Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients the body needs – Amino Acids by Sally Cronin


There are two types of amino acid, essential and non-essential. There are approximately 80 amino acids found in nature but only 20 are necessary for healthy human growth and function. We are made up of protein and we require adequate amounts of amino acids if we are to maintain and repair the very substance that we are made from.

We need to obtain essential amino acids from our diet and our body will produce the nonessential variety on its own if our diet is lacking in the essential type.

Essential Amino Acids

These are Histidine (essential in infants can be made by the body in adults if needed), Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Cysteine (essential in infants, nonessential in adults), Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Alanine, Aspartic acid, Arginine, Carnitine, Glycine, Glutamine, Hydroxyproline, Norleucine, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine.

The Role of Amino Acids in the body

Amino acids help make neurotransmitters, the chemicals that convey messages in the brain and also hormones like insulin. They are needed for the production of enzymes that activate certain functions within the body and certain types of body fluid and they are essential for the repair and maintenance of organs, glands, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair and nails.

An example of one of the essential amino acids – Tryptophan.

I have often written about tryptophan when featuring healing foods, and it is an excellent example of the role of amino acids within the body.

When we eat foods that contain tryptophan the body will use that to form the very important vitamin B3 or Niacin. Niacin is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to obtain the fuel we need (ATP) as well as helping to regulate cholesterol. It is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and hormones. Read more about B3 here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrients-we-need-vitamin-b3-is-also-known-in-different-forms-as-niacin-nicotinic-acid-nicotinamide-and-nicinamide/

When niacin is formed it continues to work with the tryptophan along with B6 to stimulate the production of the serotonin and melatonin transmitters within the brain that not only help regulate our mood but also our sleep patterns. Without tryptophan we would be more likely to suffer from insomnia and depression.

Some studies also show that tryptophan is also a natural painkiller and interestingly it may eventually be used to prevent tooth decay.

Tooth decay is usually the result of the action of our own saliva on carbohydrates that we eat. Those people whose saliva composition resulted in a rapid rate of starch decomposition in the mouth, were more likely to suffer from excessive cavities in their teeth. Those people whose saliva caused a slow decomposition of carbohydrates were found to suffer very few dental problems. Taking in dietary tryptophan has been shown to slow down this process and may well be included in toothpaste and chewing gum in the future.

Other studies indicate that autistic children suffer from a deficiency of tryptophan. Also that it might be useful as an appetite suppressant. In combination with with another amino acid, Tyrosine, it could help with drug addiction and is recommended to overcome jet lag.

Differences between babies and adults.

Due to the enormous growth rate of babies there is a difference in the essential or nonessential properties of amino acids.

An example of this is cysteine, which is considered to be essential in babies, which is why breast milk is very high in the amino acid and non-essential in adults. Due to its high antioxidant effects it may in part be responsible for the important boosting of the immune system in newborn babies that is supplied by breast milk.

When we are adults, we still require cysteine, but instead of obtaining it from our diet it is synthesised from another essential amino acid methionine.

Cysteine plays a role in our antioxidant processes protecting us from free radical damage and therefore chronic disease and ageing. It is currently being studied in relation to a number of medical conditions including peptic ulcers, liver health, the treatment of paracetamol overdose and metal toxicity.

It may also benefit respiratory disease due to its antioxidant properties but also its ability to help break up mucous. In the form of N-acetyl cysteine it may protect the body from cancer and there is a possibility that during treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy that it will protect the healthy cells but not the cancerous cells from any damage.

When I covered heart disease I looked at the role of homocysteine levels in the blood and how excess levels can lead to heart disease. Taking N-acetyl cysteine in supplement form may help reduce these levels as well as the LDL (lousy cholesterol levels) in the blood.

Brief description of some of the other amino acids and their role in the body.

There is not room to cover the roles within the body of all the amino acids but here is a brief look at the diverse roles of some of the individual amino acids within the body.

Alanine – a very simple amino acid involved in the energy producing breakdown of glucose and is used to build proteins, vital for the function of the central nervous system and helps form neurotransmitters. It is very important to promote proper blood glucose levels derived from dietary protein.

Arginine – plays an important role in healthy cell division, wound healing, removing ammonia from the body, boosting the immune system and in the production and release of hormones.

Carnitine – is produced in the liver, brain and kidneys from the essential amino acids methionine and lysine. It is the nutrient responsible for the transport of fatty acids into the energy producing centres of the cells, known as the mitochondria. It also helps promote healthy heart muscle.

Creatine – is synthesised in the liver, kidneys and pancreas from Arginine, Methionine and Glycine and functions to increase the availability of the fuel we need ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It is stored in muscle cells and is used to generate cellular energy for muscle contractions when effort is required. This is why many athletes will supplement with Creatine to increase stamina and performance.

Food sources for Amino Acids.

The best food sources of amino acids are dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, soybeans, quinoa, nuts and seeds.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can find all my books here with links to Amazon: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

You can find all the other post on thenutrients the body needs in the directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Thank you for reading the post and your feedback is always welcome. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2018- Seasonal Affective Disorder – Part Four Immune System and People


seasonal-affective-disorderOver the last three posts we have been on a journey from the cave and the struggles of ancient man to survive the harsh winter cold with minimum access to light, food, heat and stimulation. On that journey we have explored the causes of modern man’s struggle to adapt to the modern world of technology and 24/7 light, noise and stimulation of all the senses. The solutions are not perfect but the areas that we have covered are the starting point to changing the way we look at both our bodies and how we manage the seasonal changes most of us face.

A quick recap – we need healthy amounts of Vitamin D from sunshine and some foods and healthy cholesterol to produce all hormones in our body. Tryptophan and B-vitamin rich foods to produce essential hormones in the brain – melatonin and serotonin. We have to eat these foods regularly throughout the day.

Better to have 6 smaller meals of the right foods than starve all day and then have a big meal at night that cannot be digested and processed by the body. This regularity will also drip feed the essential nutrients into your body, keeping energy levels higher and the neurotransmitters in your brain firing on all cylinders. Avoid taking in high carbohydrate and sweet foods later at night. A cup of warm milk with a small teaspoon of honey before bed will help activate the melatonin to send you to sleep.

Sleep is essential and we all need around 8 hours per night to allow the body to recover and repair… and relax.

We need to exercise, with music to stimulate the production of dopamine and activate our reward centres in the brain and we need the support, companionship and warmth of our clan – that is to say our family and close friends.

I appreciate that for those working full-time it is difficult to establish a regular exercise pattern but if you really want to feel alive and vital through these next few months (Australians and South Africans are of course are exempt as they move into summer) then you are going to have to find ways to get outside during the daylight hours and get some exercise. So lunchtimes will have to be – 30 minutes brisk walk and then back for a protein, vegetable or salad, moderate carbohydrate lunch.

We need to avoid the colds and flu that are rift in the winter months, usually because everyone’s immune systems are suppressed because of the lack of Vitamin D from sunshine. I mentioned in an earlier post that I in fact do take a supplement of Vit D and Cod Liver Oil in the winter months and touch wood I have not had a cold for the last ten years. Buy high quality vitamins and I take 1000 iu per day and you can check in your health food shop or pharmacy for their recommended brand to provide you with a healthy balance.

We also need plenty of vegetables and fruits containing Vitamin C to help maintain a healthy immune system and it goes without saying that all of these should be fresh or at least fresh picked and frozen.. In the winter months it can be more practical to buy frozen as they will be seasonal in other parts of the world and brought to you locally.

Here is a shopping list that contains all the nutrients and the foods that eaten regularly can help you maintain a healthy immune system.

fruit and veg banner

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/a-basic-shopping-list-for-a-nutritionally-balanced-diet/

Other Immune boosting activities

You can go to the gym, a swimming pool and if you do not have access to that sort of facility then buy a treadmill, second hand ones are quite reasonable, or simply put your favourite music on and dance like no-one is watching!!

Recently I looked at the dynamics of change physically, mentally and emotionally and included some strategies to maintain a healthy balance. You might find the three posts useful.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-dynamics-of-change-2017/

It is up to you to find the activities that make you feel good as an individual. For some it might be an energetic game of squash or running a marathon. For others it could be Yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates. All of them if enjoyed will boost the immune system and release feel good endorphins that will help see you through the rest of the winter.

Tell me this does not boost your immune system

A key strategy for overcoming the winter blues is interaction with others.

I believe that the clan would have worked together, sitting by the fires which produced the only light, telling stories, educating the young, working on the first tools and utensils such as the autumn gourds. Even perhaps, making drums from those gourds and producing the first beats of music. I am sure that laughter was part of those dark days and nights as humour cannot just have developed in our modern world. The dynamics of the relationships within the clan can only be imagined because despite all the evidence found, we simply were not there!

The good news is that even if you are separated by thousands of miles or even a few hundred you can still keep in touch with your clan members and friends. The virtual cave we all live in now offers a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged with the world, learn new skills online, have conference calls via Skype, catch up with gossip on Twitter or Facebook and communicate. Keeping our brain exercised, eating a nutrient rich diet and taking a 30 minute brisk walk daily may keep us whole in body, mind and soul our entire lives.

I firmly believe that our bodies contain ancestral memory. And, because our DNA mutates so infrequently every 10,000 years or so, like instinctive behaviour in all animals, we do have deep seated and essential needs for certain foods, nutrients, activities, emotional connections and mental stimulation that we still must provide to be healthy physically and mentally and to be simply happy.

However, you cannot just sit passively and wait for all these elements to come together magically. You have to grab with both hands and participate.

So you now have the components for the plan to make this winter healthier and mentally manageable.

I have given you the elements for the project – but you are the one who needs to put it into practice. It will not be easy to change habits of a lifetime, or get into a new routine with new foods having given up those you feel you get comfort from.

©sally cronin Just food for Health 2004 – 2018

As always if you would like to ask any questions you can do so in the comments or you can email me on sallygcronin@gmail.com

Thanks for dropping by.  Sally