Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Our bodies need a range of these amino acids and although we can produce some ourselves, others need to be taken in the diet. The more general symptoms of amino acid deficiency are depression, irritability, apathy and self mutilating behaviour. Amino acids are essential to the formation of neurotransmitters and can even help the elimination of heavy metals from the body.
Deficiency of amino acids can come about from two different sources, hereditary where certain inherited factors can cause certain amino acids to be in short supply or in excess supply, and diet. Obviously, in both cases it is necessary to correct the imbalance by dietary methods.
Like all aspects of nutrition it is important to get enough in your diet. Meat is the main supplier of a complete range of amino acids but a good varied diet will probably include the complete range even if no meat is included. Obviously it is not easy to get children to eat a well balanced diet but a cheese or peanut butter sandwich will contain a range of amino acids and for those on a meat and dairy free diet any two of the following food groups should give you a good balance
nuts and seeds
My son is an exceptionally fussy eater but he has lentil soup and bread which contains a combination of pulses and grains and therefore should give him an appropriate balance. Supplements are also available. Most children's nutritional supplements do not contain amino acids so these would need to be taken separately. Unless your child shows serious deficiency in any particular amino acids it is best to give a supplement containing a complete range of amino acids. Please check with your doctor or a qualified nutritional therapist before starting on a supplement and ensure that it is a suitable one for a child. Below, I shall list those amino acids that are relevant to the topics of this newsletter.
can help in blood sugar control and insulin production. If there is diabetes in the family or noticeable behaviour changes when sugar is consumed then this may well be deficient. It can help remove heavy metals from the body and helps with wound healing. It should be avoided in cases of herpes and schizophrenia.
can help to regulate the function of the nerves. There are indications that it can help in manic behaviour, acute agitation, schizophrenia, epilepsy and high blood pressure.
has been used to treat childhood behavioural problems. Its close relation, glutamine, may help in cases of depression and schizophrenia and to raise IQs and aid memory.
also helps the removal of heavy metals from the body. One type of schizophrenia can be linked to high levels of histidine and another to low levels of histidine. Deficiency can lead to deafness. Care should be taken with supplementation of histidine by those with manic depression and schizophrenia.
Leucine, isoleucine and valine
are generally available as a group known as the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA). Deficiency of these can lead to nervousness, poor sleep patterns and a wide range of mental symptoms.
is particularly important for the growth and development of children. A deficiency can lead to fatigue, dizziness, anaemia, visual disorders and nausea.
comes in different forms, it can help depression. A deficiency can lead to eczema and slow intellectual progress.
is an amino acid which is often considered in cases of epilepsy. There are also claims that it can be used with other supplements to increase IQ levels in Down's Syndrome children. When the individual is stressed, the requirement for this is increased.
There are indications that deficiency of this can lead to irritability, personality disorders and indigestion.
deficiency can lead to insomnia, mental disturbance, depression, poor skin and nails and a craving for carbohydrate. Supplements should be taken with care in cases of bronchial asthma.
aids normal brain function. It can be used to help hay fever and sometimes depression.