Are Amino Acids the Answer to Cravings?

Are Amino Acids the Answer to Cravings?

Do you find yourself digging into the back of your drawer for something sweet in the middle of the day?  Raid the cupboards late at night or happen to travel with a large purse cramped with an assortment of goodies.?  You may be deficient in amino acids!

The individual amino acids glutamine, GABA, tryptophan (or 5-HTP), L Glutamine and tyrosine are powerful for eliminating sugar cravings, often quickly once you identify which amino acid you may be deficient in.   

Targeted amino acid supplements can help balance brain chemistry that causes cravings and negatively affects mood, causing depression, anxiety and poor mental focus. The best way to figure out which neurotransmitter is causing your cravings is to keep a journal on when and what you crave.

The amino acid L-Glutamine is more widely known for healing tissue and can often be found in sports supplements for repair.  However, L-glutamine is also known for healing the gut, where serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced.  L-glutamine is also recognized for calming intense sugar cravings and stabilizing low blood sugar.

Signs you are low in L-Glutamine (The Crashed Craver)? You need to eat sugar when you have gone long periods without food. You may crave sugar or starch between meals or intensely crave sweets.  Eating also seems to temporarily relieve your fatigue and help you feel less irritable.  Did you know that taking a bit of L-Glutamine on the tongue can immediately stop cravings?

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that helps produce the energy your body needs to function. It also controls the feelings of hunger and lets your brain know when you are full.    If you feel the need to eat when you are stressed out, you may be low in GABA. (Stressed Craver) Low GABA also presents as an increased craving for carbohydrates, drugs or alcohol to help you relax and loosen up. Low GABA can also result in physical tension and anxiety.  You may also suffer from panic attacks or feel worried or fearful.  

Tryptophan and 5HTP are two similar amino acids that both work on reducing cravings.  5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical the body makes from Tryptophan (an essential amino acid from food). Tryptophan makes 5HTP, 5HTP converts into serotonin (the happy hormone for the brain). Signs you are low in Serotonin? You need to eat carbs to make you happy, especially late in the afternoon and evening. You may constantly feel worried or fearful. You may suffer from the winter blues, PMS, Menopause or Andropause mood swings. You may also have digestive and sleep disturbances (Depressed or Anxious Craver)

The amino acid L-Tyrosine is often associated with the need to eat sugar to boost your energy or help you focus better (The Fatigued Craver). You may need an L-tyrosine boost if you feel bored, flat or lack energy or focus (generally feel blah about life). L-tyrosine also supports the thyroid gland.  

What Amino Acid is Right for you?  (Your cheat sheet)  

  • If you feel the need to eat sugar when you have not eaten in a while, it is likely you have low blood sugar
  • If you eat when you are stressed out, your cravings are likely due to low GABA
  • If you need to eat carbs to feel happy, especially in the late afternoon or evening, you may be low in serotonin (5HTP), L-Tryptophan or both
  • If you eat sugar to get an energy boost, you may be low in L-Tyrosine, the amino acid that helps to regulate adrenal hormones

Not a quick fix

Besides L-Glutamine placed directly on the tongue, amino acid supplements are not a quick fix to manage cravings.  It can take a few weeks of daily use of 1-3 amino acids taken 2-3 times a day.   Journal our cravings and symptoms to determine which amino acid supplement is right for you.  Consult with your healthcare provider before taking supplements to ensure no counterindications with health conditions or prescribed medications.

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