Amino Acid Deficiency -- Deficiency Symptoms

Amino Acid Deficiency

Amino acid deficiency can be a really terrible condition. It can affect every aspect of your life and depending on which amino acids the body is deficient in, can cause a wide variety of ailments and conditions. Before we get into amino acid deficiency symptoms and other information, let's first do a brief overview of amino acids. Amino acids have been called the building blocks of life. They help the body to produce the many tens of thousands of proteins and other compounds that it needs for daily function. There are over 20 amino acids that the body uses, and 8 that are called essential amino acids because the body can't synthesize them. They must be gotten through the diet.

Amino acids are also required to make the more complex bodily chemicals like neurotransmitters and hormones. So a deficiency in any one amino acid can cause widespread negative effects in the body. Amino acids are literally the building blocks for all the different chemicals your body needs for daily function, so being deficient in one or more can cause a deficiency in many corresponding chemicals.

Amino acid deficiency can show up with generalized symptoms of fatigue, mood issues, and just feeling off.
Amino acid deficiency can show up with generalized symptoms of fatigue, mood issues, and just feeling off.

General Amino Acid Deficiency Symptoms

In general, if you're deficient in any particular amino acid, your body won't be able to synthesize the full range of chemicals it needs for proper function. Depending on the amino acid you're deficient in, this can have very noticeable symptoms, or not so noticeable symptoms. Some of the chemicals that the body produces aren't absolutely necessary for daily function. Things like digestive enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters like serotonin can begin to decline without a huge amount of symptoms or side effects showing up. A person might just feel off, always tired, and irritable and not know why.

So people suffering from an amino acid deficiency might also experience a corresponding deficiency in something like serotonin or digestive enzymes without really knowing it. There will definitely be some symptoms that show up, but these are difficult to pin down and very difficult to trace back to an amino acid deficiency. Amino acid therapy was once a popular treatment for a variety of ailments, but has fallen out of favor in the modern age, in lieu of prescription drugs which only mask the symptoms of ailments, rather than fix the root problems. Amino acid therapy was once one of the major treatments for depression, which you're now probably starting to see why that is. Your mood, metabolism, and many other things can all be affected by amino acid deficiency.

Specific Amino Acid Deficiency Symptoms

  • Depression and Mood Issues -- Depression and mood swings are one of the most common symptoms of generalized amino acid deficiency. As we talked about in the last section, complex brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are some of the first compounds to suffer as a result of amino acid deficiency. This can very easily alter your state of mind, your attitude, mood, and your emotions in a negative way.
  • Weak Immune System -- The immune system is also one of the first systems to suffer as a result of an amino acid deficiency. Not only this, but an improper ratio of amino acids in the body can also cause a weakened immune system. This is the reason why protein is said to boost the immune system, because protein is comprised primarily of amino acids, which help to bring the immune system back to normal function.
  • Inefficient Digestive System -- Without the proper amino acids, the body has a difficult time producing enough digestive enzymes and other compounds that help the body to properly digest and absorb food. This doesn't occur with just digestive enzymes either. There are two types of enzymes used by the body, digestive and metabolic. And there are multiple thousands of different enzymes. So a deficiency in one or more amino acids can cause a deficiency in the body's enzyme supply.
  • Chronic Fatigue -- In the absence of amino acids, the metabolism generally slows down quite a bit in an effort to conserve resources. This manifests itself in chronic fatigue and lack of energy. This makes sense logically because when running at peak efficiency, the metabolism uses a lot more chemicals than it does when running at minimum efficiency. So in order to conserve essential compounds, the body limits the number of reactions that occur and as a result, fatigue sets in. I've written another article called Why am I so Tired? which goes over amino acid deficiency as one of the top potential causes for chronic fatigue. It's very difficult to diagnose and often goes unnoticed.

Persons Especially at Risk of Amino Acid Deficiency

In general, vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk of forming an amino acid deficiency of some kind. There's a lot of misinformation about protein out there. When people read the labels of products and see something like 10g of protein per serving from a plant source, they assume that that will give them everything they need. But proteins are vastly different depending on the source. Many plant sources are very incomplete sources of protein, meaning that they don't contain a variety of amino acids, and are especially lacking in the essential amino acids that the body can't produce on its own.

If you don't consume a lot of eggs and red meat, you really ought to do some research into quality complete sources of plant protein. They can be very hard to come by, and it's tough to tell just from the label how complete the protein is in the product you're buying. 5g of complete protein can be worth far more than 10g of incomplete protein. So if you think you might be having a deficiency, do some research into some complete protein sources.

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Comments 24 comments

Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

I have been suffering from a chronic pain condition for the past two years that often leaves me tired and down in the dumps. I don't think that amino acids will cure the pain issue, but it sounds like being more aware of them might give my body the support it needs to better deal with it. Thanks for the info!


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey there. Chronic pain is no fun. Sorry you have to put up with that. You never know with amino acids, if they'll help conditions like that or not. The body is so complex. But fatigue is generally a symptom of the body having a deficiency in something major, be it a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, or sleep.


Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

Yeah, pain isn't good for sleep. It's sort of a chicken-and-egg syndrome.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Do you think the pain is associated with heightened inflammation? That's a growing reason why people are experiencing chronic pain. Because of all the different artificial compounds in our diets these days -- artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, pesticides, etc -- the body's inflammation response can go overboard and chronic pain is one of the side effects. Just a thought.


Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

No, when they were trying to diagnose me, I went on a crazy restrictive diet that made absolutely no difference whatsover. it's a condition something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but with pain instead of fatigue. Basically, I had a virus that caused inflammation of the mucoid lining of my brain, causing a headache, and instead of the headache subsiding when the cause was removed, it persists (for going on 2 years now). It's a neurological issue, and there's no cure, other than time.

Anyway, that's sort of off-topic from your Hub. Didn't mean to hijack. ;)


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Man, that sounds rough. I hope you start feeling better soon. Headaches are the worst.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Don't worry about the hijacking :)


lefseriver profile image

lefseriver 5 years ago from Northern Minnesota

Great hub! Reminds me to use the Braggs amino acid soy sauce we have.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Definitely!


peterhark69 profile image

peterhark69 5 years ago from Canada

Thanks for sharing.. Really great hub and info you got here. I know someone who is a vegetarian and who seems to have mood swings and easily gets tired. I'm thinking she might have this problem. I will share this.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Peter, that's very possible. Vegetarians are especially at risk, since food labels only every say "protein" and never really tell you what amino acids they contain and at what concentrations. Vegetable proteins are usually very incomplete.


naturalsolutions 5 years ago

I know, fruits and vegetables help our body a lot and it gives the nutrition that we probably need except from the protein. Lack of protein is very risky it can make your body down.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 5 years ago from San Diego, California Author

For sure. Lack of protein can weaken the immune system and cause a lot of unwanted side effects. Thanks for stopping by.


healthwriterbob profile image

healthwriterbob 4 years ago from United States

Hi Benjimester

I think that sometimes eggs get a bad rap because they contain about 150 mg of cholesterol each. I was glad to see that in your hub you gave eggs credit for having high quality protein. I think that eggs have very high nutritional value, cholesterol notwithstanding.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Thanks Bob. I love eggs. I actually eat 2 raw eggs every morning inside of the green powder I take. Eggs are just about a perfect breakfast food, and especially when eaten raw, I think they have huge health benefits. Cholesterol isn't bad for you. I don't know why it has gotten such a bad rap. Cholesterol is needed for every cell in the human body. Glad to see other healthy people are out there who don't just believe everything they see on TV.


PapaSmurf59 profile image

PapaSmurf59 4 years ago

can amino acid defeciency cause ASHEN GRAY , or a bladder malfunction..my skin is gray or a hue blue as some say.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

I've not heard specifically of amino acid deficiency causing any kind of bladder malfunction before. Amino acid deficiency can definitely cause skin ailments though, but I think that vitamin deficiency might also be the culprit. Vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, can cause the skin to grow pale. With amino acid deficiency, the general symptoms like chronic fatigue and weak immune system are usually present as well. Are you experiencing those things?


mommaOf2boyz 4 years ago

i have a 10 week old baby that has just been diag. as having amino acid deficiency. We are supposed to meet with a specialist soon, but no one can give me any info! i want to know if you can suggest any questions i should ask to become better informed on my sons condition.

thank you.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 4 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Wow, that's really surprising that someone that young could have amino acid deficiency. That's really great that you caught it early though. I'm sure the doctor will have some good input, but diet will be especially key for him. Make sure you ask the doctors what they think is causing the deficiency to arise as whatever it is might come with other complications. If it were me, I'd ask the doctor as many questions as I could about a healthy meal plan for him that will be full of amino acids and other healthy ingredients. Don't just let them give you supplements and send you on your way.


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 3 years ago from San Diego, California Author

Hey there, thanks so much for stopping by. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I hope you are on the right track. It's great that you were able to do so much in depth research and figure out potential causes and solutions to what you're going through. Way to go!


Bizzyladi 23 months ago

I was told by a holistic person to take amino acid complex. I don't recall why he suggested it, however the side effect took away chronic eye pain that I had been suffering with for over at least 7 years that no one could diagnose. The pain was within the eye area, especially when I'd move my eyes. Reading was horribly painful, shifting my eyes to look at something was horrible. Nausea, feeling over all achey fatigue when it got at its worse. But somehow the pain wasn't as bad all of the sudden. Then the holistic practioner told me to stop the amino acids. I did. Within a few days I started to have eye pain again and my life turned miserable again. I put myself back on them and took extra at night when I felt some eye pain from a very hectic day on the computer. I combined that with Tylenol and sometime my anxiety pill to help relax me when I slept, on extreme bad eye days. When I'd wake, I wouldn't have the pain anymore and I felt rested on top of it. If I didn't do this, the pain would wake me several times a night and I have a sick day following. Before finding amino acids complete as a regimen for my eye pain, I'd take several sick days in a month or feel horribly ill at work. You are correct, inflammation is a big deal, however, I also have a chronic muscle spasm issues I don't know how to manage when I do try to curb poor eating and have good control over inflammation. I'm still missing this link that no doctor can help me with. My holistic practioner is no longer practicing so I'm out of luck for now. Anyone have any idea why this may be happening or what can be done to change this? I did magnesium for years to help with muscle spasms but it didn't change anything.


Aldo 15 months ago

The body needs many different nutrients to function properly. A lack of certain vitamims and minerals can cause strange symptoms. So work on that, also make sure you're eating enough protein for your weight. Do all that, exercise regularly rest, and watch your caffeine or stimulant intake. Anti depressants can sometimes deplete nutrients and also cause muscle spasms. Good luck.


Nitzeli Sanchez 9 months ago

This is a very nice website, but there are actually 9 essential amino acids. I would like to know why do you believe that there are just 8 essential amino acids. What are your sources

Thank you


Duke 5 months ago

cfs is result of mitochondria unable to function.

Royal jelly great natural amino acid source if no allergy to bees.

Amino acid intake governed by quality of a minos as well as proper vitamins and sub nutrients to assure their absorption. Body like periodic table and requires proper valences for absorption and function

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