(Actress Margot Kidder, well-known for her extensive screen career, including her performance as Lois Lane in Superman, has been a powerful spokesperson for alternative mental health treatments after a personal recovery from mood swings that are commonly referred to as bipolar disorder. Ms. Kidder sent AlternativeMentalHealth.com the following information, based on her successful experience with nutrient therapy.)
In discussing remedies for manic depression, the amino acids tryptohphan, L-taurine and GABA should be recommended right off the bat. (Note: The dosages I take are listed at the end of this article.)
GABA, or gamma amino buytric acid, is depleted in both the manic and depressed states, as is serotonin. L-tryptophan is the main precursor to serotonin, so if you take tryptophan, along with B6, B12, C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc necessary for it to metabolize first into 5HTP and then into serotonin, you don’t need to take those potentially damaging drugs called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s).
Some people, whether because of a genetic defect, or damage to neuroreceptors, or poor circulation, or because of food sensitivities (wheat and dairy in particular) which have screwed up the ability of their small intestines to absorb nutrients from food, aren’t able to access or absorb tryptohan properly. So the amount needed to be ingested can vary wildly from person to person. This is true with all the amino acids. Tryptophan should not be taken concurrently with an SSRI.
GABA is available in most health food stores and is an amino acid that is in itself a neurotransmitter that is a specific inhibitor of dopamine and norepinephrine. It metabolizes more easily if it is taken with inositol and niacinimide (B3). It’s also a proven antidepressant. Many of the anti-convulsants now regularly given to manic-depressives try and mimic GABA. Obviously they can’t be the same as GABA as its against the law to patent a naturally-occurring substance, and as a result, their side effects for many people are appalling.
L-Taurine counters the “up” effects of dopamine and norepinephrine by helping stabilize the excitability of the membranes in the nervous system. It’s both a neuroinhibitor and a neurotransmitter. It suppresses the releases for excitory neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. It is a non-essential amino acid in that it is made in the body, but many bodies can’t manufacture enough of the stuff to satisfy its own needs. Its basic function is to help get sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium ions in and out of cells and thus stabilize electrically the cell membranes. And we all know how important calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are for manic-depressives! Its extremely helpful in controlling seizures and seeing as so many of the drugs given for mania are anti-seizure medications, it is obvious that Taurine is the healthier option as it is an ortho-molecule (natural), not a man made synthetic that your body recognizes as somewhat poisonous (thus the side effects). According to a couple of articles I read in the New England Journal of Medicine, its been found to be depleted in many manic-depressives. As was, apparently, L-tyrosine.
Tyrosine is a precursor to both dopamine and norepinephrine and it transmits nerve impulses to the brain. It is thus a strong anti-depressant and an excitant and should not be taken by anyone experiencing anything close to hypomania or mania, or by people who are “rapid cyclers.” It is synthesized from phenylalanine, which is an essential amino acid, meaning the body doesn’t make it and it must be ingested in some way. (Wild game has 3 to five times more of this amino acid than does domesticated beef!) It needs B6, C, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and zinc in order to be metabolized into norepinephrine and dopamine. It should be taken in the morning to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with sleep, just as GABA, Taurine, and tryptophan should be taken in the evenings to aid sleep.
The amino acid balance in the body/mind is an essential component of mental health and it’s imperative that people understand this.
Important: Get Enough Sun!
People should also try to get at least an hour in the sun every day in order to help stabilize their circadian rhythms.
My Nutrition Regimen
I have found the following regimen to work for me:
1000 mg of L-Tyrosine
500 mg of L-Glutamine
(Note: Glutamine is a stimulant and can trigger mania, so is only used if a stimulant is needed.)
500 mg combination of choline and inositol
Nature’s Life soft gelatin multiple vitamin (it digests better than pills and has extra B vitamins. This provides the nutrients the amino acids need to work)
500 – 1000 mg of L-Taurine
500 mg GABA (if a little hyper, can take 1000-2000 mg)
1000 mg L-tryptophan (doctor’s prescription needed)
Nature’s Life soft gelatin multiple vitamin