- 1 What is depression?
- 2 Protein building blocks related to our mental health
You may already know that amino acids have many important functions in the human organism. Among other things, important messenger substances for the nervous system are formed from some of these building blocks. Here, a positive influence of some protein components on certain diseases, complaints and health restrictions is discussed.
Many people experience depression and depressive moods. Can amino acids be a natural help? Learn more about the topic in this article.
What is depression?
You probably know phases in your life in which you feel downhearted and psychologically not up to scratch. Among other things, certain external influences can be decisive for this. Even if you describe yourself as depressed in this context, it is not always said that your condition already has disease value.
Depression is a complex syndrome in which the patient’s feelings, thoughts and actions are negatively influenced. In addition, certain disorders and bodily functions can be associated with depressive states.
The level of suffering of those affected is very high. This is also the decisive difference to a simple depressive mood that we go through from time to time. Depression symptoms with disease value are characterized by the fact that the person affected can no longer free himself/herself from the negative overall condition.
In general, medication and/or psychotherapeutic treatment become indispensable. Especially the drug treatment can be very lengthy, because it has to be individually adapted to each patient and is often associated with side effects.
Depressive illnesses often have relapses and can reappear after a period without symptoms.
Different degrees of severity and causes in the discussion
There are different forms and degrees of severity of depressive disorders. Therefore these diseases express themselves with different symptoms.
The causes discussed so far are just as complex as the types and courses of events. In most cases it is not possible to trace a depressive illness back to a singular cause and a clearly recognisable trigger. This also makes the diagnosis of this disease very difficult.
In many cases, various factors interact. These can be external and internal factors. One of the issues discussed in this context is
- a genetic predisposition.
- an increased sensitivity, for example, due to early childhood trauma.
- the abuse of alcohol or other addictive substances.
- interference with certain hormones and messenger substances.
Messenger substances and hormones influence our mental health
Our moods and mental health are also influenced by neurotransmitters. These are substances that act as messenger substances and dock to certain receptors in our nervous system, leading to reactions.
Serotonin is an important messenger substance. This substance is important for the sleep-wake rhythm because it is a precursor of the sleep hormone melatonin. It should also influence our psychological stability. At present, not all connections and mechanisms of serotonin are known.
However, it is relatively certain that serotonin influences, among other things, whether we feel relaxed, calm or stressed. This follows, among other things, from the fact that a lack of serotonin increases the willingness to behave aggressively.
Neurotransmitters also influence a number of organ functions and the formation of other substances such as certain hormones.
Thyroid gland health of relevance
Our mental state is influenced by the function of our thyroid gland, among other things. The thyroid hormones, in turn, depend on other messenger substances that they need for their formation. Disorders of the thyroid gland regularly affect the psyche and can also promote depressive states.
The concentration of certain hormones fluctuates in changing phases of life. This is especially true for the sex hormones such as estrogen. If their level drops during menopause in women, this can lead to changes in their psychological state.
These few correlations already show how complex the interaction of different substances and organ functions is. This is another reason why it is very difficult to name a specific cause of a depressive illness.
All types of protein building blocks are characterized by a specific property: all building blocks are subject to a wide variety of transformation processes in the human organism. Amino acids are the basis of tissue, of hormones, of messenger substances, of other building blocks and much more.
They are part of the most varied metabolic processes and influence the most varied bodily functions. Therefore, one or the other component is directly or indirectly important for our mental health.
Certain building blocks as precursors of other important messenger substances
When it comes to the psyche, there are mainly two amino acids that are the focus of attention: tryptophan and tyrosine.
Tryptophan and its importance
Tryptophan is considered helpful as a means of support in depressive disorders.
According to previous findings, this effect seems to be made possible by the connection between tryptophan and serotonin. However, it is not easy to achieve the desired effect with the targeted intake of tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor of the already mentioned neurotransmitter serotonin.
Tryptophan is an essential building block. This means that it is not produced by our organism itself, but must be supplied with food. In order to serve as a basis for the formation of serotonin, tryptophan has to cross the blood-brain barrier. Not all substances are able to overcome this boundary that separates the brain from the rest of the body.
Tryptophan is basically absorbed by the brain, but it competes with other substances and other protein building blocks. If Tryptophan is preceded by another building block or substance, the receptor is occupied and can no longer be docked.
Not always when a certain building block is added, it is absorbed 100 percent and converted 100 percent into other substances.
More tryptophan = more serotonin?
Serotonin has a great influence on our mental health. This has also been recognized in the treatment of depression.
Some drugs belong to the group of so-called serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They have the function of protecting serotonin from degradation for a longer time. This causes more serotonin to circulate in the brain, which can have a positive effect on people suffering from depression.
If Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, one could conclude that with the additional intake of tryptophan more serotonin is produced and this could also have a positive effect on depressive illness.
More Tryptophan does not always lead to more serotonin. Here, the absorption is sometimes inhibited because other amino acids and substances compete with Tryptophan for absorption into the brain.
You may know the recommendation to drink hot milk with honey before going to sleep if you have trouble sleeping. Milk is rich in the amino acid Tryptophan. When consumed together with sugar, this combination can promote the absorption of the building block. Insomnia is also a common symptom associated with depressive disorders.
Sleep is also bound to serotonin because the sleep hormone melatonin is formed from serotonin. The problem with Tryptophan intake is that exact dosages are not easy to find. The individual conditions are too different for every single person. Moreover, the additional intake of Tryptophan is not always safe.
Can too much serotonin be dangerous?
Under certain circumstances, too much serotonin is produced in the brain by the additional intake of tryptophan. Anyone taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors to treat depression must be careful with additional tryptophan. An uncontrolled excess of serotonin can lead to life-threatening side effects.
Tyrosine and its function
The non-essential amino acid Tyrosine also plays an important role in our psyche. Its effect is due to the fact that, among other things, it contributes to the formation of an important thyroid hormone.
Tyrosine is not an essential amino acid but is formed from other building blocks. The building block is not only the basis for the thyroid hormone but also the basis for the synthesis of other important substances and messenger substances such as dopamine. Tyrosine and other messenger substances form the basic structure of certain processes in the nervous system. They also have an impact on our mental health. According to some scientists, disorders in the tyrosine balance can contribute to depression.
Building blocks are indispensable in their entirety
It is not always easy to use certain amino acids in isolation in depressive states and to achieve a positive effect. In addition to this, depression manifests itself in a wide variety of areas and functions of the body.
People who are depressed develop symptoms and health problems in a very individual way. Nevertheless, many experts agree that amino acids in their entirety could be helpful in depression and possibly also in preventing a depressive episode.
Ensure sufficient supply of building blocks
Since the protein building blocks are the basis of many processes in our body and also the basis of other substances, a sufficient supply of the building blocks supports our health. This also applies to mental health.
It is very difficult to prove the effectiveness of a single amino acid on depressive states in studies. The aforementioned individual differences in each patient play a major role. However, it can be assumed that a secure supply, especially of essential protein building blocks, is beneficial to us.
It has not yet been scientifically proven whether the need is increased in depressive illness. However, it is already known that stress, age, sporting requirements and eating habits can change the need for protein as a whole and for individual building blocks.
Here too, the details have not yet been scientifically substantiated in detail. Similarly, the recommendation for total protein per day varies from 0.8 mg/kilogram body weight to 1.6 mg/kilogram body weight.
Needs and nutrition – note those special features
Certain eating habits influence the absorption of protein into the body. Although it is repeatedly claimed that the protein requirements of humans can be met at any time with a normal, balanced diet, certain differentiations should be made.
Plant protein and animal protein are very different in their bioavailability for the human body. Animal protein is generally considered to be of higher quality than vegetable protein and usually also contains all the essential protein building blocks. Vegans and vegetarians may therefore not be able to absorb all essential representatives of the protein building blocks.
In the case of protein, not only the individual need but also the absorption capacity varies from person to person. For this reason, it can be particularly important in particular life circumstances and certain illnesses, such as depression, to ensure a reliable supply of protein and the valuable protein building blocks at all times.
This can also be achieved through high-quality food supplements.
Strengthening overall health
Serious diseases of the psyche such as depression are linked to the availability of certain amino acids via hormones and neurotransmitters.
It is not possible to make standard recommendations for the additional intake of individual components and for their dosage. This is a matter for medical advice. However, it can already be supportive in depression to ensure a sufficient supply of all essential protein building blocks through high-quality food supplements.
This would ensure that any increased demand is always met. Particularly in the case of special eating habits, you should prepare your diet with particular care with regard to protein supply. People who are depressed can be increasingly dependent on a good supply of all essential building blocks.