Vitamins For Dummies
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Proteins — the building blocks of muscle and other tissues — are made up of amino acids. Good nutrition calls for a daily supply of amino acids in your diet to supply your body with the materials it needs to repair your muscles, organs, and other tissues.

Eight amino acids are called the essential amino acids because they must come from your diet nearly every day — unlike other amino acids, your body can’t create them from other sources.

After strenuous exercise, your need for protein and amino acids goes up. Protein drinks with amino acids are popular with athletes because they increase the levels of aminos in your blood and provide aminos that your body needs to build stronger muscles. Aminos in such drinks are generally free amino acids, meaning they aren’t chemically linked to other substances and can be absorbed more quickly by your body.

You break down protein-rich foods by chewing them well, and by releasing adequate hydrochloric acid in your stomach and enzymes like trypsin and chymotrypsin in your pancreas. Because protein-rich foods tend to be denser than other foods, these digestive functions must be supported and maintained to adequately utilize the amino acids, which can then be absorbed and used or stored in the liver to make proteins in the body.

Protein-rich foods tend to be denser than other foods, so your digestive system needs to be in good working order to make the best use of the amino acids the foods provide. After the proteins are broken down, your body either absorbs and uses the amino acids or stores them in your liver where they help make proteins to maintain and repair your muscles and tissues.

Amino acids are utilized to make important enzymes that support biochemical reactions, hormones that influence metabolism, hemoglobin that carries oxygen through the body, and antibodies that help your immune system fight infections.

Protein deficiency is a common problem in malnourished people, and in those with limited diets, or who have trouble absorbing nutrients from their food. Too much protein can also be a concern for people with chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Your nervous system depends on amino acids to operate. For instance, lack of the amino acid tryptophan can result in lowered levels serotonin, which is linked to depression and insomnia.

New research shows that single aminos or combinations of amino acids taken in capsule or tablet form may help heal certain conditions. (For example, phenylalanine may help ease chronic pain, and glutamine can help curb alcohol and sugar cravings.) These natural therapeutic substances are part of your daily diet, and separate, additional doses can have dramatic effects.

If you have a preexisting health condition, it’s wise to visit a qualified nutritionist experienced in the use of aminos before experimenting with supplemental aminos. In addition, take a product with a balance of several aminos. If you’re taking high amounts of individual aminos for therapeutic purposes, take them only for short periods of time, like a month.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Christopher Hobbs, L.Ac., is an holistic health expert whose many books include Herbal Remedies For Dummies??. Elson Haas, M.D., is the author of Staying Healthy with the Seasons and The Detox Diet.

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