Understanding Amino Acids

Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein. They perform many important functions such as: building cells, protecting the body from viruses or bacteria, repairing damaged tissue and carrying oxygen throughout the body.

There are two kinds of amino acids: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that can't be produced in the body, so you get these from foods or supplements. The eight essential amino acids include:

  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
  • Serine

Some of these essential amino acids can be found in wheat, corn, beans, rice, beef and whey.

Non-essential amino acids are those that are produced within the human body. These include:

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Tyrosine
  • Arginine
  • Histidine

The essential amino acids are those that are necessary for good health but cannot be synthesized by the body and so must be found in diet.

There are eight amino acids generally considered essential for humans, including tryptophan, which is necessary for the body to create the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. All essential amino acids can be found in vegetables, although care is needed to ensure proper levels in a strict vegetarian diet.

Amino acids are compounds that combine to form protein. When proteins are digested, amino acids are left. They are the raw materials used to make neurotransmitters and other substances.

Amino acids are classified as either "essential" amino acids (which must be consumed in the diet), or "nonessential" amino acids (which can be made by the body from the essential amino acids). The Amino Acids Analysis uses a blood or urine sample to assess the levels of 40 amino acids. It provides the most precise measurement of the "essential" amino acids, the ones we cannot make in our bodies and must get from nutritional sources.

Health conditions it's used to assess

The Amino Acids Analysis is used for chronic fatigue, assessing the risk of heart disease, depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inflammation, and neurological disorders.

What's involved

The Amino Acids Analysis uses a 24-hour urine collection to identify and measure 40+ amino acids. A blood test can also be done.

How can I get this test done?

Talk to your health care professional about your symptoms and ask if this test would be useful for you. It can be done through: Genova Laboratory



Amino acids – and thereby proteins – are critical to healthy brain function. Arginine, histidine, tyrosine, and tryptophan are synthesized by the brain to (among other things) balance various neurotransmitters (i.e. dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine). Maintaining healthy balances of these chemicals helps promote normalized cognitive abilities, particularly during periods of environmental and psychological distress.


To eliminate harmful toxins, our body relies on a healthy and functioning liver. Amines such as arginine, ornithine, and glutamine helps to stimulate detoxification actions of the liver – eradicating toxins that threaten our overall health. These amines also help to promote the expedited healing of wounds.

(Important side note: overconsumption of amines can result in excessive production of liver enzymes – an inadvertency that can result in liver damage. When undergoing any detox regimen, it is recommended to seek the advice of a licensed medical professional.)


Often times, mood swings result from too much stress and not enough recovery time. This happens most often when we perform demanding work, and process streams of information, without allocating proper time for rest or sleep.

While this may sound oversimplified (and obvious!), it turns out that deficient amino acid levels may exacerbate such mood swing episodes.

Conversely, carnitine and other amines may help provide some balance to a brain that is often out of sync – a common byproduct of internal and external stressors. For example, GABA – an amino acid and ultra-popular supplement – inhibits erratic neurotransmitter activity in the brain. The result? Feelings of sedation and well-being.


Certain amino acids help to promote sleep by counteracting the cellular toxin ammonia. Ammonia stunts cellular energy production, and is formed by the breakdown of proteins. Sleeplessness can result when this breakdown mechanism adversely impacts certain cognitive functions, disrupting our internal sleep/wake cycle.

The amines arginine, glutamine, and ornithine have properties that can assist the body in eliminating ammonia, which may improve sleep quality.


The amino acid glutamine is considered among the most important amino acids. Experiments have demonstrated drastic reductions of glutamine levels during periods of physical and/or mental episodes of tension, strain and stress. Physiologically, ingestion or supplementation of glutamine stabilizes cells of the immune and gastrointestinal systems. This effect strengthens the body’s defense mechanisms, helping to prevent and counteract various symptoms of stress.


Considering that amino acids are foundational components of protein, this benefit comes as no real surprise. In addition to promoting muscle growth, amino acids suppress mechanisms that cause muscle tissue deterioration.

One notable amino acid, glycine, has even been shown to help maintain muscle mass in the later stages of life. When satisfactory levels of amino acids penetrate the muscles, overall endurance, strength, and other performance capabilities often improve. This is the primary reason why athletes (e.g. bodybuilders) prioritize the consumption of amino acids.


Ah, yes…we can see your eyes getting extra wide now. And it’s very true: regular, adequate ingestion of amino acids can slow the aging process.

The reasons for this are mostly cumulative in nature, and here’s why. As mentioned, amino acids play an important role in preventing or countering the effects of stress; which in turn produces a myriad of benefits: sharper cognition, healthier skin, more defined muscles, better sleep, improved mood, etc. etc.

Additionally, amino acids strengthen the immune and digestive systems. As a result, we’re able to ward off potentially-harmful health conditions – many of which indirectly age us, both in mind and body.


There are plenty of foods that are high in amino acids. Odds are you can find something on this list that satisfies your palette.

Here are a few:

  • Plant based sources: tofu, quinoa, soy, and soybeans. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is also a great product for this.
  • Lean meat: ham, pork, and beef.
  • Poultry and seafood: chicken, turkey breast, halibut, cod, tilapia, flounder, and perch.
  • Eggs and low-fat dairy products.

Source: Power of Positivity