Tag Archives: 5-Hydroxytryptophan

Brain Tweakers

Welcome back toCome on, Get Happy”

This week, Brain Tweakers!

As previously stated, one part of my mood enhancement regimen consists of the mental performance formula Neuro1. This is definitely one of my favorite supplements! To break it down superficially, it totally appeals to my inner science geek. It is a powdered formula that you have to shake to mix and activate, and that once activated is so energetic it literally can blow the top off of your mixer. I do not exaggerate one bit here, last Tuesday I lost my mixer’s top on the subway platform. It popped off with a bit of a bang and soared out and into the train tracks after I obviously over did it on the shaking. Needless to say, it is a sensitive and somewhat obnoxious formulation with a lot of power and energy. Stick to secure mixers with screw top closures. Also, the powder is flavored, but be forewarned; it starts sweet and finishes with a dull bitter taste. A little chase with water and you’ll be fine.

Now digging deeper,Neuro1 is a 7 gram dose per 31 gram serving size formula containing six of the mood boosting nutrients we reviewed in last week’s post – Vitamins B6 and B12, L-Tyrosine, Inositol, 5-HTP and Biotin. It also contains the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, and antioxidants C, E, Selenium andZinc. Neuro1’s first five, and therefore most abundant, ingredients are Taurine, L-Tyrosine, Glucuronolactone, Magnesium Creatine Chelate and Acetyl L- Carnitine.  Since we’ve already explored L-Tyrosine, let’s delve into the other four.

  • Taurine is an amino acid commonly used in energy drinks like Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. It is found in very high concentrations within the brain, and it is also found in the central nervous system, heart and skeletal muscles. Taurine helps electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium flow in and out of the cells. There is a possibility that it also helps combat depression.
  • Glucuronolactone is also commonly found in energy drinks and naturally produced by the body. It is present in most of our connective tissues including the tendons, ligaments and joints. It is also considered a detoxifying chemical.
  • Magnesium Creatine Chelate is a more absorbable and bioavailable form of creatine. Though naturally produced by the body, creatine is often supplemented by athletes for enhanced strength, energy, recovery and expansion of the muscles’ cell size. Creatine needs magnesium to convert to ATP, the fuel our muscles run on. Magnesium Creatine Chelate allows supplement makers to energize us without using simple sugars.
  • Acetyl L-Carnitine, also naturally produced by the body, is a substance derived from carnitine. Carnitine is related to the B-Vitamins but similar in structure to the amino acids. It is most commonly recognized for helping the body use fats for energy and is therefore a popular weight management aid. Acetyl L-Carnitine has demonstrated an anti-aging effect on the brain and nervous system and is even supplemented to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

That rounds out this formulation’s heaviest hitters and they are very promising for a variety of reasons; but they are not necessarily my favorites in the mental performance category.

Those would be Huperzine A and Vinpocetine.

I love these guys just as much as I do my dear Inositol! Be aware though, these substances are quite potent and should only be supplemented in small doses- no more than 200 micrograms/day of Huperzine A and  5 milligrams/day of Vinpocetine– to avoid any possible side effects and adverse reactions with medications. Those taking blood thinners should not supplement Vinpocetine, nor should anyone with low blood pressure, seizures and/or bleeding disorders. 

Both of these nutrients are derived from plants. But Vinpocetine is a synthetic substance developed from the leaves of the Lesser Periwinkle Plant. It is believed to increase blood and oxygen flow within the brain.

Huperzine A is a highly purified and manipulated substance sourced from Chinese Club Moss. It is known to increase levels of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine that carries information throughout the brain and body. Acetylcholine helps to quicken the speed of our thoughts and, “…juices the mind to be flexible, quick in movement, creative and innovative…to increase our intuition, language skills, and memory retention”.* Glorious! Right? But I’m sure you can see how too much can be a problem.Acetylcholine balance au natural can be achieved by eating avocados, dairy products and nuts.

Though I currently need the quick pick-me-up effects offered by powdered and liquid supplements, I’ve had great success with the pill form supplement Focus Formula. It is a simpler formulation that includes the Omega 3 fatty acid decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is found in large concentrations within the brain. Focus Formula takes a couple of weeks to get into the system, but once it’s in it does deliver a good mid-day kick.

Other noteworthy brain boosters include:

Alpha Lipoic Acid a potent anti-oxidant found in spinach and broccoli that allows our cells to use sugar to produce energy.
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) a chemical similar to choline that is involved in the process of learning and retaining information and is helpful in increasing focus and alertness. It is best to take as needed and not on a daily basis.
Ginkgo Biloba an anti-oxidant herb originating from China that is known to increase oxygen supply to the brain and blood flow to the heart, brain, and body. It continues to be studied for it potential to strengthen the body  and help it fight  illnesses  that deteriorate memory and cause chronic neuromuscular pain.
Phenylalanine an essential amino acid not produced by the body that can cross the blood brain barrier and therefore directly affect brain chemistry. The body can convert it into tyrosine. Pregnant women and those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety attacks should not supplement this. Phenylalanine is used to make the artificial sweetener aspartame.
Phosphatidyl Serine a substance produced by the brain and abundantly found in nerve cells.  It has been known to enhance learning capability and short-term memory. It is thought to have an anti-aging effect on the brain.

Care and caution should be exercised when using any substance, natural or synthetic, to impact brain chemistry and function. My recommendations after all has been discussed and reviewed by your medical professionals are:

1.start with individual nutrients instead of formulations

2.first work with the whole herbs instead of their active ingredient extractions

3.begin with a clean slate, supplementing and layering ingredients one at a time

4.always adhere to a supplement’s warning label

In short, have fun but take your time. Next week, the stress buffers!

Until Then,

BeWell!

*Patt Lind-Kyle, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press, 2009

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Come on, Get Happy!!

This week’s post was originally going to focus on considerations for selecting a multi-vitamin but a very popular question came up that happens to be one of my favorite subjects- mood enhancement.

This is also one of the reasons I started BeWellWarrior. I was having one of those days we’ve all had when you just don’t know how you’re going to muster up the will to get out of bed, out of the house and into the long day ahead. That day, the question I asked out loud was, “How much does it really take to keep up the pace?” I thought about all the different ingredients I assembled to get out there and have a productive day, an enjoyable day. When I got on the train I took a look at the faces of the other passengers. Many were passed out asleep others were tuned out and into I-pods, games, or books. And some looked as though they’d had the exact same morning as I or unfortunately, worse. So here we have it-optimism, enthusiasm and feeling imperturbable. Can these be obtained from a supplement?

This is an extensive subject I think best covered in a series of posts. Getting and staying revved up for the day is about more than a good mood. It is also about our ability to adapt, focus and maintain an energized mind. We’ll touch on those later. But first, the bad mood busters!

Before we delve into the possible antidotes, let’s take a look at the various reasons we may be experiencing the blues.

Chronic Fatigue                 Stress                    Fear/Anxiety                     Hormonal Imbalance

Chronic Over Stimulation              Sleep Deprivation            Dehydration       Vitamin / Mineral Deficiency

Let me quickly reiterate that I am not an advocate of self diagnosis. Many of the above are serious conditions where melancholy is merely one symptom, and anything experienced chronically warrants consultation with a medical professional. It could save you from ongoing discomfort, as well as time and energy. For others who occasionally experience these states, first..

 Explore the root cause.                Avoid numbing the situation.                     Try a behavioral remedy.

Perfect examples are the cases of sleep deprivation and stress overload. If you can address these by going to bed earlier, scheduling a daily cat nap or incorporating meditation, supplementation may prove unnecessary.

With that said, here is what I’ve tried:

The B’s.These B vitamins are part of a larger family that works best in concert with one another. A good source for the full B-Complex is brewer’s yeast. Toxicity from high doses and long-term use is rare with most B vitamins because your body will excrete what it does not need.

  • B5, Pantothenic Acid- counteracts stress by supporting the adrenal glands’ production of anti-stress hormones. Fatigue is often a sign of B5 deficiency. Therapeutic doses for adults range 250-500 mg/day, twice a day.
  •  B6, Pyridoxine-seemingly connected to hormonal balance and water shifts within women, is found mostly in meats and whole grains. Nervousness, irritability and depression are a few common signs of B6 deficiency. Dosages greater than 200 mg/day are still being studied for possible side effects.
  • B12, Cobalamin- needed for the health of the nervous system. Animal proteins contain the most significant amounts. Mood changes with mental slowness may be an early sign of deficiency. Therapeutic doses range 500-1000 micrograms (mcgs)/day.
  • Inositol- used by some as a mild anxiety antidote. Whole, unprocessed grains, cantaloupe and lecithin are good sources. Caffeine can cause inositol deficiency. Many reports of relief from anxiety are anecdotal and experienced with daily dosages of 500-1000 mg/day. I can personally attest to these benefits, but I do recognize the impact our belief in a remedy has on its effectiveness. There is no known toxicity with inositol, but I did experience mild headaches when I supplemented in doses higher than 700 mg twice daily.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Most processes in the body including brain, nervous system, hormone and immune function involve the use of some form of protein, either produced by the body or ingested. They are often supplemented in the “L” form because it is either the more active or most absorbable form.

  • 5HTP, 5 Hydroxytryptophan- is a form of the amino acid tryptophan, found in flesh foods like turkey, eggs and dairy products; it is responsible for the contented laziness experienced after our Thanksgiving dinners. Tryptophan is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates mood and sleep.
  • Tyrosine- stimulates the nervous system as one of the precursors of adrenaline and thyroid hormones. “As an antidepressant, 500-1000 mg of L-tyrosine can be taken two or three times during the day. Since tyrosine has a more stimulating antidepressant effect, taking 1000-1500 mg of L-tryptophan at night…may be a good therapeutic combination to help in mild to moderate depression”. *
  • GABA, Gamma-amino butyric acid- functions like an emotional regulator and is involved in the production of endorphins.  This is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system that can also be supplemented. “When GABA is deficient, the emotions and anxiety…are uncontrollable”. ** It is found in spinach, broccoli, walnuts and almonds and supplemented in divided doses totaling 500-1500 mg/day. Excessive amounts of GABA have been shown to increase anxiety, and it should not be combined with alcohol or antidepressant medications.

SAMe, S-adenosylmethionine- is produced by the body’s cells and supplemented in doses of 1600 mg/ day for antidepressant benefits. As with most substances found within the body, it has many uses including joint health and liver function. Because SAMe supplements are typically on the pricier side, I found it hard to consistently take in the higher dosages indicated for mood balance.

Not everything that is natural is completely safe. The following should be used with caution due to known side effects and negative interactions with other herbs and medications.

St. John’s Wort, antidepressant                 Kava Kava, calming                Valerian Root, sedative 

My current mood enhancement regime consists of two supplements, taken on alternate days of the week:

  • Neuro1 Mental Performance Formula, by Nutrition 53. This is a powdered formulation that combines many of the above listed nutrients with others for focus and alertness. It picks me up, takes the edge off, doesn’t cause me to crash and doesn’t keep me from sleeping, even when taken later in the afternoon.
  • Coco Energy Restore, by Resvitale. These gel caps contain cocoa powder, herbs that help the body adapt to stress and caffeine sourced from natural tea extract.

I generally prefer to take mood enhancers in powder or liquid forms because the effects are felt more quickly, but many encapsulated supplements are now designed with such advanced delivery systems that the body is able to access the nutrients almost as quickly as if they were in liquid form. All of the supplements listed here are available in a variety of forms that allow their benefits to be felt within 20-30 minutes of taking them.

Lastly, don’t feel pressured to start with the maximum dose. Everyone is different and you may not need the higher amounts to feel the desired effects. Our bodies do grow tolerant of substances, causing us to need stronger doses to achieve the same effects. Additionally our minds can become dependent on those felt effects. Gradually increasing the dosage and going supplement free one day a week and/or seven consecutive days for every four weeks of supplementation is a good way to prevent this.

Until Next Week,

BeWell!

*Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992

**Patt Lind-Kyle, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press, 2009