Dec 222012

model of an anino acid moleculeAs suggested in the title the amino acids we are interested in are those which will help us understand how to overcome depression. Specifically, the ones we will focus on are sulfur containing amino acids as well as tryptophan.

What are amino acids anyway?

Amino acids are what proteins are made of. To put that into context, they are the basic building blocks of life and make up about 3/4’s of our physique. The presence of the right amino acids and the proteins built from them is essential for every chemical reaction that takes place in our bodies.

Just about every bodily function is dependent on amino acids. Some of them are essential, which means that our bodies cannot produce them. Hence, if we don’t get them in a bio-available form from what we eat we will suffer dysfunction of one form or another.

In understanding how to overcome depression the most important amino acids are the sulfur containing amino acids, methionine, cysteine and cystine, as well as the aforementioned tryptophan. Methionine and tryptophan are essential and the other two are only in certain cases.

Let’s begin with tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin the “feel good” hormone. A precursor is a compound, which is essential to a chemical reaction which produces another compound. Serotonin, as I mentioned in a previous article on how to overcome depression, is what most of the currently popular antidepressant drugs attempt to emulate.

Tryptophan is commonly found in protein based foods and a well balanced diet should provide sufficient quantities. To make use of the tryptophan the diet must include methionine and, for some, cysteine as these amino acids are essential for neuronal connectivity.

All three of these amino acids work synergistic-ally to facilitate transporting the hormone serotonin across the blood-brain barrier. This is, in fact, the massive challenge pharmaceutical companies have in producing drugs to alleviate symptoms of depression.

In order for their drugs to get across the blood-brain barrier they must be designed to circumvent the natural processes designed to protect our most important organ! This, in my opinion, is why they often can produce such horrendous side effects.

Regular exercise has always been an effective way to combat depression. This has not only been clinically proven but research has uncovered why and how. Ironically, many depressed patients are prescribed selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), which I have written about previously.

The problem is that they have been shown to cause fatigue, which leads to inactivity. Just as sure as exercise alleviates depression, inactivity leads to it. Studies to remedy this problem have led researchers to discover that physical exercise improves dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmission.

These two hormones naturally produced by our bodies and improved by exercise, act much the same way as the aforementioned amino acids in transporting the serotonin across the blood-brain barrier. Researchers have further hypothesized that the effect is reciprocal.

Which means to say that improved transmission of dopamine and norepinephrine, in turn, enhances both the ability and motivation to exercise. This is not only a classical example of your “win-win” situation it is also a remarkable demonstration of the vast superiority of natural methods over manufactured drugs.

Let’s face it some depression, shall we call it “psychological depression,” is natural. It is nature’s way of dealing with traumatic events like the loss of a loved one. If these depressive events have no underlying nutritional cause they generally dissipate with time. Of course, the length of time differs with personalities and severity of the event.

On the other hand persistent “non- psychological depression” may well be caused by a lack of essential nutrients. My first recommendation is always aimed at natural solutions usually through diet and exercise. I am aware that not everybody can find the time for or stay motivated to regular exercise.

After a significant amount of research into how the corporatization of the food industry has affected our diet and health I concede that it is a major and time intensive challenge to ensure a well balanced diet these days.

Even though tryptophan is so common in both animal and vegetable based protein foods, natural tryptophan supplements are found beneficial by the vast majority of people who take them. This clearly demonstrates there are some essential elements missing in our nutrition or lifestyles or perhaps both.

On the other hand the sulfur containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine have their best source in meat and egg yolks. Due to media induced fear of cholesterol many people avoid these foods. If you fear there is not sufficient of these in your diet, supplements of methionine and cysteine are also available.


How exercise can help fight depression
Kevin Helliker
Wall Street Journal
May. 10, 2005

Increased monoaminergic neurotransmission improves compliance with physical activity recommendations in depressed patients with fatigue.
Stenman E, Lilja A
The Centre for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.

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 Posted by at 12:20 pm

  18 Responses to “How To Overcome Depression: What Are Amino Acids?”

  1. Very interesting article. I recently watched a video titled, “The Biology of Belief” by Dr. Bruce Lipton who detailed the benefits of amino acids and protein, in particular, and how they make up a big portion of our internal systems.

    This may be a little off topic…I find it disturbing that when children are found to have psychological issues, like depression, they are given drugs that have been tested on adults only. Medical authorities reason it would be unethical and, perhaps even immoral, to test children for these drugs (I’m talking about heavy psychotic drugs). I agree. As mentioned in your post, side effects for adults ingesting these drugs are quite severe.

    Medical authorities who issue them to children have no clue how these drugs will affect them until they begin seeing some disturbing side effects after the children have been exposed to them over a period of time. Why are they dispensing toxic cocktails to children when they’re ignorant of the effects? Isn’t that blindly using them as guinea pigs anyway? I just hope, in the near future, parents and guardians of these children will look for natural ways to help them because medical orthodoxy clearly don’t have any healthy answers. This is why I’m an advocate of using natural remedies first before turning to pharmaceuticals.

    We agree that diet and exercise are major factors in contributing to a healthy mind and body. I’ve found that to be true in my own life, as I’ve cured many an ailment just by tweaking my diet and working out consistently. Here’s the thing, I don’t try to find time to workout I make time to workout. I know, from experience, if you try to find the time to exercise, you’ll never find the time to exercise. You have to decide to make it a priority, it’s just as simple as that.

    I wasn’t planning on leaving such a long comment, Jim. But I relate so strongly to many of the points mentioned in your post, thoughts just came pouring out. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Sonya. I believe that it is reprehensible what the pharmaceutical industry does to indiscriminately add cash flow. Especially when they are so inconsiderate towards children. But the problem is bigger than that because the food giants and their unethical practices have sold out the general population on convenient processed foods lacking essential nutrients. This is by far the largest contributor to the hyper-activity in children, which is lining the pockets of the manufacturers of the “heavy psychotic drugs” you are referring to. It is well known, but not via MSM, as that is also conveniently controlled, that the manufacturers of prozac were responsible for getting L-tryptophan banned by the FDA days before releasing their new wonder drug back in 1989. This is a good post on the details of how that transpired.

      For an in-depth scary testimony of an ex-drug rep listen to Gwen Olsen on how the pharmaceutical companies play the game.

      I find it rather sinister that the synergy amongst corporate interests, like big food so conveniently benefiting pharmaceuticals while they both rob people of health and happiness is prevalent in many areas. Not the least of these is the industrial military complex benefiting the banking industry with their warring. If I got into how I think this is all co-ordinated so well I might be accused of getting into religious ranting or conspiracy fanaticism. Hence, I will just leave it at saying there is some evil evident in this, which is not easily explained away.

    • Don’t worry, Sonya–lengthy but intelligent replies are always welcome. Natural remedies are always preferrable to the chemical cocktails produced by Big Pharma. And Jim’s response was on target as well. Money. Power. Greed. All evil bedfellows. Time for me to go check out those links in Jim’s reply!

  2. I have a question for you, my mom went on this Vegan kick about a year or so ago believing it was good for her, she now has some doubts but she’s still doing it. Anyway my question is in your opinion is it ok to be a Vegan and if so are there some all natural supplements you can recommend?

    I have been following your blog long enough to know you prefer to give your body what it needs with food but with her diet she is not getting what she needs I don’t think and all natural supplements may be the only way she ever will get what she needs.

    • The Anasazi Indians, the famous cave dwellers of the Mesa Verde in Colorado mysteriously died out in 1300 AD. Although in their early days they had plenty of game archeologists found very few animal bones in their later dumps. They had a rich vegetable diet with full protein but their skeletal remains showed all the signs of the fat soluble vitamins A and D deficiencies, like tooth decay, bone deformities, arthritis and rickets even in 20 year olds. The best sources of these are animal fats and not everyone is capable of converting carotenes found in vegetables to retinol, which is what vitamin A actually is as I explained here. The only natural supplement I am aware of is in High-Vitamin Butter oil at I know that is not strictly vegan, but I would recommend it anyway as I am sincerely afraid many misled vegans suffer A deficiencies while believing they are getting them from veggies. Also, as I explained in vegan-diet-problems B12 supplements are needed. I hope this helps.

  3. Wow, you guys are way over my head in this but I feel I’m getting a good education just following along

    • Sorry John, it does get a tad complex, but it is good to hear that you are picking up on some of it. That is the main point!

  4. I suffer from depression and seek to handle this naturally and not with chemical-based preparations. I really appreciate these articles and the light they shed on my understanding of these issues.

    I have shared!

    • Thanks Daniel, I am glad that you find them helpful and wish you all the best with handling depression naturally. I believe the primary root of depression is poor nutrition largely due to food processing and unsustainable methods of farming. If you haven’t already read it you might want to check out How To Overcome Depression With Nutrition.

  5. Exercise is a great way of lifting depression, as you suggest., I have found. Even just a walk around the block often helps. Having a dog that needs plenty of exercise is a real motivator.
    Is exercise alone ever prescribed as a remedy to depression?

    • Yeah Doug, I agree the best way to insure getting some regular exercise is to work it into a part of your regular activity. Walking the dog is a great way to do this. With me it was commuting to work on my bicycle. The concept of fighting depression with exercise has been around a long time, but it is only recently that studies have enlightened us to the mechanics of how that works. I would expect, or at least hope, that some practitioners would begin a program by prescribing that alone.

  6. Good article. It’s unfortunate, but modern psychiatry is (as a general rule) a broken system. Many doctors elect the use prescription of drugs as an initial course of action, and follow a haphazard methodology of determining the specific medication to be used as well as the dosage. The ill effects of such practices likely include senseless violence and self-violence.

    When the drugs are correctly prescribed, they can be helpful; particularly in case of serious illness. Take the SSRIs you mentioned; they prevent serotonin levels from dropping too low by preventing its removal from the synapse after neural depolarization. Thus, symptoms are relieved, but the body’s natural function is being interrupted, which is something that doesn’t need to happen unless it is absolutely necessary.

    I applaud your work to educate people to take care of these kinds of problems by giving the body what it needs to repair itself.

    • I agree with your comment about modern psychiatry and would go so far as to say it applies to the whole field of medicine. I have a daughter in that field and we have great discussions about the system, especially the power of the pharmaceutical corporations. She is a great help to me because, although aware of the problems, she is a functional part of the system and reminds me that a lot of doctors are sincere but under extreme pressure due to the brokenness of the system.

      She also reminds me of some of the extraordinary benefits of medical technology and the gains we have made in many areas. Which is beneficial as it gives me more perspective and a better understanding of the issues. Thanks for your comments, I appreciate them.

  7. Jim I find your articles and website a wealth of information. Not only are you providing great info for anyone suffering from depression in this article but you are performing a great service to human kind in the nutritional awareness niche. I recommend your site to anyone who is health conscious and those who are not as they may live longer.

    I do believe that nutrition has a large part to play in depression as my friends aunt who lost her husband a few years ago went into a deep state and stayed that way for many months until we could convince her to change her diet mainly by dropping dairy foods and getting more exercise. She was after a few weeks of the change able to face going into town to shop something that sent her to bed with the sweats before. We were shooting in the dark at the time as I didn’t know of your site then but it helped her get past it. I have booked marked your site for anyone else I find in need in the future.

    • Thanks Mark, I really appreciate your solidarity and sharing from your own experience. Nice to see that your strategy helped your friend’s aunt. Interestingly, it was attempting to help out someone very near and dear to me that motivated me to research depression and its causes. When I discovered how closely linked to nutrition many episodes are I thought, “Great! I can share this on Culinary Tidbits.”

      Depression certainly has become a widespread problem in our culture and it is exasperated by the greed driving the misinformation of what the best solutions are. Some of the side effects of drugs being prescribed are scary to say the least. It is one of the great aspects of the internet that I can share what I find with people that it might help.

  8. Trying to drink less soda, they claim that’s tied to depression

    • Although I haven’t really looked into it I wouldn’t be surprised. It has been a long time since I have drank any soda but I know that unrefined sugar consumption is implicated in so many problems that depression is likely included.

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