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What Is Amino Acid Therapy?

The chemical structure of glutamine, an amino acid.
Barley, which contains amino acids.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Bioreg Images, Schankz
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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Amino acid therapy refers to the use of supplements of essential amino acids in order to treat certain health conditions. It is commonly used in the treatment of depression and anxiety, as well as certain other brain disorders. In most cases, the amino acids are purchased in pill or capsule form and ingested orally to help support certain bodily systems by providing the acids necessary for protein and tissue development in those areas.

There are certain tests which can be performed to determine which types of essential amino acids are needed before starting amino acid therapy. Essential amino acids are ones the body cannot produce or manufacture on its own. They are processed and used by the body to make new proteins, which are then used to create new tissue in every system of the body. When doing amino acid therapy, supplemental acids are targeted to the bodily system or function that isn’t working properly.

Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression commonly benefit from amino acid therapy. It is thought that these conditions are caused by undeveloped parts of the brain, or areas of the brain which are overactive or inactive. By restoring amino acids for proper development of new brain tissue, these areas may be able to function properly.

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Sometimes very high doses of certain amino acids are needed to effectively treat or prevent an illness or condition. In the case of genital herpes, for example, up to 8,000 mg of the amino acid lysine may be recommended to treat a current outbreak and 500 mg daily to help prevent an outbreak from occurring. High dosages should be monitored carefully by a health professional and only used when absolutely necessary.

There are few side effects to amino acid therapy in most patients, especially when compared to more conventional medications. Some patients have reported nausea or stomach discomfort, but this is generally more common when high dosages are taken, and tends to subside once they are lowered for maintenance. If they persist, patients may need to discontinue therapy is it is bothersome. In most cases, this is not necessary.

Doctors have mixed feelings about amino acid therapy, with some highly recommending it and others avoiding it entirely. This may be because there are fewer studies on the effectiveness and safety of this method than with traditional medications, although few adverse reactions have been reported. Some physicians are not knowledgeable on the potential reactions amino acids can have on certain drugs, so a natural health practitioner or pharmacist may be better sources of information.

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