Amino acid therapy presumes that many symptoms and illnesses occur because the body is unable to manufacture the proper amino acid. By supplementing the body's normal supply of amino acids (amino acid therapy), symptoms and illnesses may be resolved. Many patients turn to amino acid therapy from the belief that their body is not manufacturing enough amino acids and therefore, bodily processes are not functioning correctly.
Amino acids are the building blocks from which the body creates the proteins necessary for life. Amino acids link together to form peptides (short chains), which then form larger structures called proteins. There are 20 standard amino acids in the genetic code. Combinations of these amino acids produce every essential protein needed for the human body's homeostasis (healthy balance). Most bodily processes cannot occur without amino acids because they require the proper protein to function.
Some healthcare professionals may recommend taking only the eight essential amino acids or the three branched chain amino acids depending on the treated condition. Amino acids have been used in clinical tests to treat a variety of serious illnesses and conditions including: phenylketonuria (PKU, a disorder of the metabolism), epilepsy, congenital microcephaly (birth defect), hepatitis complications, spinocerebellar degeneration, hemodialysis, lateral sclerosis, peritoneal dialysis, chronic pain, parenteral nutrition, liver cancer, muscular dystrophy and hypertrophy of the prostate. The scientific community has also published articles advocating the use of amino acid therapy to treat serious psychological disorders, such as drug dependency, depression and anxiety. The incorporation of amino acid therapy into conventional Western medicine is a topic of controversy in the scientific community.
Amino acids have been used in clinical tests to treat a variety of serious illnesses and conditions including: phenylketonuria (PKU, a disorder of the metabolism), epilepsy, congenital microcephaly (birth defect), hepatitis complications, spinocerebellar degeneration, cerebral palsy, hemodialysis, lateral sclerosis, peritoneal dialysis, chronic pain, parenteral nutrition, liver cancer, muscular dystrophy and hypertrophy of the prostate. The scientific community has also published articles advocating the use of amino acid therapy to treat serious psychological disorders, such as drug dependency, depression and anxiety. The incorporation of amino acid therapy into conventional Western medicine is a topic of vigorous debate in the scientific community.
Many parents whose children have serious developmental disturbances, such as Down syndrome, supplement the Western treatment regimen with amino acid therapy. Some psychiatrists offer their patients amino acid therapy to supplement their pharmaceutical treatment.
According to the A.P. John Institute for Cancer Research, controlled amino acid therapy combined with chemotherapy, or used alone, has reduced the burden of tumors in certain types of cancers and has improved patients' quality of life. However, effective treatment must be customized to each individual for optimal benefit.
Acording to a new research study, branched chain amino acid therapy (BCAA) may be an effective treatment for spinocerebellar degeneration patients. Researchers found that BCAA improved the condition of patients with ataxia, a symptom of spinocerebellar degeneration. Patients who suffer from ataxia are unable to coordinate muscle movement. After four weeks of BCAA treatment, patients had improved kinetic function
Neutral amino acid therapy may also improve the overall well-being of phenylketonuria (PKU) patients. PKU is a metabolic disorder that causes severe neurological impairment. Researchers treated six PKU patients with large neutral amino acid supplements (PreKUnil, Nilab, Dk). At the beginning of the study, two subjects were diagnosed with clinical depression. At the end of the study, all patients reported increased energy and a general improvement in well-being.
Chen TJ, Blum K, Payte JT, et al. Narcotic antagonists in drug dependence: pilot study showing enhancement of compliance with SYN-10, amino-acid precursors and enkephalinase inhibition therapy. Med Hypotheses. 2004;63(3):538-48.
Jaeken J. Genetic disorders of gamma-aminobutyric acid, glycine, and serine as causes of epilepsy. J Child Neurol. 2002 Dec;17 Suppl 3:3S84-7; discussion 3S88.
Koch R, Moseley KD, Yano S, et al. Large neutral amino acid therapy and phenylketonuria: a promising approach to treatment. Mol Genet Metab. 2003 Jun;79(2):110-3.
Ueki Y, Isozaki E, Miyazaki Y, et al. Clinical and neuroradiological improvement in chronic acquired hepatocerebral degeneration after branched-chain amino acid therapy. Acta Neurol Scand. 2002 Aug;106(2):113-6.
Amino acid therapy includes several sub-categories. Some patients take only the eight essential amino acids (those that the human body is unable to manufacture): tryptophan, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Other patients take only the three branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are named for their unique chemical structure, which does not resemble the other 17 amino acids. The type and number of amino acids taken is determined by the medical history, medical diagnosis and presenting symptoms of a patient.
Patients may incorporate more of particularly amino-rich foods into their diets, or they may take the amino acids in pill form. Some functional foods, such as soy, garlic, and some teas for example, also feature amino acids.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.