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Natural Energizers: A Better Boost

Rhodiola
How it works: Adaptogen; stabilizes adrenal hormones; promotes serotonin production.

Positive effects: Improves concentration, stress resistance, physical performance, and mood; boosts immunity.

Cautions: None.

Dosage: 100 mg of standardized extract two to three times daily with meals.

Stimulating Amino Acids: Liven Up Your Brain
Certain amino acids are essential for brain function because they provide the building blocks (precursors) for neurotransmitters and hormones. Essential, too, are the vitamin and mineral cofactors needed to convert the amino acids into neurotransmitters. The key brain-stimulating amino acids are phenylalanine and tyrosine, which enhance all of the following: mood, energy, sexual interest, mental performance, and memory.

Since amino acids are found in high-protein foods, including meat, fish, and eggs, you might think that the way to increase your amino-acid levels would be just to eat more of these foods. However, each protein supplies a different combination of amino acids. People who have specific amino-acid deficiencies or increased needs due to prolonged stress, for instance, will require more specific supplementation.

For the best results, follow the instructions below for each of the amino acids. Since certain amino acids compete with others for transport into the brain, they are best taken separately from each other, and away from other proteins, as well. On the other hand, practicality reigns, and it's better to take them together than not at all.

Phenylalanine: Natural Caffeine
Found in meats, wheat germ, dairy products, granola, chocolate, and oatmeal, phenylalanine is an essential amino acid. It is converted by the body into tyrosine, which in turn is converted into the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. It acts like natural caffeine but without the downside.

Phenylalanine becomes depleted in cases of chronic stress and burnout, as well as by overuse of stimulant drugs such as cocaine, speed, and nicotine. It helps alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, since it restores normal brain chemistry.

If you are low in phenylalanine or tyrosine, you may feel tired and slow and have trouble concentrating. You may also find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. A dose of either amino acid can help get you mobilized.

Supplements of phenylalanine are available in three different forms: DL-phenylalanine (DLPA), D-phenylalanine, and L-phenylalanine. The D- and DL-forms have been proven to act as natural painkillers. They enhance the action of endorphins and enkephalins, the natural opiates that reduce pain and produce feelings of well-being, even euphoria. Although some effect is felt within days, the full effect takes a few weeks to build up.

L-phenylalanine combines with vitamin B6 to produce phenethylamine, the stimulating "love drug" that we find in chocolate. One study from 1986 showed that thirty-one of forty depressed patients with low levels of phenythylamine responded well to large doses of L phenylalanine (up to 14 g a day), making it a very acceptable antidepressant (and, by extension, an antidote for chocolate cravings). In a double-blind study reported in 1979, DLPA (150-200 mg a day) or the antidepressant imipramine was administered to forty depressed patients (twenty in each group) for one month. Both groups had the same positive result, with no statistical difference found between the two groups using both objective and subjective tests.

Taking too much L-phenylalanine or DLPA can lead to overstimulation, resulting in anxiety, insomnia, and hypertension (elevated blood pressure). If this happens, you should then lower the dose, and if symptoms persist, stop taking it altogether. Overall, the best form to use is DLPA, since it is the most comprehensive and least expensive.

The effective dose is usually 500-1,000 mg of DLPA on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Since everyone has different needs, it's better to start with about half the contents of a 500-mg capsule, taken alone. For quick absorption, open the capsule and put the powder under your tongue. Watch your energy and mood go up. If necessary, you can repeat your dose twice more – mid-morning and mid-afternoon, but not too close to bedtime. You will also need 25-50 mg of vitamin B6 and 500 mg of vitamin C daily to enhance its conversion to tyrosine.

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From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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