There’s enormous potency in nutritional medicine for mental health but it ain’t in the form of a ‘dash of precursor here and a sprinkle of co-factor there’, like some may have you believe.  Many nutritional prescriptions can look good on paper but that’s the extent of it, take the suggested use of glutamine for GABA production, for example.  Sure it can be said to be a precursor (so it glucose!) – so will higher intake of this equate to higher production of this neurotransmitter? Ah, no. The reasons relate to distribution and hierarchy of use for this amino acid, as well as determinants of glutamatergic neuron activity.

Why would we limit our prescriptions to precursors, anyway, when we have 2 amino acids at our disposal, whose oral supplementation is known to translate to higher CNS levels and their actions and efficacy as major inhibitors of neuronal firing (akin to GABA), involves no modification nor maybes?!

Hello, Taurine & Glycine, where have you been all this time?

While, many of us may have been using taurine in combination formulas for mood, chances are you’re not entirely clear why sometimes those work and sometimes they don’t.  The answer may be in the regulation of CNS taurine transfer & balance- sometimes the people who need it most, have the least capacity for its uptake across the BBB.  This is well-established in neurobiology, but news to many nutritional and integrative health professionals, who have been using it in patients where Glycine, in fact, makes more sense. So while taurine has myriad impressive strings to its bow in relation to mood-modulation and powerful protection of brain structure & function, Glycine, has an extensive network of receptors throughout the brain and spinal chord, enabling it to exert inhibitory effects, second only to GABA itself. And, most importantly, BBB transfer of this amino is not subject to the same impediments that we see with taurine.  These are two of my most frequent and favourite mood-modulators, affordable and accessible when used as single ingredients, for patients, with anxiety, addiction & sleep disorders etc but understanding how they work (and when they won’t) is essential in choosing which one to use, when. 

For example, do you know the Tmax for either of these oral supplements?  How long it takes, to create a spike in patient’s plasma, better still their CSF, and therefore speed of onset of action?  What about their elimination half-lives to guide your understanding their duration of action and therefore the timing of follow-up doses?

When we’re trying to realise the full potency of our medicines – these are important details to know that convert our ‘prescription potential’ into something powerful. Just like die-hard herbalists will tell you, its an art and a science and this is true in nutritional medicine as well.  Don’t skimp on the science!🤓

 

Both taurine & glycine have a claim-to-fame as amino acids that effectively calm an over-revving brain, via their net inhibitory actions within the CNS.  They achieve this via different means and while in some circumstances, one, either or both will is the result of differences in the regulation of their BBB transfer, pharmacokinetics, as well as add-on benefits or detractors, unique to each.  Learn how to use both of these powerful and affordable mood-modulators, to their fullest, and be more able to know ‘which one when’, by listening to this latest narrative review.

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