THE 8 ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS AND SEROTONIN AND MELANIN
Amino acids are molecules that can be synthesized by the body, but the protein needed to do so must come from our diets. The amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins and some are used by the body to manufacture hormones. There are many amino acids, but here we concentrate on the 8 essential amino acids we need in our diets. These 8 amino acids are necessary for normal growth of babies and infants, and adults need them because they maintain the correct level of nitrogen we need in our bodies.
Leucine: - This one can’t be synthesized by the body; it is obtained by hydrolysis of food protein during the digestion process.
Lysine: - This is found in dairy and meat products, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast and is used to treat cold sores, herpes simplex infections, Bell’s palsy, and rheumatoid arthritis. It cannot be taken during pregnancy or during the lactation period by breast-feeding mothers.
Methionine: - This is obtained from proteins and contains sulphur.
Phenylalanine: - This is converted by the body to tyrosine which is a protein building-block used to make melanin. Phenylalanine is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and used to treat sleep disorders, enhance cognitive functions and alleviate the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Melanin is the dark insoluble pigment which is present in our skin, hair, and the choroids layer of the eye and in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. It protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, and variations in skin colour are produced because of the levels of melanin present in our bodies. (If we live in hot countries there will be more melanin in our bodies.)
Threonine: - This is naturally present in our bodies and is derived from hydrolysis of protein.
Tryptophan: - This is used in the treatment of insomnia, depression, behavioural disorders, stress and PMT (PMS). Serotonin is formed from tryptophan and this occurs in the body’s tissues especially in the brain, blood serum and gastric mucous membrane. It is active in the stimulation of the smooth muscles, transmission of impulses between nerve cells and regulation of cyclic body processes (e.g. menstruation).
If the levels of serotonin in the body are low, you may suffer from mood disorders, especially depression, as serotonin reduces irritability and depression as well as blood pressure and it also inhibits gastric secretion, thus keeping the digestive process functioning normally.
Valine: - this is another essential amino acid which is necessary for normal growth in babies and infants and which helps maintain the nitrogen balance in adults’ bodies.