Glutamine/glutamic acid, along with glucose, is one of the principle fuels for the brain cells. It stimulates mental alertness, improves intelligence, normalizes physical equilibrium, detoxifies ammonia from the brain, improves and soothes erratic behavior in elderly patients, improves the ability to learn, aids in retaining and recall in memory, helps with behavioral problems and autism in children, stops sugar and alcohol cravings, may improve IQ in mentally- deficient children, enhances peptic ulcer healing, and may be used to treat schizophrenia and senility.
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid found in the muscles of the body. Because it can readily pass the blood-brain barrier, it is known as brain fuel. In the brain, glutamine is converted into glutamic acidwhich is essential for cerebral functionand vice versa. It also increases the amount of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is needed to sustain proper brain function and mental activity. It assists in maintaining the proper acid/alkaline balance in the body and is the basis of the building blocks for the synthesis of RNA and DNA. It promotes mental ability and the maintenance of a healthy digestive tract. When an amino acid is broken down, nitrogen is released. The body needs nitrogen, but free nitrogen can form ammonia, which is especially toxic to brain tissues. The liver can convert nitrogen into urea, which is excreted in the urine, or nitrogen may attach itself to glutamic acid. This process forms glutamine. Glutamine is unique among the amino acids in that each molecule contains not one nitrogen atom but two. Thus, its creation helps to clear ammonia from the tissues, especially brain tissue, and it can transfer nitrogen from one place to another.
Glutamine is found in large amounts in the muscles and is readily available when needed for the synthesis of skeletal muscle proteins. Because this amino acid helps to build and maintain muscle, supplemental glutamine is useful for dieters and bodybuilders. More important, it helps to prevent the kind of muscle-wasting that can accompany prolonged bed rest or diseases such as cancer and AIDS. This is because stress and injury (including surgical trauma) cause the muscles to release glutamine into the bloodstream. In fact, during times of stress, as much as one third of the glutamine present in the muscles may be released. As a result, stress and/ or illness can lead to the loss of skeletal muscle. If enough glutamine is available, however, this can be prevented.
Supplemental L-glutamine can be helpful in the treatment of arthritis, autoimmune diseases, fibrosis, intestinal disorders, peptic ulcers, connective tissue diseases such as polymyositis and scleroderma, and tissue damage due to radiation treatment for cancer. L- glutamine can enhance mental functioning and has been used to treat a range of problems, including developmental disabilities, epilepsy, fatique, impotence, depression, schizophrenia, and senility. It preserves glutathione in the liver and protects that organ from the effects of acetaminophen overdose. It enhances antioxidant protection. L-glutamine decreases sugar cravings and the desire for alcohol and is useful for recovering alcoholics. Many plant and animal substances contain glutamine, but it is easily destroyed by cooking. If eaten raw, spinach and parsley are good sources. Supplemental glutamine must be kept absolutely dry or the powder will degrade into ammonia and pyroglutamic acid. Glutamine should not be taken by persons with cirrhosis of the liver, kidney problems, Reye’s syndrome, or any type of disorder that can result in an accumulation of ammonia in the blood. For such individuals, taking supplemental glutamine may only cause further damage to the body. Be aware that although the names sound similar, glutamine, glutamic acid (also sometimes called glutamate), glutathione, gluten, and monosodium glutamate are all different substances.
Tyrosine is important to overall metabolism. It is a precursor of adrenaline and the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which regulate mood and stimulate metabolism and the nervous system. Tyrosine acts as a mood elevator; a lack of adequate amounts of tyrosine leads to a deficiency of norepinephrine in the brain, which in turn can result in depression. It also acts as a mild antioxidant, suppresses the appetite, and helps to reduce body fat. It aids in the production of melanin (the pigment responsible for skin and hair color) and in the functions of the adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands. It is also involved in the metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine. Tyrosine attaches to iodine atoms to form active thyroid hormones. Not surprisingly, therefore, low plasma levels of tyrosine have been associated with hypothyroidism. Symptoms of tyrosine deficiency can also include low blood pressure, low body temperature, (such as cold hands and feet), and restless leg syndrome.
Supplemental L-tyrosine has been used for stress reduction, and research suggests it may be helpful against chronic fatigue and narcolepsy. It has been used to help individuals suffering form anxiety, depression, low sex drive, allergies, and headaches, as well as persons undergoing withdrawal from drugs. It may also help people with Parkinson’s disease. Natural sources of tyrosine include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Tyrosine can also be produced from phenylalanine in the body. Supplements of L-tyrosine should be taken at bedtime or with a high-carbohydrate meal so that it does not have to compete for absorption with other amino acids. Persons taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, commonly prescribed for depression, must strictly limit their intake of foods containing tyrosine, as it may lead to a sudden and dangerous rise in blood pressure. Anyone who takes prescription medication for depression should discuss necessary dietary restrictions with his or her physician.
Glycine retards muscle degeneration by supplying additional creatine, a compound that is present in muscle tissue and is utilized in the construction of DNA and RNA. It improves glycogen storage, thus freeing up glucose for energy needs. Glycine is essential for the synthesis of nucleic acids, bile acids, and other nonessential amino acids in the body. It is used in many gastric antacid agents. Because high concentrations of glycine are found in the skin and connective tissues, it is useful for repairing damaged tissues and promoting healing. Glycine is necessary for central nervous system function and a healthy prostate. It functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and as such can help prevent epileptic seizures. It has been used in the treatment of manic (bipolar) depression, and can also be effective for hyperactivity. Having too much of this amino acid in the body can cause fatigue, but having the proper amount produces more energy. If necessary, glycine can be converted into the amino acid serine in the body.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is essential for brain metabolism, aiding in proper brain function. GABA is formed in the body from another amino acid, glutamic acid. Its function is to decrease neuron activity and inhibit nerve cells from overfiring. Together with niacinamide and inositol, it prevents anxiety-and stress-related messages from reaching the motor centers of the brain by occupying their receptor sites.
GABA can be taken to calm the body in much the same way as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and other tranquilizers, but without the fear of addiction. GABA has been used in the treatment of epilepsy and hypertension. It is also useful for enlarged prostate, probably because it plays a role in the mechanism regulating the release of sex hormones. GABA is effective in treating attention deficit disorder and may reduce cravings for alcohol. It is also thought to promote growth hormone secretion.
Too much GABA, however, can cause increased anxiety, shortness of breath, numbness around the mouth, and tingling in the extremities. Further, abnormal levels of GABA unbalance the brain’s message-delivery system and may cause seizures.
Inositol also known as phytic acid is a compound consisting of the B vitamin inositol plus six phosphate groups (IP6). Found naturally in many foods, including wheat, rice, and legumes, it is a powerful antioxidant that has many positive effects on the body. Laboratory studies suggest it may fight cancer, prevent and treat heart disease, prevent kidney stones and liver
disease, and also reduce cholesterol levels and prevent the inappropriate formation of blood clots, a major cause of heart attacks. IP6 inhibits the activity of free radicals in the body, which slows the type of abnormal cell division associated with cancer and tumor growth. It works best very early in the development of malignant tumors, before the malignancy can even be recognized by the immune system. The cells are then normalized and begin to grow in the usual manner again. IP6 contains a substance designated beta-1, 3-D-glunan, which helps to maintain a strong immune system in people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. IP6 protects the heart by preventing the formation of blood clots in blood vessels and reducing the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) in the bloodstream. It protects the liver by preventing fatty deposits from accumulating there. Studies have shown that a diet high in IP6 is associated with a lower incidence of cancer of the breast, colon, and prostate. Significant amounts of IP6 are found in foods such as beans, brown rice, whole-kernel corn, sesame seeds, wheat bran, cornbread, grape juice, raisins, and mulberries. It can also be taken in supplement form. Some studies have shown that IP6 may interfere with the body’s absorption of minerals, so supplements should not be taken within one hour of meals. IP6 from Jarrow Formulas and Cell Forte with LP-6 from Enzymatic Therapy are recommended sources of IP6.
Melatonin has been promoted as a sleep aid to encourage and establish a restful sleep. It has also been found to contain powerful antioxidant capabilities. A study done at the University of Texas in San Antonio, showed the effects of adding melatonin to white blood cells and then exposing them to radiation. Another group of white blood cells did not have the melatonin added. The ones exposed without the melatonin showed chromosome damage. The more melatonin added, the more the protection from damage. There seems to be protection from melatonin in its ability to neutralize free radicals protecting the body from damage. It may also help by activating enzymes to heal the damaged cells faster. There are many immune- related conditions that may benefit from melatonin’s super antioxidant properties including heart disease, arteriosclerosis, cancer tumors, Alzheimer’s emphysema, cataracts, aging, and some neurological problems.
Herbs are not only used to season food and beverages, they also provide us with minerals and offer medicinal uses. You may already be familiar with some of the many common herbscayenne, chamomile, cinnamon, garlic, gingerroot, peppermintthat are used frequently in beverages and food. Over the centuries, herbal practitioners have found that some herbs enhance one another’s properties. These are often combined for treating specific ailments. In general, herbs are whole-plant medicines and are less toxic and have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medicines. Whole-plant medicines use primarily purified active ingredients.