Amino Acids can help Brain Chemistry, Depression and Anxiety Problems

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By Dr. Justin Marchegiani

About twenty percent of the human body is made up of protein. Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes. The building blocks of our protein is what we call our amino acids. And so today’s video is going to be on amino acids and brain chemistry. 

Again, I had a podcast recently over at Beyond Wellness Radio. Check out Beyond Wellness Radio for a little bit more in-depth discussion. I'm going to go into some different nuances we didn't really cover in that podcast.  I’m going to break it down on how amino acids can make a difference. I will compare just the conventional and the natural treatment options. It will also include getting to the root cause without all the side effects.

amino acids and brain transmitters

Protein Composition

Amino acids are the breakdown of proteins.  So imagine protein is like the pearl necklace.  So, here's our necklace and you can see when the necklace is complete, this is your protein.  And the amino acids are nothing more than one link in that necklace.

The protein has to get broken down into the amino acids and then the amino acids can get converted into the neurotransmitters, NT.  So the breakdown is protein to amino acids to neurotransmitters.  And there's a lot that happens to get this broken down into this.

When we're under stress, we can take a lot of this and we can shoot it downstream to glucose.  You’re going to see here, we can take a lot of our amino acids even dopamine, and we can even shuttle it downstream into adrenalin.  So we have to be a careful with that because we can easily burn through our amino acids easily.

Digging deeper, we have tyrosine or L-tyrosine, which can get converted into Dopa.  Dopa is the intermediary between L-tyrosine and dopamine.  And you can see the enzymes and the nutrients that are involved in this conversion are essential.


Going back to the chemistry of an anemic person, we will consider the following: low red blood cell count, low hematocrit, low haemoglobin or maybe low ferritin. Maybe your TIBC and UIBC are high and your ion sat is low or maybe your ferritin is below 30.

Again, any of these signs could be an iron-based anemia. So don't get tripped up doing all this fancy brain chemistry work if you have an anemia.  You have to get that looked at and treated and diagnosed first.

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Amino Acid Conversion

So we have the conversion of L-tyrosine to Dopa.  Dopa then gets converted to dopamine.  Now when we’re supporting someone in their brain chemistry, we’ll use the amino acid L-tyrosine by itself. We will also use the extra Dopa support via mucuna pruriens or velvet bean extract.  So we can use pure Dopa via these herbs and we can even use the upstream compounds with the L-tyrosine.

This is the same thing with tryptophan.  We have tryptophan down here.  So you can see tryptophan gets converted to 5-HTP.  5-HTP is the intermediary in between tryptophan and serotonin.

Nutrients needed for conversion

Both of these require certain nutrients.  We have iron for tyrosine to Dopa and we have B6 in both intermediary conversion.  So when we're at Dopa or 5-HTP, we need B6 to make that conversion from 5-HTP to serotonin.  We need B6 to make the conversion from Dopa to dopamine.  Very important, these nutrients can easily get burnt out via stress.

Also, you can see the iron nutrients here, too.  They’re involved.  And again, we both have TH enzymes that are involved in the conversion of tyrosine to Dopa, that's the intermediary for dopamine.  We also have L-tryptophan and 5-HTP, which is the intermediary for serotonin.

Again, the TH enzyme down here stands for tryptophan hydroxylase, where up here, it's actually tyrosine hydroxylase.  So 2 different enzymes, the abbreviations look the same so don't get confused on that.

We have this enzyme called the amino acid decarboxylase enzyme and you can see that it's the same enzyme for each one.  So these abbreviations look the same but they're actually different enzymes.  These enzymes right here are exactly the same.

Serotonin deficiency

So here's where it gets a little fuzzy.  If we give a whole bunch of L-tyrosine and we don't give a whole bunch of tryptophan, what happens is we're going to create tryptophan or a serotonin deficiency because we’re upregulating this enzyme.  This enzyme up here is upregulated which is fine because we have more tyrosine coming in. But at the same time, it's also up regulating down here. It’s causing us to burn through more of our serotonin, so what actually starts to happen is we start creating a problem.

We start having more dopamine and we create less serotonin, and this is a long run.  If you're using a little bit of L-tyrosine by itself, not a big deal.  But again, if you're going to be on amino acids for your brain long-term, you want to be on a combination of L-tyrosine and 5-HTP or the intermediary, maybe even Dopa and 5-HTP.

Dr. Marty Hinz did some research finding that he could prevent serotonin deficiency when he's working with his Parkinson patients giving 24,000 milligrams of L-tyrosine. We could prevent the serotonin deficiency by just giving small amount, 50 milligrams of 5-HTP. It was enough to prevent the serotonin deficiency when giving these real high amounts of L-tyrosine-dopamine support.

amino acids


L-tyrosine gets broken into Dopa.  Now when we work with patients, we’ll give a combination of L-tyrosine and Dopa because we want the building blocks, but sometimes we want to be able to override the capacitor. So you can see this enzyme here acting like a capacitor.

So if I give L-tyrosine, only so much can get converted downstream to dopamine.  It bottlenecks so it’s like a governor or a capacitor on an engine when you can only go so fast when you floor the pedal.  So this TH enzyme that has the same effect here is a capacitor on tyrosine converted to dopamine, and this enzyme over here is a capacitor on the tryptophan converting to serotonin.  We will bypass some of that by giving the straight 5-HTP and giving the straight L-Dopa with the L-tyrosine.

So going back, L-tyrosine gets converted to Dopa.  Again, we only can have so much convert here, so we want to make sure these nutrients are present. And then in the intermediary here, if we give extra, we have to make sure we have B6.  B6 is a nutrient across the board.  We need in both reactions. From the food standpoint, sources are nuts and seeds, 4-5 out of the top 10 are going to be meats.  Your chicken, fish and turkey.

Everyone knows that tryptophan will get tired after a Thanksgiving Day meal. That's the tryptophan in the turkey.  Same thing, 4-5 are going to be meats. So we got to make sure we’re eating good quality meats, nuts and seeds, avocado.  Things like that are going to be really awesome for your B6 levels.

My patients that have brain issues are going to need anywhere between a 100 milligrams to 300 milligrams if you're at the Parkinson's spectrum of extra P5P or activated B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate.

So you can see here, tyrosine we support both the beginning and intermediary nutrients to help dopamine get converted.  And again, we can stress out our dopamine because it can go to adrenaline.

Reasons that Drive Neurochemicals Out of Balance

When we see these problems, all these issues can be genetically based.  They can be nutrient based from a poor diet  or may be autoimmune.  They can be from stress or burning up our nutrients. And it can also be from leaky gut or malabsorption due to SIBO or multiple infections and low stomach acid.

So your big 5 reasons are going to be driving a lot of these neurochemicals out of balance.  And this is the same with tryptophan.  We get tryptophan in turkeys, as the most common, but it gets converted to 5-HTP, we still need the corresponding nutrients, B6, and then we have the corresponding conversion to our active brain chemicals.

Dopamine really goes up when we eat a lot of sugar.  So a lot of people artificially stimulate and burn out their dopamine through sugar.  Dopamine is also the focus and the I-love-you neurochemical and serotonin is your mood, as you're happy neurochemical.  We need serotonin to feel happy, to feel fulfilled. Typically, we need a combination of them together and they function and dysfunction together.  They’re like brother and sister.  It's very rare that we just only treat dopamine or only treat for serotonin because of the fact that this enzyme here can create deficiencies.  So we’ll usually use them together as a team.

Now you can see down here we have this quinolinate pathway here.  Without enough B6, we’re going to convert a lot of our tryptophan into quinolinate, which is inflammatory.  Now if we have enough B6, we can actually block this pathway from even happening.  We can block it and we can make tryptophan go more this way, but we can also bypass that by giving 5-HTP.


Precautions and Recommendations

So if you're inflamed, be careful of taking tryptophan by itself because you can actually drive this quinolinate pathway which is more inflammatory.  So we want to get 5-HTP. If we give tryptophan, we want to give B6 with it and we always want to give B6 together in any brain program.  Again, if you're just doing the aminos and you're not getting the B6, then you’re really missing the boat on that.


The big take-home feedback is amino acids are super powerful.  Most drugs are just preventing the reuptake.  The neurochemicals, let’s say serotonin, in between the presynaptic neuron and post synaptic neuron. The longer they live out, the more they get broken.

Most medications are actually blocking the reuptake because our body naturally recycles these serotonins. So we can bring them back in and we can have a longer shelf life.  Now most medications actually come in there and they actually block the reuptake. That will allow more serotonin to accumulate between the pre and post synaptic neuron. The longer they're there, the faster the body starts to actually break them down and recycle them.

So again, what we do is we trade a short-term increase in serotonin or dopamine for a long-term deficiency.  That’s why most people on these medications actually have to increase the drug dosage to keep the effect the same.  Almost anyone you'll talk to has had that experience. They have to increase the dosage or even change medications as well.

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