Nutritional supplementation or dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diet to provide nutrients to the body. Examples include vitamins, minerals, herbs, fiber, fatty acids and amino acids. The use of medicinal supplementation dates back to the origins of civilization when herbs and animal glands were used. In the US, dietary supplementation has a shorter history dating back to the American Indians and the early European settlers. For a while, Americans preferred synthetic drugs to natural remedies because of the fast and easy way it appeared you could resolve your problems. However, now more than ever patients are turning to dietary and nutritional supplementation.
Over the last 50 years the market for nutritional supplements has grown bigger and better. Since 1994 when the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) changed the law about how nutritional supplements are regulated, the market for dietary supplements has expanded as well as their consumer base. More and more people are turning away from prescription, synthetic drugs to natural dietary supplementation. This is due to several reasons. One reason is due to the numerous side effects that synthetic prescriptions can cause on top of symptoms that are already being experienced. Additionally, medications treat the symptoms but not the underlying cause of the symptoms and therefore don’t fully treat the problem. Even more people are taking control of their medical health, rather than allowing medical professionals to make determinations for them. Second opinions, alternative medicines and dietary supplementation are replacing traditional medical consultations.
Stress is one condition that has run rampant in today’s society. Normal treatment revolves around managing stress and medications that treat the symptoms caused by stress. However, due to more and more cases of chronic stress being reported, depletion of essential nutrients within the body has proven to inhibit normal function. Therefore nutritional supplementation has become a huge part of treating and relieving stress and the symptoms of stress. Some of the dietary supplements that reduce stress include melatonin, 5-hydroxytryptophan, L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine, SAMe, and D-phenylalmine. These substances work chemically within the body to restore function and remove stress.
5 Hydroxytryptophan– Also known as 5-HTP, it is an amino acid. 5-HTP regulates serotonin production, which is a neurotransmitter and hormone that produces feelings of well being. Low levels of both 5HTP and serotonin can lead to stress, depression and anxiety. 5-HTP works similar to the way SSRI’s, antidepressant medication prescribed for treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, some personality disorders and extreme cases of chronic stress that causes depression or anxiety. 5-HTP has also been used to decrease pain in fibromyalgia patients, and reduce the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. In other capacities this amino acid has been used as a weight loss supplement to help feel full and content, and also increased natural production of melatonin for people with sleeping problems. 5 Hydroxytryptophan can be found in many protein rich foods such as meat, fish, beans and eggs.
Melatonin– Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain. It is an important part of the sleeping cycle because it helps you fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. Without adequate levels of melatonin your mind and body have trouble falling asleep. In the evening the pineal gland secretes melatonin to help you fall asleep. About half way through the night the production of melatonin peaks and tapers off which allows you to stay asleep until morning when the melatonin has worn off. Melatonin is just as effective as other sleeping medications and is not addictive. In studies patients have been able to stop using melatonin and continue to have healthy sleeping patterns. Insomnia is one symptom of stress, depression and anxiety, therefore melatonin may be one hormone that has ceased to be produced or isn’t being produced enough in the body to allow for appropriate sleeping habits. Melatonin can be found in foods such as sunflower seeds, flax seed, celery seed, poppy seed and St. John’s wort however it is also available in a supplement pill form.
Tyrosine/ L-Tyrosine– Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid because it can be produced by phenylalanine. Tyrosine is a predecessor of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine and thyroid hormones. It has potent stimulating effects on the brain through the hormones it can create. With adequate levels of tyrosine in the body one can perform better mentally, increase alertness and focus, and decrease stress and fatigue. Tyrosine is considered to be an “antidepressant” amino acid because it lifts your mood, improves mental clarity and decreases mental burnout. L-tyrosine can treat insomnia, depression, anxiety, appetite suppression, stress and low moods. Foods that contain tyrosine include fish, chicken, pork, whole grains, wheat, oats, milk, cheese, yogurt, avocados, bananas, legumes, beans, and nuts.
Theanine/L-Theanine– Theanine originates in the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant and is present in manyteas. It is natures own stress remedy because it calms the nerves, relieves anxiety, and reduces stress without having a tranquilizing effect on the body. Theanine stimulates production of alpha waves in the brain, which promote relaxation. Theanine also helps in the production of calming amino acids such as dopamine, GABA, and tryptophan. Theanine is thought to lower blood pressure and decrease mental and physical stress while improving cognition and mood, and boosting the body’s immune response to infection. Theanine is recognized as a safe dietary supplement.
SAMe/ S-Adenosyl Methionine– SAMe (pronounced Sammy) is a co-substrate, a non-protein chemical compound that is bound to a protein. It is required for biological activity of the protein and is usually organically a vitamin. SAMe is made from ATP (energy) and methionine (an amino acid found in protein rich food) and is involved in methyl group transfers, a 4-atom appendage. SAMe regulates the expression of genes and is involved in over 40 metabolic reactions. SAMe regulates the action of various hormones and neurotransmitters including adrenaline, serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. When SAMe loses its methyl group it becomes a homocysteine, which be toxic if allowed to build up. Vitamin B converts homocysteines into an antioxidant glutathione or back into methionine. When the
are adequate SAMe in the body, it enhances the impact of mood boosting messengers such as serotonin and dopamine. SAMe is available as a nutritional and dietary supplement.
D-phenylalanine– D-phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that protects the body’s production of endorphins, the “happy” hormones. D-phenylalanine is a precursor to tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and melanin. Enkephalin degradation is the breakdown of endorphins. D-phenylalanine inhibits this reaction allow the body to have an analgesic and antidepressant effect from the endorphins. D-phenylalanine is used in chronic pain management with no side effects or nausea. The antidepressant activity is accounted for by its precursor L-phenylalanine, which plays a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. D-phenylalanine occurs naturally in breast milk but is also manufactured within food and drinks.