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L-Tyrosine For Anxiety: Why it Works and How to Take It

Posted by Nicholas Chow on

What is L-Tyrosine?

L-Tyrosine is one of the most important amino acids in the body, which is made from another amino acid called phenylalanine.  L-tyrosine is the amino acid that works to synthesise the structures of proteins. Other amino acids do this too, as body builders will tell you.  However, L-tyrosine is one of the most important amino acids because it is used in the production of neuro-transmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. These are crucial for communicating messages from nerves and influencing mood.  It also influences melanin in the skin, which gives us our skin pigmentation.  It is also influential in regulating the hormones emitted from the adrenal gland, the thyroid gland and the pituitary gland.

These chemicals balance our body and mind and therefore they are so important. L-tyrosine is found in dairy, meat and eggs.  However, to produce L-tyrosine you also need adequate iron, which can be found in beef, seafood, beans and green leafy vegetables.  It is rare to be deficient in L-tyrosine but if you are, it could explain why you are struggling with anxiety and suffering with low mood. Low levels are often associated with low blood pressure, low body temperature and an under-active thyroid.

Why does L-tyrosine work to lessen the effects of anxiety?

L-tyrosine is part of the biochemistry that produces the stress neurotransmitters of epinephrine and norepinephrine.  When the body is under stress it is thought that the body is unable to produce enough tyrosine and phenylamine, which then feeds into the anxiety caused by the initial stress.  Animal and human studies suggest that supplementing with L-tyrosine could therefore reduce anxiety, as well as improve memory and performance when under psychological stress.  If we can perform well under this stress, then we are more likely to overcome the adversity or grab the opportunity we are trying to attain.

This stress does not have to come from a single incident.  The damage to tyrosine production could come from experiencing sustained pressure over a long period.  This means that the body can slowly deplete its reserves of tyrosine and therefore become susceptible to depression, mood disorders, Parkinson’s disease and some cases of Alzheimer’s disease. 

The importance of tyrosine is also important to the production of dopamine, which is our happy hormone.  This means that with a tyrosine deficit an individual will also experience a reduced amount of dopamine and therefore impact on our level of happiness.  Low dopamine levels are also thought to be the cause of social anxiety.  This anxiety is not just nervousness at new situations but a phobia of entering the world on any level.  Therefore, individuals reported that supplementing with L-tyrosine could combat social anxiety.

Who supports the use of L-Tyrosine as a supplement?

Medical researchers have found that taking L-Tyrosine can sharpen memory.  Therefore, there are studies to show that the supplement has impact on the neurotransmitters.  Other clinical trials showed that it could protect the nerves from toxins.  More importantly, the supplement was found to cross the blood brain barrier – therefore taking a supplement could indeed have an impact on the brain, as well as the body.

At present, there is little research to support the anti-depressive effects of L-tyrosine.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the supplement impacts the mind and body by working as a sedative.  This makes resting easier, which is exactly what becomes difficult when anxiety grows too intense.  Scientists are happier to support the claim that L-tyrosine is a good supplement to help with temporary stresses such as the loss of loved ones, death of a close companion or prolonged work with little rest.

There are few clinical trials to support that eating tyrosine rich foods will supplement the body’s levels of the amino acid.  Therefore, this suggests that the supplement L-tyrosine would need to be taken to certain the stabilising effects on the mind and the body.

When and how should I take L-tyrosine?

You need to do a lot of research into the appropriate dosage for you, which may require a conversation with a doctor.  Most studies suggest that L-tyrosine should be taken at doses between 200mg and 5000mg.  The best advice is to start at a lower dose and slowly increase to the higher dose, taking care to understand how the body is reacting to the supplement.

You can take L-tyrosine with or without food but it is more effective if taken for carbohydrates.  It can, however, interfere with sleep patterns.  Therefore, it is better taken in the morning or early afternoon – therefore, taking it with breakfast or lunch would be best.

As L-tyrosine is an amino acid that the body naturally produces, the supplement is well tolerated by the body.  This means that the side effects are rare.  Taking a dose too high too quickly could cause headaches, nausea and insomnia.  So, even though some people who suffer with extreme social anxiety take up to 5mg a day, this is after incrementally increased doses.

Overall

There is nothing worse that anxiety.  It can freeze, paralyse people and stop them from living the life that they deserve.  Therefore, if there is a means of supplementing the brain’s natural functions, it seems sensible to give this a try.  The lack of side effects must be a huge bonus.  The side effects of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds can be significant and be debilitating in themselves.  This means that the risk can often overtake the reward.  So, a more natural supplement could have the answer that people need.

Our brain is a complex balance of chemicals.  L-tyrosine is crucial for the production of neurotransmitters and hormones central to our happiness and our ability to rest.  Therefore, it makes sense to supplement its production.  If scientists are to be believed, the amino acid cannot be supplemented through the eating of food rich in tyrosine, even if supported with the eating of foods that contain iron.  Thus, the answer for people with severe anxiety could be found at the local supplements store!


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