Every cell in our body needs (and uses) amino acids. When you eat, your digestive system destroys proteins from the food to the individual amino acids, which are then reconstituted to produce the specific proteins needed for the body. Each cell is programmed to produce specific protein combinations according to its own needs.
There are two types of amino acids: non essential (acids that the body can produce by itself) and essential (acids from food that needs to be taken into body). Non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartate, cysteine, glutamate, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, taurine and tyrosine. Essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, femalamine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
How do they work?
Amino acids are needed for the recovery of muscles, tendons, skin, ligaments, organs, glands, nails and hair. In addition, they play a role in the production of hormones (insulin, for example), neurotransmitters (chemical substances that transmit information in the brain), many body fluids and enzymes that exert body functions.
Although the main cause of the amino acids deficiency is poor nutrition (especially nutrition with low protein intake), infections, trauma, stress, drug taking, age, and imbalance of the chemical substances in the body can also affect on their amount in the organism. Doctors who think about diet may refer you to blood test to determine if you have amino acids deficiency. Nutritional supplements with amino acids are taken to replace their deficiency or to treat many health problems.
MAIN USEFUL EFFECTS: many amino acids and their byproducts are effective in the treatment of heart diseases. Thus, carnitine, a substance that is present in the heart muscle cells, strengthens the heart, helps people recover after the heart failure and can increases the chances of survival after a heart attack.
Carnitine is similar to an amino acid produced in the body from lysine. Non-essential amino acid, arginine, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by expanding blood vessels and lowering blood pressure; it also reduces pain in angina pectoris. Taurine helps with heart failure and lowers blood pressure by balancing the sodium and potassium ratio and regulating excessive activity of the central nervous system.
N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), a byproduct of cysteine, and a substance that is easier absorbed, stimulates the production of antioxidants, and it itself has such an effect. That’s why it stimulates the recovery of damaged cells and strengthens the immune system. In addition, NAC reduces the amount of mucus in chronic bronchitis, and is also used to protect the liver from overdosing with paracetamol. It can also help in disorders with brain and nerve cell damage, such as multiple sclerosis.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: when concentrated in the digestive tract, glutamine relieves irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis, and also helps in healing the ulcers. Taurine can help people with epilepsy because it increase the production of some chemical substances in the brain. It is also the most important ingredient of bile and can prevent the formation of gallstones. It may be useful to people with diabetes, too, as it increases insulin sensitivity.
Carnitine supplies muscles with energy by boosting fat degradation. Lysine is one of the most effective substances in the treatment of laryngeal herpes, and it also helps with herpes zoster. (Arginine, on the other hand, can cause the appearance of labial or genital herpes.)
How to take them?
DOSAGE: if you need to take an amino acid for more than a month, use mixed amino acid preparations; these are nutritional supplements that contain more than one amino acid. This will ensure an adequate and balanced intake of all amino acids.
USE GUIDELINES: dietary supplements containing amino acids are more effective if you do not take high-protein foods at the same time. Therefore, take the supplement at least one hour and a half before the meal; ideal time is immediately when you wake up or before you go to sleep.
Dietary supplements with individual amino acids should not be taken for more than three months except under the supervision of a physician who has experience with such treatment. Dietary supplements with mixed amino acids should be taken on an empty stomach. Take individual amino acids at another time of day.
Possible side effects
As long as they are taken at recommended doses, the amino acids have no side effects. Large doses of some amino acids may be toxic and cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
IMPORTANT: pregnant and breastfeeding women, diabetics, people who suffer from high blood pressure, liver and kidney disease should be especially careful when taking dietary supplements that contain amino acids.