Amino acids and mental health

**Disclaimer and update: this is only an example of a protocol. Individual needs vary greatly. I in fact stopped tolerating all of these supplements as I got deeper into withdrawal.  This was not a stagnant protocol. Now off meds there is an ongoing process of fine-tuning my responses to my body’s needs. (I pretty much don’t take supplements with any sort of synthetic substances, my body prefers whole foods and herbs) ` People in active withdrawal should be extremely cautious and wary about adding supplements as many develop extreme sensitivities to supplements. It’s much better to get on a supporting regimen BEFORE withdrawing. Once withdrawal begins the risk of sensitivities goes up.

Original post:

I use a small cocktail of amino acids now. I haven’t always. It’s a rather new addition to my supplement regime. I’m exclusively using inhibitory amino acids, as when I tried excitatory amino acids I had bad reactions. Besides the story I just linked to I also tried SAMe and had a real nightmare of a time as well. SAMe is a combination excitatory amino acid which is often used as an antidepressant. I was using it as prescribed by a orthomolecular doctor for having high histamine which it is supposed to correct. It backfired big time.

I did much more research on amino acids before adding the inhibitory ones and it seems they are helping greatly. My new doctor, another orthomolecular, holistic and energy healing psychiatrist recommended a couple I wasn’t taking. I am now sleeping 9 hours a night. They seem to be helping.

A good place to begin a study of amino acids is here.

It’s possible to be tested for optimal levels of amino acids, but I personally found that test useless and the doctor who did that supplemented me with a broad based amino acid product that included excitatory amino acids. For now I will stick with the inhibitory and calming aminos.

When I met my newest doctor I was taking GABA, Tryptophan and D-Phenylalanine. GABA receptors are what benzo’s mess with and I’ve talked to a few people who have withdrawn relatively painlessly from benzos by using GABA. It’s not a sure thing though. Many people seem to feel nothing when they take GABA. Tryptophan is used both for sleep and depression but can rarely cause agitation so needs to be used with caution. It very obviously helps me fall asleep.

D-Phenylalanine must be differentiated from L-Phenylalanine and DL-Phenylalanine, both of which are excitatory. The D-Phenylalanine I take because it causes release of endorphins. It’s cut the pain of my endometriosis in half. No joke. I have gone from writhing in a ball of pain for 24 – 48 hours to being able to essentially ignore the pain. I still take ibuprofen. But prior to the D-Phenylalanine it wasn’t enough and I had tried every other non-addictive pain medication out there. Actually I did even try a stuff like hydrocodone to no effect. I suffer a lot of pain, so discovering D-Phenylalanine was a great relief. A profound relief that makes me want to cry. Endometriosis is no picnic.

Then I met my new doctor. She said I tested very low in Taurine, which she uses as a sort of mood stabilizer. I take that three times a day. I take the rest all at bedtime with melatonin. I take all of them on an empty stomach to optimize absorption. If you take them with food, especially protein they get lost in digestion.

The last amino acid I take is N-acetyl-cysteine which was also recommended by my new doctor. It raises glutathione which helps by doing a gentle detox. I was taking products called Immunocal and Protect which are basically the same thing. They are both whey protein products that deliver cysteine for the same purpose—raising glutathione, but they are outrageously expensive. The people who sell Immunocal and Protect claim plain old N-acetyl-cysteine does not absorb and therefore does not raise glutathione. The product I take is called CysNAC and has complimentary nutrients that allow it to absorb. It seems to be working. In the past if I’ve stopped Immunocal I’ve felt the difference and since I made the switch to the much cheaper CysNAC I feel fine.

Oh, I also take Theanine, another inhibitory amino acid that is often taken for anxiety. I had some on hand that I wasn’t taking and my doctor said it was a good thing to add on. I’ve spoken to many people who find it very soothing when they have anxiety attacks. I just take it at night with the rest of my amino cocktail. And like I said I’m sleeping 9 hours a night now with no hangover and that is after about 3 months of 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night.

I’m hardly recovered. I have a few good days here and there, but I’m so toxic I literally feel poisoned much of the time. Barely able to move. It’s been like that the last couple of days again. It turns out I tested high in mercury too. The glutathione helps detox that too, as well as the psych meds and enviromental toxins that I’m sensitive to. I also take Milk Thistle to help detox.

It feels good to be sleeping again, but I really wish it was accompanied by feeling rested. It’s possible I’m trending towards that as I’m certainly not as out of it as I was when I thought I was quitting the blog just about three weeks ago and I’ve had a string of pretty good days in there too—days in which I was able to leave the house, drive and be social—even if for only a couple of hours before exhaustion set in. That’s much better than being exhausted from the moment I wake and not being able to get out of bed. So, yeah, I’m tentatively hoping I’m trending towards more energy and I suppose it seems I am. I’m also tentatively hoping I’ve found a doctor who can really help and again, I’m thinking I have.


*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care.  Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up

It’s become clear to me that whenever it’s possible that it’s helpful for folks who’ve not begun withdrawal and have the time to consider a carefully thought out plan to attempt to bring greater well-being to your body before starting the withdrawal. That means learning how to profoundly nourish your body/mind and spirit prior to beginning a withdrawal. For suggestions on how to go about doing that check the drop-down menus on this blog for ideas. Anything that helps you learn how to live well can be part of your plan. That plan will look different for everyone as we learn to follow our hearts and find our own unique paths in the world. Things to begin considering are diet, exercise and movement, meditation/contemplation etc. Paying attention to all these things as you do them helps too. The body will start letting us know what it needs as we learn to pay attention. 

For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page or scroll down the homepage for more recent postings. 

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22 thoughts on “Amino acids and mental health

    1. Hi Debra,
      my experience is limited. I’ve found some people swear by it and say it helps depression a lot for example. It can also be quite calming, but sometimes has the opposite effect so one should titrate up slowly when doing the megadose thing.

      I recently tried massive doses of it for a withdrawal complaint and it seemed to agitate me further at 4 gm 4x a day…but I do take about 2 gms daily without issue…whether it’s actually doing something substantive at this dose, I don’t actually know right now.


  1. I would love to talk with you. Please send me an email. I am in benzo withdrawal and suffering pretty horribly, and trying to learn about amino acids. thanks.


    1. Audrey,
      I too feel crappy at the moment and really don’t have the energy for a one on one right now…this post has a lot of links to help you learn about amino acids…follow the links and read the info…

      a naturopath or alternative doc might be able to help you too.

      the website I posted above that is really good is here.

      and you can learn more from Joan Larson’s work as well…look her up on Amazon for a book.


  2. nothing you mention in the NutraSleep product should need to be tapered off of. However, when we take anything to sleep we often do get somewhat psychologically attached to it if we have a history of problems with sleep…

    The passion flower, in high doses, one could conceivably become dependent on, I imagine and since we are all so individual and some of us are so delicate I can’t say it’s impossible, just unlikely.

    Taking something to boost glutathione is very good in general for anyone, but taking straight glutathione doesn’t work…you need to take a precursor like Immunocal…Immunocal, though is outrageously overpriced.

    I take CysNac by NeuroScience to boost glutathione….it’s not cheap, but much cheaper than Immunocal…and I trust the manufacturer…you could go cheaper with some generic version of NAC is you want to see if that helps.

    best to you.

    for adrenal fatigue I also take Ashwaganda and Eleuthero…do you take anything specifically for the Adrenal fatigue?


  3. I’ve been on a natural recovery protocal for 3rd stage Adrenal Exhaustion/hypoglycemia related.
    I’ve also had 70% of my 6 month recovery dealing with bad anxiety and anxiety attacks. I’ve been taking a product called ‘NutraSleep’ by Source naturals which contains 600mg. of GABA and other additives: passion flower, magnesium, chamomile, B-6. I’ve been taking this several times a week for the past 6 months. But, now, I am noticng about two days after I’ve taken them, I wake up in the night, hot and anxiety, insomnia. I check my blood sugar levels and they are fine. Years ago, I was on Zanox for only 2 weeks, off and on and had horrible side effects and withdrawl from this. ( rebound effects with more anxiety)
    My question is: Even though GABA is a more natural form for treating anxiety, since I’ve been on it for 6 months, could I have built up a tolerance to this, where now I can’t seem to get off it, like the Zanox? If so, would I need to taper off it slowly like I had to with the Zanox? And, would taking Immunocal or glutathione help with the rebound anxiety effects?
    Thank you.


  4. From the Daily Mail (London) newspaper:

    Cynically marketed, toxic and disturbing: Why Red Bull is Britain’s real drink problem

    By Tom Rawstorne
    18th June 2008


    Banned from sale

    It runs a highly lucrative operation – Red Bull sell more than three-and-a-billion cans and bottles a year in 143 countries worldwide.

    In Britain alone, it sells £271 million worth of the stuff each year.

    The only fly in the ointment is that this extraordinary product is coming in for growing criticism.

    And it’s not just Chatsmore Catholic High that’s having a dig.

    Red Bull has been banned from sale in Norway, Denmark, Uruguay and Iceland, while health departments in France, Ireland, Turkey, Sweden and the U.S. have expressed concern.

    A spate of medical studies have also highlighted potential problems.


    So what is its magic formula? Pick up one of its distinctive blue and silver cans and there are 12 listed ingredients.

    But only three are of particular interest. They are caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone.

    The first, caffeine, is all too familiar. One can of Red Bull contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of filter coffee – or two cups of instant.

    Drunk in moderation, caffeine is a stimulant and drinking it ‘wakes up’ the person, giving them a jolt. But drunk in excess, it can lead to insomnia, anxiety and hyperactivity.

    Taurine is an organic amino acid in the human body.

    It moves salts (containing metals such as sodium and potassium) in and out of our body’s cells, and it is also claimed to boost metabolic rates.

    Urban myth long had it that the taurine in Red Bull was extracted from bulls’ semen. It isn’t – it is produced synthetically.

    Finally comes glucuronolactone, which is found in the body as a substance produced by the metabolism of glucose in the human liver.

    Again, the type in Red Bull is synthetic.

    What really constitutes a safe amount?

    While it is thought to fight fatigue and provide a sense of well-being, little research has been done into it or what constitutes a ‘safe’ amount.

    So much for the contents. Who exactly is going to benefit from drinking Red Bull?

    According to the blurb on the can, the drink ‘improves performance, increases concentration and reaction speed, improves vigilance, stimulates metabolism’.

    From that, it might be imagined that the target audience would be relatively small – sportsmen and sportswomen seeking a boost in training and competition, perhaps. But in reality its appeal has proven to be much wider.

    The latest report by analysts Mintel says that Red Bull has a dominant 43 per cent share of the energy drinks market in Britain – which is particularly popular with teenagers.


    The article in full is here.


  5. I’m sure it can cause psychosis in predisposed people, but it’s so widely used that I doubt its a terribly common occurrence. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if we do hear of a death by cardiac arrest either in a kid who has drank 5 or 6 or more of them…


  6. OMG-Red Bull causes psychosis, IMHO. It IS nasty, as you say, Gianna! According to a few sources I have found on the net, the military used it to “motivate” soldiers during Vietnam’s War in the 70’s. They discontinued it’s use because it was discovered to cause pathological neurological conditions in our soldiers. (See caffeine allergy, but there are other ingredients in it that act on hormones and neurotransmitters in a very bad way. Taurine, for ex, may be protective in small amounts–it’s an ingredient in human breast milk– but I think the excessive amounts in Red Bull are contraindicated for most people, along with other gunk!) A businessman from Thailand “rediscovered” it and marketed it during recent years to our kids. The company gets around this history by denying it and making a joke of it: they even host a sporting event called RED BULL PSYCHOSIS. Of course the company and the gov deny this and the history of this product. People will not think much about it until somebody they love dies from cardiac arrest at a sporting event after consuming it before a game. If they read your blog, they may consider this when someone they love develops really bad mood disturbances from it after mixing it with Jeager on a regular basis. Interestingly, I can’t think of a better way to weaken our kids and our culture than by marketing this stuff under the guise of “sports energy” drink.


  7. Could some one help me? What makes an amino acid inhibitory? Do you mean amino acids that are used to make a neuotransmiter that inhibits nerve transmission? My age is showing. I took organic chemistry and biochemisty too many years ago, I guess.
    Jim S


  8. re: the Redbull topic, in 2003 I was on 40mg. of Prozac , 3mg Xanax, 100 mg trazodone, and drank Redbull all night driving my oldest to college across several mountain passes, let me just say that I had to pull the car over and call the hotel we were planning on stopping at and tell them I couldn’t drive, to cancel the reservation. Kind woman tells me she would sent state troopers to look for me. I kept on driving as she guided me into the parking lot and when I walked in the door she told me “5 more minutes was all I was giving you before I called more police in a search”. I was in the middle of no where, on that mix. Just a cautionary tale about herbal drinks, and psych meds. Even so-called “vitamin” drinks can affect us.


  9. college students drink redbull & beer, i’m not hip enough to recall the name; talk about a brain jolt!

    Good post gianna, glad you are feeling well enough to keep passing on information and inspiration. Thanks.


  10. Redbull is very popular—the taurine takes the edge of the caffeine and guarana…it’s like a speedball in a drink. (that’s what the heroine/cocaine cocktail is called right?)


  11. Very popular in Britain, especially with youngsters, is a high caffeine soft drink called Red Bull.

    The drink contains, amongst other things, 1000mg of taurine.

    Has it taken off in the USA as well?


  12. thanks for the word of warning Denise…I apparently am very low in Taurine and am taking it three times a day with no adverse effects, but it’s always good to know what to look for and I wasn’t aware of that side effect.

    I think that when someone is experimenting with aminos it’s always best to start low and slowly increase the dose in case there are any adverse reactions.

    I mentioned how some people have a paradox reaction to Tryptophan for example…it’s very calming for most people but occasionally people get a little amped from it…so starting slowly is good. I take 1 gm at night but I’ve heard of ortho docs using up to 9 gms of it spread out through the day. I did take more for a while but day time use seemed to make me drowsy.


  13. Hi Gianna,

    I was planning a post on the supplements that I use as I just placed a huge order yesterday. Thank for this post. I will refer to it.


  14. lots of great supps mentioned …. thanks for the info. just one note of caution about the Tuarine — it is good for body builders, but it really takes some getting used to as it caused me muscle cramping in some areas. It is also available in more diluted amounts in power-C vitamin water.


  15. Hi Mark,
    there are special labs that do all sorts of testing that standard doctors don’t do. I don’t know what you’ve got available in Canada.

    They do tend to be expensive…I am extremely lucky in that while I and my husband live very simply on not a very large income, my mother helps me with some of these more unusual health supports that I use.

    You can look for naturopathic doctors or orthomolecular psychiatrists who may be able to test for nutritional deficiencies.

    Otherwise as long as you’re careful a lot of these nutrients are safe to experiment with. But you need to do research to be safe. Safe Harbor’s yahoo email list is a good place to get advice from others who use natural means to help themselves. I know lots of people who have figured things out for themselves. Unfortunately my situation has begged for assistance from the beginning and it certainly feels better when I feel like someone can direct me.


  16. This may be a stupid question, but do you have a post on how to get a test for the deficiency and excess of various vitamines and things you decribe here.

    Do you have a compleat list of testable things?

    A-Z list, and then what deficiencies and excess’s typically mean in the human body?

    Do you have estimated cost of the tests?

    The organization and quality of this website (that is excellent) give no hint/clue as to the living problems you write of.


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