May 28, 2012

167 Zesty or Tranquil? [28 May 2012]

Two weeks ago I mentioned that one of the functions of amino acids is to act as precursors to neuropeptides (NPs) and neurotransmitters (NTs). Neuropeptides are short chains of amino acids found in neurons (nerve cells) that control many body functions including pain. One called Substance P transmits pain from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system; other NPs called endorphins block this transmission. Opiate drugs like morphine are similar to and work like endorphins.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells. They control our mood and certain physiological effects such as appetite, sleep, heart rate and temperature. NTs are divided into two classes depending on their effect on our mood – excitatory and inhibitory.

The main excitatory NTs are epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Released during high stress they prepare our bodies for “fight or flight”. The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursors to dopamine, another excitatory NT. In the right balance excitatory NTs elevate our mood, improve our memory and ability to focus, and increase energy and sex drive; they could be called the “Zesty Neurotransmitters”.

The main inhibitory NTs are GABA and serotonin. The amino acid taurine is a precursor to GABA, and L-theanine, an amino acid abundant in green tea, promotes the production of GABA. The amino acid tryptophan is converted in our bodies to 5HTP which in turn is a precursor to serotonin. The inhibitory NTs reduce tension and anxiety, calm and relax our mood, improve sleep, and enable us to handle stress; they could be called the “Tranquil Neurotransmitters”.

Optimum emotional health requires a balance of the “zesty” and “tranquil” NTs. Which do you need more of in your life? Caution: people with serious mood disorders (bipolar, severe depression) should not experiment with supplemental neurotransmitters without medical supervision.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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