Over 16-million people suffer from major depression, and one person in every three suffers from insomnia. Both of these conditions affect your brain and consequently your mood during the day. While both conditions are complex, a simple, non-pharmaceutical solution shows promising results. Studies report improved mood, sleep, and intestinal health with high dietary and supplemental L-glycine. Could it be the missing piece for your mood?
WHAT IS GLYCINE?
Amino acids are the building blocks of human bodies. They form the proteins in your muscles and tissues. Essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet, while nonessential amino acids can be produced by your liver. As a nonessential amino acid, your body is designed to manufacture glycine, although making enough for your individual needs is often a concern.
Glycine is the most abundant amino acid found in your body after glutamine. Most tissues of your body contain it and it contributes to the collagen that gives structure to skin, joint tissue, and muscles. Collagen is also an important building block for your intestinal lining. Without a healthy intestinal lining to contain potential antigens, it is only a matter of time before food allergies, food sensitivities, or leaky-gut syndrome begin to torment you.
Deficient glycine production leaves you unable to keep up with your body’s collagen needs. Low collagen production is linked to intestinal inflammation. Since the majority of immune cells reside in your small intestine, this inflammation starts a cascade in which immune cells become activated, leading to systemic immune response and dysfunction. As you can see, glycine deficiency pushes over the first domino that triggers dysfunction in a multitude of your body’s systems.
High-protein foods (animal proteins) are high in glycine. As previously mentioned, the connective tissues and skin of mammals are composed of glycine-rich collagen. Consequently, bone broth and gelatin are the best sources of dietary glycine. Traditionally cooked bone broth fell out of favor with American cooks and consumers more than a century ago. Researchers postulate that the modern diet is pitifully deficient in glycine and even suggest universal glycine supplementation. Luckily, a resurgence of interest in the health benefits and flavor of bone broth has occured. Perhaps renewed consumption of bone broth will curb the rise of leaky gut, insomnia, and depression. After bone broth, animal proteins are the best whole-food source of dietary glycine. Bone-broth protein or collagen protein powders are also excellent sources of dietary glycine. Therapeutic doses of glycine require glycine-powder supplements.
BENEFITS OF SUPPLEMENTATION
Oral glycine supplements are usually offered as a powder that is white and somewhat sweet. Dipping your finger into the powder and allowing the glycine to dissolve under your tongue provides a boost for your mood whenever you need it. Just a dash of glycine can alleviate sudden anxiety or spinning thoughts.
The resulting serotonin release in the prefrontal cortex from oral supplementation alleviates both insomnia and depression. Studies on glycine illustrate improved REM sleep and mood in patients with insomnia. Interestingly, patients with insomnia reported a better mood and improved clarity independent of the quality of their sleep.
HOW DOES GLYCINE HELP YOU SLEEP?
Glycine supplements have several mechanisms of action that may contribute to improved sleep. Humans require a lower core body temperature to support successful sleep cycles. Sleeping in a cool room is an important step for insomniac patients. Glycine supplementation was found to lower core body temperature in study participants. Another study attributed glycine’s success with insomnia to increased REM (rapid eye movement) during sleep cycles.
Poor sleep is a symptom of and contributor to major depression. No conclusive blood test exists for diagnosing major depression. However, one study showed low glycine levels in patients with major depression. Oral glycine supplements increase serotonin release in the prefrontal cortex, which can mediate depressive symptoms.
In addition, many promising studies support the use of glycine for addictive behaviors such as alcoholism and cocaine addiction. The suggested dose for insomnia is 3 grams of oral glycine at bedtime. Much higher doses were used in studies for addiction and schizophrenia.
The human body requires about 10 grams of glycine per day, with the liver responsible for its production. The body uses glycine to repair and produce new collagen for skin, intestinal cells, and joints. Additionally, the liver uses glycine as part of the detoxification process. Clinical trials have revealed no adverse effects from oral glycine supplementation up to 50 grams a day. The risk of toxicity is extremely low and no adverse incidents have been reported.
A NUTRITIONIST’S ADVICE
As a functional nutritionist, my first advice is always to implement dietary blood-sugar control. Mood is heavily influenced by blood sugar or ketones (fat for fuel), providing energy for your brain. If the brain is not fueled by either source, it will not function well. However, many who rigidly apply a reasonable diet still suffer from mood disorders of various severity. Research on glycine indicates several mechanisms that relieve depressive symptoms and insomnia. Glycine may not be a long-established or popular remedy for these conditions, but research continues to generate more support. Glycine is a safe supplement even at very high doses and has proven its potential to stabilize mood and alleviate insomnia.
Carly Neubert, BA, NC, supplies clients with tools to reach their wellness goals. She has a wealth of information on many different eating plans and recipes to address stubborn weight issues and digestive problems. Visit her at healthyhabitsliving.com.