Amino acids play many important roles within the body. One amino acid, phenylalanine, is especially important when it comes to mental health. Never heard of it? It's time to get to know phenylalanine and how it helps maintain wellness.
As previously mentioned, phenylalanine is an amino acid. Amino acids are considered the "building blocks of protein" and are divided into two categories: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids, like phenylalanine, are considered essential because the body needs them on a daily basis for health, but cannot produce them. This means phenylalanine must be obtained from food or supplements.
Phenylalanine for Mental Health
One of the primary functions of phenylalanine in the body is to assist in the production of certain chemicals within the brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine. This is done by converting phenylalanine into tyrosine
. These chemicals play a crucial role in mood, which is why this amino acid has been studied as a possible treatment for depression
and other mood disorders. Those who are deficient in phenylalanine are said to suffer from the following symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center:
- Low energy
- Poor memory
- Poor concentration
- Low appetite
While not common, a medical condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) does exist, in which the individual is lacking the enzyme needed to properly utilize phenylalanine in the body. More research will need to be done to determine the exact action and benefit of phenylalanine in the body, and it's also being studied for the following possible benefits:
- Chronic pain management
- Treatment of Parkinson's disease
How To Use Phenylalanine
Meat, fish, dairy and soy products are the best food sources of phenylalanine. The form of this amino acid found in foods is referred to as D-phenylalanine. Keeping these foods in your regular diet will ensure you get enough phenylaline. However, if you're deficient in phenylalanine, a synthetic supplement known as L-phenylalanine can be added to your daily routine to make up for it and reap its benefits.
Your doctor can help you determine the best dosage of phenylalanine, which should only be taken under a doctor's supervision. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those taking antipsychotic drugs and anyone diagnosed with PKU shouldn't take phenylalanine.
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