Acids do and if you have increased requirements for any of them.

AMINO ACIDS

by Walter Last

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are 8 essential amino acids for adults that must be supplied with the diet: Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine. Two others, Arginine and Histidine are in addition essential in the first year of life.

The following is a summary of the functions of amino acids. Some of these may be useful as supplements to enhance the described functions. Commonly this is necessary only in cases of malabsorption of nutrients, or with specific diseases, or with bodybuilding and sports nutrition. The amounts to use are usually not critical and may vary widely. If not otherwise recommended by your health professional, you may use amounts indicated on the container in which they were purchased. However, in most instances, instead of taking single amino acids, I recommend taking spirulina or chlorella instead. These are high in protein (up to 70%) and easily digestible.

Amino acids, like many vitamins, exist in two forms that are chemically identical but differently folded. These are named either D-amino acid or L-amino acid. Amino acids in our body have the L-form. Therefore, it is not advisable to use the synthetic D,L-amino acids, but rather the more expensive D-amino acids produced with enzymes. One exception to this is D,L-phenylalanine if used for pain relief. If the label of a supplement does not specify that it is the L-form, you can assume that it is the cheaper D,L form, and I would not use it. Furthermore, two simple amino acids, glycine and taurine, exist only in one form and are not marked D or L.

Arginine

Arginine is the precursor of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide, which helps to relax and dilate blood vessels. It is in an antagonistic balance with lysine. Arginine helps to channel nutrients into tissues and promotes regeneration, but also infiltration by microbes; lysine blocks the spread of microbes but also tissue regeneration. Avoid supplementation during pregnancy, lactation and with virus infections.

· Aids in liver detoxification.
· May retard growth of tumors and cancer cells.
· Assists in the release of growth hormones.
· Helps maintain a healthy immune system.
· Important for scar tissue formation and collagen production.
· Promotes muscle growth and fat utilization.
· May help with male impotence.

Carnitine

Can be produced in a healthy liver from lysine, vitamins B1, B6 and Iron. Vegetarian diets can be deficient in carnitine as this is found mainly in meat. D-carnitine is harmful. Acetyl-L-carnitine is the form best suited to treat neurological conditions.

· Aids transport of long chain fatty acids to mitochondria for energy production.
· Helps in weight loss.
· Improves athletic ability through increased energy production.
· Enhances effectiveness of the antioxidant vitamins E and C.

Creatine

Widely used by bodybuilders to increase muscle size, and by athletes to improve performance.

· Is phosphorylated in the muscle to store energy

Cysteine

A high sulfur-content amino acid, formed in the liver from methionine, needs vitamin B6. It acts as a brain neurotransmitter and high-dose supplements can interfere with brain functions in susceptible individuals.

· Aids in detoxifying the body.
· Precursor to glutathione, a strong antioxidant.
· Removes excess heavy metals, helps to burn fat.
· Increases muscle growth.
· Breaks down mucous in the respiratory tract.
· Useful for burns and wound healing.
· Assists in the supply of insulin.

Glutamic Acid

Glutamic acid is a major neurotransmitter in the brain and supplements must be avoided. Mono-sodium glutamate or MSG is a main ingredient of food flavoring added to processed food and variously described as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy protein extract, yeast extract, beef stock, caseinate or natural flavoring. Evidence shows that it can kill brain cells in susceptible individuals.

· Important for neurotransmission.
· Metabolism of sugars and fats.
· Detoxifies ammonia (when used with Glutamine).
· Together with glucose, is the brain's principal fuel.

Glutamine

· Provides about 80% of the body's pool of free nitrogen
· Reduces craving for sugar, alcohol and other drugs
· Improves nutrient absorption
· Important with inability to gain weight (cachexia)
· Useful with impotence, allergies, senility, fatigue, peptic ulcers
· Converted in the brain to the neurotransmitters glutamic acid and GABA.

Glycine

· Prevents or slows muscle degeneration.
· Needed for healthy prostate.
· Aids central nervous system functions.
· Useful in epilepsy and depression.
· Important for immune system, building block for of non-essential amino acids.

Histidine

· Tissue growth and repair
· Important for digestion and ulcer healing
· Controls gastric acidity.
· Production of red and white blood cells. Possible benefits in rheumatoid arthritis

Isoleucine

An essential amino acid and one of three branch-chain amino acids (BCAA's) which form an essential part of muscle tissue protein.

· Hemoglobin production.
· Stabilizes blood sugar and energy levels.

Use in combination with leucine and valine. Deficiency can produce hypoglycemia-like symptoms.

Leucine

An essential branch-chain amino acid (BCAA's) important in muscle protein.

· Lowers elevated blood sugar levels
· Promotes healing of bone, skin and muscle tissue.

Use with correct balance of Leucine & Valine. Excessive amounts can produce hypoglycemia.

Lysine

An essential amino acid, which must be derived from the diet.

· Essential building block for all protein
· Needed for proper growth and bone development in children
· Helps calcium absorption
· Maintains nitrogen balance
· Effective against cold sores, herpes and other viruses.
· Increases antibody production
· Needed for collagen production
· Helps to build muscle
· Lowers serum triglycerides.

Deficiency results in loss of energy, ability to concentrate, irritability, retarded growth and hair loss.

Methionine

Essential sulfur amino acid that must be obtained from the diet. Supplementation can be harmful with vitamin B6 deficiency, therefore use both.

· Needed for the metabolism of fat.
· Aids in liver detoxification.
· Involved in the synthesis of the amino acids Cysteine and Taurine.
· Help to reduce effects of chemical sensitivities.
· Aids digestive processes.
· Involved in production of choline.

Ornithine

· Helps release growth hormone.
· Needed for Immune system function.
· Promotes healing.
· Detoxifies ammonia.

Phenylalanine

An essential amino acid. D or D, L phenylalanine may be used for long-acting pain relief. Do not use during pregnancy, with anxiety attacks, high blood pressure, Phenylketonuria (PKU).

· Used in the treatment of depression.
· Essential for the production of neurotransmitters.
· Involved in the formation of the skin pigment melanin.

Taurine

Taurine is a sulfur amino acid and a main component of bile salts, essential for fat absorption.

· Promotes emulsifying and absorbing fats
· Regulates rhythm and mineral concentrations in the heart
· Inhibitory (sedating) neurotransmitter; helps with epilepsy

Threonine

One of the essential amino acids.

· Maintains protein balance.
· Needed for the formation of collagen and elastine.
· Aids the liver and the fat metabolism.
· Helps with control of epilepsy.

Tryptophan

An essential amino acid.

· Important for the production of the vitamin Niacin or Niacinamide.
· Helps prevent insomnia and elevates mood.
· Controls hyperactivity in children.
· Needed for production of serotonin and melatonin.

Tyrosine

· Involved in the production of melanin pigment of skin & hair.
· Important for adrenal, thyroid & pituitary gland function.
· Helps control appetite and body fat levels, antidepressant.
· May assist during withdrawal from addictive drugs.
· Raw material for synthesis of epinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine.

Valine

An essential branch chain amino acid (BCAA's) in muscle protein.

· Important for muscle tissue maintenance and muscle coordination.
· Stimulates and promotes mental vigor.

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Find out what digestive enzymes do and if you have increased requirements for any of them.

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

Digestive enzymes are released from our digestive organs in order to break down food into molecules small enough for it to be absorbed. Deficiencies of digestive enzymes are widespread and are caused mainly by overeating, eating too much cooked food, by habitually eating problem foods and by incorrect food combining. Virtually all elderly people and those with chronic degenerative diseases and allergies have digestive enzyme deficiencies.

The enzymes in raw and fermented foods help in the digestive process but are destroyed by temperatures over 1200 F. Furthermore, many heated proteins become more difficult to digest. With this, they need more digestive enzymes than sprouted grains and uncooked proteins. However, some raw seeds (especially beans such as soybeans and broad beans), wheatgerm and nuts contain enzyme inhibitors. Sprouting inactivates these.

Make a deliberate effort to improve the enzyme content and digestibility of your food. In addition, if you are in a state of chronically lowered health, it will be very helpful to use enzyme supplements. This is essential in the case of cancer and other advanced degenerative diseases and also allergies, except if on a predominantly raw food diet.

Most important are the pancreas enzymes - pancreatin, available under various trade names. For serious diseases take 4000-5000 mg of pancreatin in divided doses during the course of each meal. One tablet may contain 1200 or 1600 mg of pancreatin, sometimes also described as 300 or 400 mg of pancreatin 4NF. In addition you may take one or two tablets of an enzyme combination containing papain, bromelain, pepsin and bile. Pepsin is indicated with protein foods if the stomach is weak, while bile is helpful if there is a problem with fat absorption. Papain and bromelain help protein digestion.

Swallow tablets of pancreas enzymes whole. In the case of degenerative diseases and advancing age, gastric acid is often deficient. You may take hydrochloric-acid-pepsin tablets, especially with cooked protein meals. The best gastric acid replacement is betaine hydrochloride, a white crystalline powder, this is the form in which stomach acid occurs naturally. Alternatively, dilute 1 part commercial diluted hydrochloric acid (usually 20%) with 9 parts water. Mix 1 (plastic) teaspoon of this with meals or drink with fluids after a meal. Additional enzymes are not needed with uncooked meals.

However, digestive enzyme supplements are not required if protein-digesting enzymes can be obtained from food, such as bromelain from pineapples or papain from unheated leaves or flowers or unripe fruit of papaw/papaya. Also ripe Kiwi-fruit are good. Use any of these with protein meals. You may also pre-digest meat, fish or other protein food by refrigerating it wrapped or mixed with papaw leaf overnight.