Helping Your Mood with Amino Acids Phenylalanine and Tyrosine - dummies

Helping Your Mood with Amino Acids Phenylalanine and Tyrosine

By Christopher Hobbs, Elson Haas

Phenylalanine — an essential amino acid— is readily available in most food sources, particularly high in meats and milk products, with lower levels found in oats and wheat germ. To make use of phenylalanine, your body requires vitamin B-3, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, copper, and iron.

Phenylalanine is used to form tyrosine. Thought to be useful in the treatment of depression and anxiety, tyrosine is important to metabolism. Tyrosine also aids in the reduction of body fat.

Because your body can’t reconvert tyrosine to phenylalanine, you must get this nutrient amino from your diet. It is required for many bodily functions and is one of the few amino acids that can directly affect brain chemistry.

Avoid using phenylalanine supplements, and reduce high-phenylalanine containing foods like meat and dairy products if you have lupus.

This amino acid is important in helping your brain make active nerve chemicals that can affect your mood (like epinephrine). Phenylalanine seems to increase endorphins in the brain to give you a more positive outlook.

Key uses of phenylalanine:

  • Phenylalanine is transformed into norepinephrine in the body through a variety of metabolic steps, as well as to other active chemicals, such as epinephrine, dopamine, and tyramine. Norepinephrine is an important neurotransmitter that conveys information from nerve to nerve and is apparently important for memory, alertness, and learning.

  • Practitioners recommend phenylalanine for treatment of depression, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, and Parkinson’s Disease.

  • This amino acid may also function as a pain reliever for headaches (particularly migraines), and also for lower back and neck pain, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. Researchers don’t know yet how effective phenylalanine is for these conditions, but some clinical trials look promising.

If you have lupus, see your doctor and your nutritionist before taking tyrosine.

The key uses of tyrosine are:

  • Tyrosine is known as the antidepressant amino acid, and it may also be useful for reducing anxiety and improving energy.

  • Tyrosine has a mild antioxidant effect, binding free radicals (unstable molecules) that can cause damage to the cells and tissues, and is useful in preventing cell damage if you smoke, have a stressful life, or are exposed to chemicals and radiation.

  • Tyrosine is used to treat a low sex drive and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Tyrosine is also used in programs for people with drug or weight loss problems; it is a mild appetite suppressant.

Your body needs folic acid, niacin, vitamin C, and copper to help convert tyrosine into many important substances, including melanin, a skin pigment; estrogen; and enkephalins (natural pain relievers). Tyrosine may stimulate growth hormone and can act as a mild appetite suppressant.