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Amino Acids

What Is It?

The body uses chemical substances called amino acids to build the exact type of protein it needs. There are two types: essential and nonessential. While the body must get the essential amino acids from foods, it can manufacture the nonessential amino acids on its own if the diet is lacking in them.

Of the approximately 80 amino acids found in nature, only 20 are necessary for proper human growth and function. Not only do they help make neurotransmitters–the chemicals that convey messages in the brain–they also help produce hormones such as insulin; enzymes that activate bodily functions; and certain types of body fluids. In addition, they are essential for the repair and maintenance of organs, glands, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair, and nails.

An amino acid deficiency is usually caused by a diet that is low in protein, although the level of certain acids can also drop in the presence of trauma, infection, medication effects, stress, aging, and chemical imbalances within the body. A blood test can detect a deficiency, which can be corrected by taking amino acid supplements. In addition, certain amino acids taken in supplement form may aid in fighting heart disease, lowering blood pressure, protecting against stroke, and alleviating intermittent claudication (a type of leg pain caused by blocked arteries in the legs). They may also help in treating cancer, reducing sugar cravings, building immunity, and protecting the body in various other ways.

Look for amino acid supplements prefaced by the letter L (such as L-arginine). These are more similar to the amino acids in the body than are amino acid supplements prefaced by the letter D. (One exception is D-L phenylalanine, which treats chronic pain.)

The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, cysteine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

The nonessential amino acids are alanine, aspartic acid, arginine, citrulline, glutamic acid, glycine, hydroxyglumatic acid, hydroxyproline, norleucine, proline, and serine.



General Interaction

There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with the use of amino acids.


If you have any serious illness or are pregnant, only take amino acid supplements after consulting with your doctor.

Don’t take arginine if you have genital herpes or are prone to cold sores. This amino acid can trigger outbreaks of these disorders.

Don’t drink milk at the same time you take lysine.

Avoid higher than recommended doses; certain amino acids can be toxic in excessive amounts, causing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Take amino acid supplements at least 1/2 hour before or after a meal; taking them when the stomach is empty eliminates the possibility that they will compete with the amino acids in high-protein foods. The only exception to this is glutathione (a combination of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine), which should be taken with food to prevent stomach irritation.

If you take an individual amino acid supplement for longer than one month, take it with an amino acid complex that contains a variety of amino acids. This will ensure that you get a proper balance of all the amino acids. To be safe, never take individual amino acid supplements for longer than three months unless you are under the direction of a doctor familiar with their use.


Cancer: Follow the label directions for a mixed amino acid complex.

Fatigue: 1 pill twice a day

Thyroid Disease:  For hypo: 1,000 mg L-tyrosine a day.

For product recommendations and orders click here for the Natural Apothecary or call 773-296-6700, ext. 2001.

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Upcoming Workshops

The Next Lyme Academy Begins
Tuesday, October 4, 5:30-7 pm
Here’s a special invitation for patients of Dr. Kelley who are currently being treated for Lyme disease. Dr. Kelley’s new, four-week Lyme Academy starts on October 4, continuing over the following three Tuesdays.


Awakened Body, Quiet Mind
An innovative workshop series for relieving mind/body stress and tapping into your true power and natural health.
4 Group Sessions with Meghan Roekle, PsyD
Four meetings using a unique combination of embodiment meditation and mental inquiry for deep healing.
Thursdays from 6:00-8:00pm; beginning October 20th

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