August 12, 2021
Writen by Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA
Amino acids don’t get the same sort of attention as vitamin C or glutathione, but they are essential nutrients for your body.
Supplementing with amino acids has been shown to address many unique needs of your health, including boosting athletic performance, improving sleep, aiding weight loss, and enhancing focus. Intravenous (IV) or injectable amino acids offer several benefits over pills or powders, especially for those at risk of being deficient – more on that below.
If you’re curious how amino acids can help optimize your health and overall performance, then let’s dive in!
Here’s an overview of what you’ll discover:
- What Are Amino Acids?
- Why Are Amino Acids Important?
- Symptoms of Amino Acid Deficiency
- What’s In an Amino Acid Infusion?
- When to Consider IV Amino Acid Therapy?
What Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids (AA) are the building blocks of protein within our bodies. The presence of nitrogen in their chemical structure distinguishes them from fats and carbohydrates. They are essential for many bodily functions such as nutrient absorption, tissue repair, and protein synthesis. Amino acids are also required for cell building, the production of neurotransmitters and peptide hormones as well as tissue growth.
Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and come from food such as fish, dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat. There are also plant-based sources such as soy milk, tofu, chia seeds, hemp seeds, buckwheat, and quinoa.
The 9 essential AAs are valine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, and histidine. They are involved in a number of processes such as nutrient absorption, energy production, and tissue growth.
Nonessential amino acids support hormone synthesis, the production of red blood cells, and tissue repair and growth. Unlike essential AAs, our bodies can produce these proteins, which makes them nonessential to the human diet. The group of nonessential AAs includes tyrosine, serine, proline, glycine, glutamine, glutamic acid, alanine, asparagine, and alanine.
Why Are Amino Acids Important?
Essential amino acids play many important roles in the body.
Valine, for example, is required for tissue regeneration, muscle growth, and growth hormone production. It is one of the essential AAs that aids in muscle repair and recovery, lowers blood sugar, and increases energy levels.
Tryptophan is also an amino acid with many different functions. It is essential for the synthesis of neurotransmitters, enzymes, and protein and for the normal growth and development of infants. It helps in the production of serotonin, a key hormone, and neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood.
Threonine is another important amino acid used in the synthesis of proteins such as elastin and collagen. It is used in the treatment of a range of nervous system disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and spinal spasticity.
As an essential amino acid and a precursor for neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine, phenylalanine has been studied as a treatment for a number of conditions, including vitiligo, ADHD, depression, and chronic pain.
Methionine is an important sulfur-containing amino acid involved in the production of glutathione and cysteine. Glutathione plays a key role in tissue building and repair and is a powerful antioxidant. Cysteine helps in the production of collagen and is a key protein in hair, skin, and nails.
Amino proteins also serve as intermediaries in metabolism. They play an important role in cancer cell metabolism, including the antioxidant system and redox status regulation. Several therapies are either currently in clinical trials or are already used for cancer treatment.
Glycine, which plays a role in many metabolic reactions, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of metabolic disorders in those with diabetes, cancer, obesity, various inflammatory diseases, and cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms of Amino Acid Deficiency
As you just learned, essential amino acids cannot be produced by our bodies and they must come from the food we eat.
Although some of us simply don’t get enough amino acids from our diet, others have trouble properly breaking down and assimilating the amino acids that we do take in. Maldigestion and intestinal inflammation are two of the more common reasons that amino acids might not be absorbed in the digestive tract. Things like stress, intense exercise, infections, antibiotics, and antacids can contribute to these issues and affect your ability to absorb amino acids.
For athletic and physically active people, amino acid deficiency can negatively affect physical performance. In older adults, loss of lean muscle mass from that lack of amino acids can cause debilitating conditions and increase the risk of injury.
Other symptoms of amino acid deficiency include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Digestive issues
- Loss of muscle (sarcopenia)
- Lower immunity
- Reduced cognitive function
As you can see, insufficient amino acids can have a tremendous impact on your health and overall wellness.
What’s in an Amino Acid Infusion?
Amino acid IV therapy involves the use of hypocaloric solutions administered through the peripheral veins. It can include amino acids such as L-carnosine, L-Arginine, L-Glutamine, and L-Lysine as well as B vitamins, and Vitamin C.
L-Arginine is an amino acid that aids protein synthesis and helps in building muscle and rebuilding tissue. It is used for a range of conditions such as intestinal disease in premature babies, high blood pressure, peripheral arterial disease, and chest pain.
The intravenous administration of L-Arginine has been shown to regulate blood pressure and improve endothelial function in those with coronary heart disease.
L-Carnitine is a derivative of an amino group that the body produces naturally. It helps in breaking down fatty cells, supports the liver and kidney function in those with organ failure, and reduces weakness and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Taking L-Carnitine via amino acid injection helps improve the red blood count and markers of inflammation and anemia.
L-Citrulline is a nonessential amino that stimulates nitric oxide production and improves blood flow. It is used for a number of conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, sickle cell disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. When administered through intravenous infusion, L-Citrulline helps reduce inflammation and lowers oxidative stress.
Also a nonessential amino acid, L-Glutamine is a fuel source for the immune and intestinal cells. It is used to help recovery from chemotherapy, radiation, burns, injuries, and surgery. L-Glutamine can be administered intravenously to speed recovery after surgery, boost metabolism, and improve gastrointestinal health. It is also used in cellular detox therapies and helps improve focus and memory.
L-Lysine is an amino acid that aids the synthesis of collagen, facilitates calcium absorption, and supports muscle turnover. People with L-Lysine deficiency experience symptoms such as loss of appetite, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and anemia.
Studies indicate that taking L-Lysine aids muscle tissue recovery prevents bone loss, and improves the healing of cold sores. When administered through an IV drip, L-Lysine promotes collagen synthesis, facilitates calcium and zinc absorption, improves immune function, and prevents bone loss and osteoporosis.
L-Ornithine plays a role in the excretion of excess nitrogen and is the precursor of amino acids such as arginine and citrulline. Given into a vein in an IV drip, it helps improve muscle protein synthesis and liver function.
When to Consider IV Amino Acid Therapy?
Patients with a broad range of conditions benefit from amino acid therapy, including depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, sarcopenia or loss of muscle tissue, insomnia, and loss of memory. IV therapy is effective in alleviating the symptoms of all these conditions because amino acids support the brain’s neurotransmitters. Amino acid IV therapy is also beneficial for anyone whose consumption of animal protein is limited.
Major benefits of amino IV therapy are improved metabolism of body fats, improved oxygen transfer, and muscle and nervous system regulation.
Amino acid therapy also helps reduce oxidative damage, regulates blood pressure, reduces allergic response, and improves the utilization of iron and oxygen transfer in the blood circulation.
Final Thoughts on IV Therapy & Amino Acid Treatment
No matter your body type or level of activity, keeping a steady supply of amino acids can support optimal health. Those who find themselves regularly feeling exhausted or experience reduced physical performance from their daily routine should consider trying amino acid IV treatments.
Remember, it’s always important to take a comprehensive and integrative approach when considering advanced nutrient replacement. That means partnering with certified integrative and functional medicine specialists who utilize advanced diagnostic testing to customize your infusions so you always achieve safe and effective results.
To Life Enhanced,
Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA