The Art of Amino Acid Therapy for Alleviating Depression

In my last post, I described how depression is a multi-factorial condition that can be caused by physical, emotional and spiritual issues. In this post, I share a nutritional healing strategy that radically impacted my emotional and physical wellbeing, and which has helped me to overcome depression, along with other strategies.

It’s very validating to discover that the reason you can’t get out of bed in the morning, or think positive thoughts, or do much of anything,really!- is simply because your body is screaming for some amino acids. For me, it was such a relief to know that my problem wasn’t because I wasn’t trying hard enough to be positive. I’m sure you can relate!

Over the years, I had seen many doctors for depression. If they were a conventional MD, they would give me a drug. If they were a naturopath, they would give me some 5-HTP, or some random, one-size-fits all combination of amino acids. Neither worked.

I’ll keep this simple. What I discovered is that depression can be caused entirely, or in part, by a serotonin or dopamine deficiency (these are brain chemicals that regulate mood), and most depressed folks don’t have enough of either, or they have an imbalance between the two! 5-HTP is an amino acid precursor to serotonin, and L-tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine. You need both of these NTs to balance your chemistry, and in the right proportions.

Amino acids don’t tend to work well in isolation, though. You also need vitamin and mineral co-factors to help make neurotransmitters, especially vitamin B6, magnesium, and Vitamin C- among others. I describe these co-factors in more depth in my recent book, Beyond Lyme Disease

Many people also need some SAM-e, which helps with neurotransmitter methylation, a process that also helps the body to make neurotransmitters. If you take amino acids such as 5-HTP and L-tyrosine without SAM-e, and you have a methylation problem (many of us do!), you’re likely to feel worse after taking amino acids. This is what happened to me and I gave up on aminos for a long time for this reason. Don’t do it!

Or, if you can’t afford a high quality SAM-e product (and it must be high-quality, from a source such as Sabre Sciences or Protocol for Life Balance), try a teaspoon of creatine and some methyl-folate. Creatine helps the body to recycle its own SAM-e so you get more mileage out of what it produces.

Many people have told me that they feel worse when they take amino acids, and so they continue in their misery. This breaks my heart, since they can be incredibly helpful, if you just know how and with what to take them.

Amino acid balancing is an art. Yet I haven’t met many doctors who understand this, and who simply prescribe random amounts of 5-HTP or L-tyrosine, among others, to their patients, without the proper co-factor support and without taking into account their patients’ unique chemistry. Then, when the therapy fails, patients resort to taking anti-depressants, which always deplete the body of neurotransmitters even more over the long term. Drugs never get to the root of depression, but amino acids can help the body to heal from the biochemical aspect of it.

If you’ve tried amino acids in the past and have felt worse after taking them, it may be for any of the following reasons (among others):

1) You have a severe serotonin or dopamine deficiency and your body needs time to build up its NT reserve. (You can feel worse before you feel better on amino acids, if you are severely deficient in them).
2) You aren’t taking balanced amounts of 5-HTP (or its precursor, L-tryptophan) and L-tyrosine (or its precursor, L-phenalalaline).
3) You don’t have enough methylation support
4) You have too much methylation support
5) Your body doesn’t need the amino acids, or you are using products that have allergenic fillers in them, or which simply don’t work.

It’s not easy to sort out what your body needs. I had to experiment for several months with amino acids before I figured out the dosages and co-factors that I needed, and in the meantime, I endured some bumps in the road as I got worse before I got better.

But take heart- if you can find a doctor with an open mind, and who is knowledgeable about amino acid therapy, I recommend sharing these guidelines with him or her. Sabre Sciences does amino acid, methylation, hormone and neurotransmitter testing and can help you and your doctor to figure out what you most need. I don’t, however, recommend doing amino acid therapy on your own, as it requires skill and mistakes can exacerbate the depression.

To learn more about how amino acids can help to heal the body from depression, I also recommend checking out Dr. Kaslow’s articles on Neurotransmitter Repletion:

Stay tuned for more information on how to heal from the chemical aspects of depression, as well as the emotional and spiritual causes. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to this blog (see the email box up near the top right) to receive regular updates about this and other wellness topics!