Chicken Recipes for Fatty Liver: Top 5 Tasty Meals

How does a poor diet lead to fatty liver disease, what foods make up a fatty liver diet, and what are some chicken recipes appropriate to eat if you’re concerned about fatty liver? Find out.

If you have a diagnosis of or are worried about developing fatty liver, the food you eat could make a life-saving difference. Outside of having a genetic predisposition or an underlying absorption condition like leaky gut syndrome, one of the leading causes of fatty liver disease is poor diet. By focusing on healthy weight loss and an improved diet, you can reverse fatty liver and restore your liver function to optimal levels. To that end, here are five of the tastiest chicken recipes for fatty liver to get your healthy meal planning starting.

What Is Fatty Liver?

Fatty liver could refer to two different types of liver disease: alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Each of them occurs when there’s an increased buildup of fat (triglycerides) in the liver. Here are the further distinctions.

  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease (alcoholic steatohepatitis): People who experience liver issues after long-term drinking to excess may develop alcoholic fatty liver disease. This condition often comes with chronic inflammation in the liver leading to liver damage, alcoholic hepatitis, scarring (cirrhosis), liver failure, and possible death.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): Fatty liver disease that does not develop due to heavy alcohol use falls into this category, including simple fatty liver (a buildup of fat in the organ that may or may not progress to disease), and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a disease that could lead to irreversible cirrhosis or life-threatening liver cancer.

To potentially reverse alcoholic fatty liver disease, the first order of business is to detox from alcohol. For non-alcoholic fatty liver, a fatty liver diet focused on liver health is your best medicine.

What Is the Fatty Liver Diet?

The fatty liver diet, much like any healthy diet, embraces whole foods like fruits and veggies, dietary proteins, and high-fiber foods like legumes (beans) and whole grains. It’s not unlike the Mediterranean diet plan, which prioritizes foods like cold-pressed olive oil and fish over refined vegetable oils and red meat. A quick rundown of foods that can improve fatty liver include:

  • Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli
  • Tofu and quinoa for low-fat plant protein
  • Fish like tuna, salmon, and trout that are high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds and walnuts for more omega-3 support and heart health
  • Low-fat dairy for the essential amino acids contained in whey protein
  • Whole grains like oats for the fiber content that aids weight loss and healthy digestion
  • Poultry products like chicken breast and eggs
  • Garlic and garlic powder for helping with body weight loss
  • Avocados, olives, and olive oil for healthy fats and certain phytochemicals that help fight liver damage
  • Beverages like coffee and green tea to help lower abnormal liver enzymes

Chicken Recipes for Fatty Liver: Top 5 Tasty Meals

Chicken Recipes for Fatty Liver: Top 5 Tasty Meals

If you’re looking for chicken recipes and meal plans that can contribute to a healthy liver, here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Easy Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts

Let’s start with a simple recipe from Olga at What’s In the Pan?: plain chicken breasts with just a few spices for flavoring that you can sauté right on your stovetop. Her recipe calls for  4 chicken breasts, half a cup of flour (try almond or coconut flour instead of refined white flour for optimal health), Italian seasoning, onion powder, and garlic powder. That plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and all prepared in just a few tablespoons of rich olive oil. It’s a fried food that won’t damage your health, but instead promotes it.

At a total time of 15 minutes, you can have this clean chicken recipe ready for dinner tonight, and serve healthy food to the whole family.

2. Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowl with Broccoli and Tomato

This healthy recipe from Heidi at FoodieCrush combines boneless, skinless chicken with spices including minced garlic, dried oregano, and freshly ground black pepper. Tossed in are fatty liver diet-approved additions like roasted tomatoes, broccoli, and crumbled feta cheese, all in a protein-rich bowl of the pseudocereal quinoa.

You almost couldn’t fit more nutritious whole foods in one bowl: marinate the chicken, simmer the veggies in olive oil, and mix it all together for a powerful, filling meal to fuel your body.

3. Creamy Garlic Chicken

Shelly at Cookies & Cups provides a rich, seemingly decadent, flavorful dish with chicken in a creamy garlic sauce. Seasoned with smashed garlic, garlic powder, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, and topped by a sauce made with chicken broth, heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, and flour for thickening.

Full of healthy ingredients that contribute vital nutrients to your liver, this recipe would make a hardy wintertime dish to serve warm and garnish with parsley.

4. Chicken and Black Bean Salad

Liz at The Lemon Bowl has another nutritionally dense recipe perfect for a fatty liver diet. Shredded chicken is mixed in with dark, leafy greens full of vitamins, beans that are excellent for stabilizing blood sugar levels while you digest, and fresh veggies like cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro. Prep your chicken in advance or buy a lean rotisserie from the grocery store so you can prepare this meal in as little time as it takes to prepare the beans and stir your salad bowl. Just add lime juice, garlic, and cumin for zest!

This recipe makes for an excellent portable lunch: food in one container and sauce in the other. Just combine when hungry.

5. Creamy Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas

For those who want to be healthy while saving money, Beth at Budget Bytes has a simple recipe (costs included) for a chicken and spinach quesadilla spiced with cumin, chili, and garlic powder, and held together by melty Monterey jack cheese. With some light sour cream and a healthy tortilla, you can layer together this quick bite to eat without breaking the bank.

Other Supplemental Foods for Fatty Liver

Other dietary supplements you can consume to reduce symptoms of fatty liver and promote detoxification include:

  • Milk thistle: An herbal remedy with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antifibrotic (meaning it reduces scar tissue formation) abilities, milk thistle has been used medicinally to help treat chronic liver conditions.
  • Turmeric and black pepper: Turmeric’s active ingredient curcumin has been shown time and again in clinical trials to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Black pepper contains piperine, which helps boost curcumin’s bioavailability and absorption by up to 2,000%.
  • Amino acids: The reason protein foods like chicken, fish, and quinoa are important when recovering liver health is because they contain amino acids, the building blocks of protein and the source for many vital hormones and enzymes needed for detoxification and beyond. Amino acids are necessary for tissue repair.

Just be sure to seek medical advice before adding liver cleansing supplements of any kind, especially if you’re already on prescribed medications.

You’re No Chicken

The most amazing quality of the liver is that it can heal and recover from damage in ways other organs, like your heart and kidneys, cannot. Lifestyle changes and a balanced, whole foods diet can literally cure what ails you, so long as you’re brave enough to make those changes and stick to them.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Fatty Liver: Is It a Safe Detox Solution?

According to proponents, regularly flushing your system with apple cider vinegar can improve your digestion, boost your immune system, and aid in the detoxification work of your liver and kidneys. Some go so far as to say that, when consumed daily, apple cider vinegar can help prevent or reverse fatty liver disease. Let’s see what the science says.

If you’re looking for natural remedies to help detox your liver and support liver function, you may have come across the idea of using apple cider vinegar for fatty liver disease treatment and prevention. Is there any hard science behind this? Are there better natural supplemental treatments out there? Are there real health benefits to a liver flush diet? We have the answers.

What Is an Apple Cider Vinegar Detox?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is, naturally, vinegar made from apple cider. Those who use it as a detox supplement claim consuming apple cider vinegar daily (to help suppress appetite), or over the course of a dedicated detox regimen, helps them lose weight, regulates their blood sugar, and detoxes the body, including the liver. But does this home remedy actually help with health issues like insulin resistance or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease? Let’s find out.

What Is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can develop due to genetic predisposition, underlying conditions like leaky gut syndrome, and avoidable lifestyle causes such as poor diet and inactivity. Obesity, high cholesterol levels, and other metabolic disorders are risk factors for an increased likelihood of NAFLD, which involves triglyceride (fat) deposits building up in the liver, interrupting liver function, and sometimes causing irreversible scarring that could lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and death. Liver health is vital for a long and productive life, and some proponents wholeheartedly believe apple cider vinegar can help prevent or reverse fatty liver damage.

What is an Apple Cider Vinegar Detox?

Apple Cider Vinegar for Fatty Liver and More

According to proponents of the practice, regularly flushing your system with apple cider vinegar can improve your digestion, boost your immune system, and aid in the detoxification work of your liver and kidneys, but what does the science say?

1. Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels

A Japanese study from 2009 tracked the triglyceride and cholesterol levels of animals consuming vinegar, and after 4 weeks found that their triglyceride levels had gone down.

Triglycerides are fats formed from glycerol (a sugar byproduct), which is why diets high in carbs and sugar often lead not only to type 2 diabetes but also to fatty liver deposits. While this study is on animal models and may not have the same effect on humans, if apple cider vinegar helps control appetite and reduce weight (especially belly fat), it could also help lower triglyceride levels in the body, keeping them from clogging up the liver. A healthy diet could do the same, especially one like the ketogenic diet, which targets visceral fat around the organs.

Another study from Iran in 2012 found that apple cider vinegar may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, as well as total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in those who have high cholesterol in the first place (hyperlipidemia). This is a human study, and though on a small sample of people (19 participants), it is a more trustworthy indication that ACV may work as claimed.

2. Weight Loss

The above-linked study from Japan also found ACV to be effective for body weight loss in animals, and a human study (though older, from 2007), may shed some light on how apple cider vinegar could be effective for weight loss in people.

Ten participants with type 1 diabetes were split into two groups: half of the patients were given food (a pudding cup) with a cup of water, while the other half were given the same, plus 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar added to the water. Results showed that the apple cider vinegar group had a slower rate of gastric emptying, meaning it took longer for their food to transfer from their stomachs to their small intestines. In this way, apple cider vinegar may reduce appetite, which in turn decreases daily calorie consumption, which then may lead to weight loss.

3. Blood Sugar Control

Eating foods high in carbs causes blood sugar to spike when that sudden influx of sugar hits the bloodstream. Regular high blood sugar spikes can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

A 2004 study showed that less than 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar given alongside a high-carb meal helped stabilize blood sugar (glucose) levels across three distinct groups: diabetic, pre-diabetic, and non-diabetic participants.

Another study from 2007 on people with type 2 diabetes found that apple cider vinegar taken alongside a bedtime snack also helped lower blood sugar levels the next morning. The scientists conducting the test suggested this was due to the effect of acetic acid in ACV, which slows down the rate at which carbs are processed into sugar.

How to Do an Apple Cider Vinegar Detox: Dosages and Possible Side Effects

If apple cider vinegar helps you lose weight and lower blood lipid levels, it may be worth a try when it comes to reversing a fatty liver diagnosis. The studies above use small amounts of ACV over limited periods of time, so it’s important to ask your doctor or another trusted health care professional for specific advice regarding how long you should take ACV. That being said, here are some general guidelines and precautionary measures if you want to try out an ACV detox yourself.

Apple Cider Detox Ingredients

Combine together the following, and consume it once a day alongside a meal for optimal benefits.

  • 1-2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (start with the smaller amount at first to avoid stomach upset)
  • 8 ounces of warm water
  • (Optional) 1-2 tablespoons of a sweetener or flavoring like maple syrup, lemon juice, honey, stevia, apple juice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, or ginger

You don’t necessarily have to drink apple cider vinegar to get the benefits. You can dress or sauté your food with it (as a salad dressing or meat or vegetable marinade), stir it into stews or soups, blend it into a healthy smoothie, or even spritz it on some popcorn.

You can add ACV to your diet indefinitely or only during dedicated detox times, but again, ask a health care professional for specific advice regarding your health, especially if you are on any prescribed medications.

Possible Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects

Cautions and Side Effects

Specific medications related to insulin or functioning as a diuretic may be interrupted by apple cider vinegar consumption.

If you’re drinking apple cider vinegar, use a straw to help it bypass your tooth enamel, as vinegar may erode the enamel faster. That is why it’s advised you mix it into a glass of water, and why it’s better to take ACV with food: taking it with a meal not only gives it an opportunity to protect your blood sugar from spiking, but the food also protects your teeth and your digestive tract from the acidic effect of vinegar.

Should you experience any discomfort or concerning side effects, cease consuming apple cider vinegar immediately and seek medical advice.

Other Natural Remedies for Fatty Liver

If apple cider vinegar works to improve your individual health, fantastic, but if it doesn’t work or if the side effects are too problematic or dangerous, there are other proven natural supplements that can aid liver detox.

  • Lemon: Easy enough to include in an ACV detox drink, lemons are full of the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps produce the liver enzyme glutathione, important for liver detox. The flavonoid eriocitrin found in lemon has also been proven to lower triglycerides and total cholesterol and repair fatty liver disease damage.
  • Milk thistle: Milk thistle contains silymarin, an antifibrotic that helps prevent liver scarring. It has been used to help treat viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and liver damage from poisonings. Milk thistle even helps promote liver regeneration according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
  • Amino acids: The essential amino acids are necessary not only for building new muscle, but for a thousand other important functions in the body, including liver health. They create the enzymes the liver needs to function, help reduce liver fat, and provide the building blocks for liver regeneration and repair.
  • Green tea: Full of flavonoids with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, green tea also has proven anti-diabetic effects. According to the Journal of Molecular Medicine, the catechins in green tea improve liver function specifically in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and improve their liver enzyme levels.
  • Turmeric: This vibrant spice contains curcumin, a phytochemical that can help ameliorate conditions like cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and cancer. Curcumin has also specifically helped reduce the symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Along with a fatty liver diet that helps support your vital organs and keeps toxins and unhealthy fats out of your system, these natural supplements can give you an extra boost, all without the side effects associated with apple cider vinegar like tooth decay or stomach damage.

Long Live the Liver

Nothing can replace healthy living when it comes to maintaining a healthy liver, but for extra support for your cholesterol, triglyceride, and insulin levels, natural supplements like apple cider vinegar and amino acids could help you recover liver function faster and stay stronger longer.

Is Keto Good for Fatty Liver? How the Right Diet Can Help Reverse Liver Disease

Is the ketogenic diet effective at preventing or even reversing fatty liver disease? Find out how a high-fat, low-carb diet can possibly restore your liver’s health, and which foods are scientifically proven to help.

The ketogenic diet was originally developed as a medicinal aid for children with epilepsy, and though it’s widely used these days as a weight-loss strategy, it still has practical applications in health care settings. What about in regards to the liver: is keto good for fatty liver? Can it prevent or even reverse fatty liver disease? We have the scientifically backed answers below.

The Keto Diet

First formulated to help treat epilepsy in children without the use of medications, the ketogenic diet restricts carb and sugar intake to 5% of your calories per day, with 75% of calories consumed devoted to healthy fats and the other 20% reserved for protein. Maintaining these macronutrient ratios triggers a secondary metabolism known as ketosis, which uses the ketones derived from dietary and body fat as fuel, rather than using the easy energy of sugar (glucose) from carbs.

Maintaining a steady state of ketosis can lead to rapid yet safe weight loss, and even has the added benefit of boosting mental performance, as ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide an alternative source of energy for the brain.

The Liver and the Impact of Fatty Liver Disease

Your liver is a large organ located within the right side of your ribcage. It’s also one of the hardest-working and most resilient organs you have.

Responsible for (among other things) amino acid processing, fatty acid breakdown, and glucose and fructose digestion, the liver also stores important nutrients for quick dispatch throughout the body and detoxifies your blood of any chemicals, poisons, alcohols, or medicines you ingest. Fatty liver and fatty liver disease interrupt these vital functions.

When more than 5% of your liver cells are composed of triglycerides (fats), you have hepatic steatosis, otherwise known as fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease can be caused by heavy alcohol use, known as alcoholic fatty liver disease, or by other lifestyle factors such as poor diet and exercise, which instigate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If caught soon enough, each of these conditions can be improved by lifestyle changes, including diet. So, is the keto diet an appropriate way to help heal your liver?

Is Keto Good for Fatty Liver Treatment?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progresses from hepatic steatosis to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), sometimes without showing symptoms enough to make you seek medical advice and get a diagnostic liver biopsy. The danger is that by the time the damage to your liver function is palpable, you may be too close to cirrhosis or end-stage liver failure to recover. Though this organ can heal in ways our hearts and brains cannot, chronic inflammation exacerbated by oxidative stress can lead to permanent scarring and irreversible liver damage.

A fatty liver diet help, but shouldn’t it be a low-fat diet instead of high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet such as the keto diet? Not necessarily.

While it’s true that excess fat buildup in the liver is the exact cause of fatty liver disease, the keto diet actually stimulates a fat-burning state of ketosis that can help remedy the condition without the need for medication. The keto diet also helps prevent other metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Here’s some proof from clinical trials.

1. Risk Factor Management

Some of the top causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, outside of having a genetic predisposition or an underlying cause like gut dysbiosis (aka “leaky gut syndrome”), are perfectly matched by a keto diet. Those include:

  • High carb and sugar intake: The non-nutritive calories found in refined sugar and highly processed carbohydrate foods can lead to NAFLD. The severe carbohydrate restriction demanded by keto directly improves both of these risk factors.
  • Visceral fat: This is fat that has collected around your viscera, or your vital organs, including the liver. Excess fat stored deep in the body not only crowds in on the normal function of your organs, but it also causes low-grade inflammation and is the kind of fat that is hardest to lose via exercise and normal diet. The fat-burning effects of keto will seek it out, leaving no stone unturned to find the fat needed to fuel your body when sugar is unavailable.
  • Insulin resistance: Fatty liver disease is associated with insulin resistance, which is why the two conditions are present simultaneously in as many as 80% of type 2 diabetes patients. Because the ketogenic diet restricts sugar intake, it helps increase insulin sensitivity in at-risk populations.

2. High-Quality Calories

The type of food we eat is just as important as the amount of food we eat. When it comes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, foods full of corn syrup, refined sugar, or processed carbs negatively impact our blood sugar levels and contribute directly to weight gain and ultimately fatty liver deposits.

One recent study on the effects of short-term carbohydrate overfeeding on long-term weight loss and liver fat in overweight adults found that over 3 weeks the addition of juice, candy, and sweetened beverages on top of a normal diet caused a 27% increase in liver fat, even while body fat went up only 2%.

When we consume excess carbs, the liver converts them into triglycerides in a process called “de novo lipogenesis,” which translates literally to “making new fat.” All that fat created and stored can eventually lead to NAFLD and other metabolic complications. By switching to the low-carb, low-sugar keto diet, you avoid one of the core risk factors for fatty liver disease.

3. Dietary Fat

It may seem counterintuitive that consuming a high-fat diet would lead to less fat in the liver, but studies show that not only does restricting sugar intake help improve metabolic health, but increasing healthy fats and protein helps achieve better weight loss than restricting overall calories.

This 2011 study comparing a low-calorie diet with a low-carb, non-calorie restricted diet found that the low-carb group had a 55% liver fat reduction vs. a 26% reduction in the low-fat group after only 2 weeks.

It isn’t the dietary fat itself that’s the problem. It’s how that fat is used and stored in the body. On a low-carb diet like keto, the body is trained to burn all the fat it can find for energy. That means less fat stored and more fat accessed from the places it’s been previously stored, which includes a reduction of liver fat.

Another study found that 14 adults with metabolic syndrome eating a Mediterranean keto diet of fatty fish, olive oil, eggs, meat, and cheese experienced significant liver fat reduction, with 3 adults completely reversing NAFLD. All 14 no longer met the standards of metabolic syndrome after 12 weeks. For some, keto may truly be the cure for fatty liver disease, meaning the liver damage is stopped, reversed, and never progresses to life-threatening conditions like liver cancer.

Is Keto Good for Fatty Liver Treatment?

Keto Foods for Fatty Liver Disease

Along with focusing on a liver flush diet, you can start filling up your fridge and pantry with these keto-approved foods that are particularly beneficial to those with or worried about NAFLD.

  • Polyphenol foods: Polyphenols are phytochemicals, the antioxidants found in plants. Those plant foods particularly high in polyphenols include tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, wine (in moderation), dark berries, green veggies, cocoa, coffee, and spices like cinnamon and turmeric.
  • Green tea: Speaking of polyphenols, green tea is full of catechins, a type of polyphenol that helps contribute to overall longevity, as in literally the more green tea you consume, the less likely you are to die prematurely.
  • Fatty fish: Fatty fish like anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have robust anti-inflammatory abilities and are often deficient in modern diets. We should have a nearly 1:1 ratio of omega-3s vs. omega-6s, but in the Western world we get so few omega-3s from fish, nuts, or seeds and so many omega-6s from refined vegetable oils, that ratio can be as skewed to 1:20 or 1:50.
  • Monounsaturated fatty foods: Foods like almonds, avocado, olives, olive oil, macadamia nuts, and peanuts contain monounsaturated fats that research shows have a protective effect on your liver health.
  • Whey protein: Derived from milk, whey protein helps increase levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps protect your liver cells from free radical damage. One study even shows that 20 grams of whey protein each day for NASH patients helped increase their glutathione levels and reduce their markers for oxidative stress and their liver fat levels.

Food for Your Liver

Fatty liver disease comes with insulin resistance and other markers of metabolic syndrome, and can lead to cirrhosis, NASH, and possibly liver cancer and death. Though the ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet, it works to train the body to burn and utilize fat rather than store it dangerously in vital organs like your liver. A low-carb keto diet and an active lifestyle can help halt liver disease, reverse it, and restore your liver health before it’s too late.

Milk Thistle for Fatty Liver Disease and More

Milk thistle, also known as bull thistle, holy thistle, lady’s thistle, silibinin, and silymarin, is an herbal remedy that’s held strong throughout the ages. Milk thistle for fatty liver, diabetes management, brain health, and more, including aiding cancer treatments and possibly preventing osteoporosis. 

Milk thistle, scientific name Silybum marianum, also known as bull thistle, holy thistle, lady’s thistle, silibinin, and silymarin, is an herbal remedy that’s held strong throughout the ages. Data shows that supplementing with milk thistle helps promote liver function and detox, causing many to wonder if it would be beneficial to use milk thistle for fatty liver disease. We have the details on milk thistle and the scientific findings behind its health benefits so you can see the connection for yourself.

What Is Milk Thistle?

From the Asteraceae or daisy family of plants, milk thistle is native to northern Africa, Asia, and Europe, but has since been naturalized in Australia and North and South America. It can grow as tall as 10 feet with big, prickly leaves, on which there are “milky veins.” Its sap is also milky in appearance. It produces gray and black mottled fruits that are used to make milk thistle extract.

The name has a biblical origin. It’s said that the milky veins of the plant came from a drop of the Virgin Mary’s breast milk as she hid among the prickly plants to nurse baby Jesus. The medicinal use of the plant is even older than that story, however, and it was first described in writing by Greek physician Dioscorides.

It has been used as a liver aid since that time, good for “carrying off the bile” according to Pliny the Elder, though it was also used to treat snakebites, jaundice, varicose veins, and kidney, spleen, and liver obstructions. When the leaves are de-spined, the plant can also be consumed as a vegetable, and its flower can be eaten much like an artichoke.

Health Benefits of Milk Thistle for Fatty Liver and More

Health Benefits of Milk Thistle for Fatty Liver and More

Researchers have tested milk thistle’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic effects, but it’s still best known for its ability to help manage liver disease, including alcoholic fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and viral hepatitis. Here are the scientific findings backing up the most impressive claims of this dietary supplement.

1. Liver Cell Protection

Liver conditions like fatty liver disease and chronic hepatitis can lead to liver cancer, liver failure, and even death if left untreated or if they progress too far. Even under a health care provider’s supervision, milk thistle is often used as a complementary therapy to improve liver health and function.

The effect of silymarin serves to guard liver cells against toxins and poisonings, protect against liver damage from inflammation caused by oxidative stress and free radicals, and increase the life expectancy of those with cirrhosis of the liver.

When it comes to a condition like fatty liver disease, taking milk thistle won’t necessarily reduce the risk factors of developing NAFLD or alcoholic liver disease (proper diet, healthy weight loss, and lifestyle changes are required for that), but it can help you recover from liver injury and live to see another day. Luckily the liver is unique among organs due to its ability to heal (the same cannot be said for damage done to the brain or the heart), so if milk thistle helps to bring you back from the brink, your liver may yet recover.

2. Blood Sugar Control

Aside from being a defender of the liver, milk thistle also helps manage type 2 diabetes. Milk thistle contains compounds that work much like diabetic medication to decrease blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.

One meta-analysis on silymarin found that people who routinely take the supplement have a significant reduction in HbA1c (an important measure of blood sugar control) and fasting blood sugar levels. Those results on top of milk thistle’s known anti-inflammatory abilities make it an asset to the body’s defense against damage from diabetes, including complications such as kidney disease.

3. Brain Health

Milk thistle has also positively impacted neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Unnecessary inflammation can exacerbate age-related mental decline, and not only has milk thistle been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, but those effects have specifically been studied on brain cells.

Animal studies of Alzheimer’s have shown that milk thistle helps reduce amyloid plaque formations in the brain, the buildup of which interrupts the communication between the brain’s nerve cells. Amyloid plaque buildup is one of the characteristic markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Bone Strength

The effects of milk thistle go bone-deep, specifically in helping to prevent osteoporosis. The progressive bone loss associated with osteoporosis causes skeletal fragility, making minor falls potentially life-threatening if they result in a fracture.

In both test tube and animal studies, milk thistle has been found to promote bone mineralization, an indication that it could help protect against bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women who are more prone to the condition. While human studies are not yet available to confirm these findings, it’s nevertheless a promising indication.

5. Boost Cancer Treatment

There are indications that the antioxidant effects of milk thistle include anti-cancer properties that could help those receiving treatment. Further studies show that milk thistle may help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatments and other cancer therapeutics, including cancer cachexia. It may even help make chemotherapy work more effectively to destroy certain cancer cells like prostate cancer and bladder cancer.

Milk Thistle: Dosing and Safety

Milk thistle dosage for fatty liver and other conditions may be safe up to 420 milligrams per day for up to 41 months according to clinical trials, but it’s always recommended that if you’re using milk thistle to treat or supplement a known medical condition, you should consult with a health care professional before adding anything to your diet that could interact with your medication. Contraindications include:

  • Anyone who is allergic to the Asteraceae or Compositae family of plants
  • Those with hormone-sensitive conditions like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and uterine, breast, or ovarian cancers
  • Individuals with GI disorders, as milk thistle may cause changes in bowel habits, stomach upset, flatulence, dyspepsia, or diarrhea
  • Pregnant women due to the lack of research done on this population
  • Diabetic patients should consult their doctor first, as milk thistle’s effect on blood sugar may lower it too much

While milk thistle is safe enough for human use in clinical trials, keep in mind that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not closely regulate dietary supplements. Again, ask a trusted health care professional if you have any questions about the safety of the milk thistle product you choose.

Milk Thistle: Dosing and Safety

Modern Uses for an Ancient Remedy

Milk thistle has been used medicinally for centuries, and today it can help prevent modern ailments and boost cutting-edge treatments for liver disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even cancer. Ask your doctor if milk thistle could help you recover and thrive.

The Top 5 Best Weight Gainer and Protein Supplements for Muscle Growth

What are the top five best weight gainers and protein supplements for muscle growth and workout support? Find out what it takes to build new muscle and bulk up as you work out.

In order to bulk up and build muscle you must be taking in optimum nutrition. Muscle mass cannot be created without the building blocks of protein (amino acids) and enough fuel for the energy that muscle creation requires. So if you’re on a journey to muscle building, make sure you take the best weight gainer and protein supplements along. What are they, you ask? We have the answers, backed by scientific research.

How to Build Muscle: The Basics

The formula for muscle growth is pretty simple: you gain muscle when the rate of muscle protein synthesis exceeds the rate of muscle protein breakdown.

To activate this formula, you must push your workout to demand new muscle creation, and then supply your body with enough muscle-building nutrients to meet that demand. That means extra energy and protein support before and after your workout, plus enough fuel to minimize muscle breakdown (catabolism) while you sleep.

If your body is lacking in any of the main ingredients needed for lean muscle creation, it will start harvesting other muscle cells for those supplies. It’s like tearing the plumbing out of your house to outfit a guest house: it doesn’t make sense, but what the body needs, it takes, regardless of logic.

But never fear. You don’t have to worry about stealing nutrients from your precious muscles as long as you have the right nutrient intake. Let’s find out the the best weight gainer and protein supplements for you.

The Top 5 Best Weight Gainer Supplements for Muscle Growth

The Top 5 Best Weight Gainer Supplements for Muscle Growth

While many people think they work out to lose weight, it would be more correct to say they’re working out to lose body fat. Muscle is denser than fat, so for those looking to become lean and strong and for those looking to bulk, the goal is actually to gain weight in the form of muscle mass, and there are high-quality protein and mass gainer supplements to help.

1. Milk Protein Supplements

It seems almost too obvious to mention, but you need protein to build muscle bulk. Muscle is made of protein, and study after study shows that protein supplements help exercising adults gain more muscle than those who don’t consume extra protein. These protein supplements specifically include whey protein (derived from the liquid part of milk) and casein supplements for exogenous amino acid support during wake and sleep.

When to take protein supplements, pre- or post-workout (or both), depends on the type of workout you’re doing. How much depends on your body composition and your bulking goals. As a macronutrient, protein should be between 10% and 35% of your daily calorie intake, and researchers suggest between 0.6 and 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day to support muscle growth (calculate your own serving size).

Along with whole food proteins, protein powder supplements like casein (derived from the solids of milk that make up cheese) and whey protein powder can help put your muscle gain over the top. Whey is fast-digesting and casein slow, so taking them together covers all the bases.

2. Creatine

Eating a high-protein diet is one thing, but for real gains in lean muscle mass and overall bulk weight, high-quality protein supplements maximize your muscle-building profits. Creatine is a protein supplement derived from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. It’s consumed naturally from animal meat and seafood and is one of the most popular supplements for muscle growth and bodybuilding.

Creatine has been widely studied and has proven results in increasing muscle mass, improving rapid energy production (important for workout endurance), and consistently enhancing performance and muscle gain.

Creatine monohydrate supplements have been shown over and over again to be safe and effective at anywhere between 20 grams per day as a loading dose (split into 4 servings) and 3-5 grams for indefinite maintenance of muscle mass.

3. Weight Gainers

What separates weight gainers from protein supplements isn’t a lack of protein—weight gainers are high in both protein and carbs—it’s that they’re specifically designed to be high-calorie supplements for those who have a hard time gaining weight no matter how much they eat. Weight gainers are essentially protein supplements plus concentrated carbohydrates and fats for extra energy and bulk.

Some of the most popular products include:

  • MuscleTech Mass Tech: With 840 calories per serving and 63 grams of protein from whey, casein, and creatine monohydrate, this product also adds the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for extra workout support. Flavors come in Chocolate, Vanilla, and Birthday Cake.
  • BSN True Mass 1200: The best mass gainers are those with a higher calorie count per serving, and this product delivers 1,200 calories per 310-gram serving. With 50 grams of protein, 213 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of fat, BSN True Mass 1200 flavors include Chocolate Milkshake, Strawberry Milkshake, and Cookies & Cream.
  • Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass: Even higher in calories with 1,250 per serving, this product has 50 grams of protein, 252 grams of carbs, and 4.5 grams of fat in flavors like Banana, Chocolate, and Chocolate Peanut Butter.
  • MusclePharm Combat XLThe calorie content is 1,270 per serving, with 50 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat, in Chocolate Peanut Putter, Chocolate Milk, and Vanilla flavors.
  • Dymatize Super Mass GainerHigher still in calories at 1,280 per serving, this mass gainer has 52 grams of protein from whey, casein, and eggs, plus 246 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat.

Easily ordered online via Amazon or directly from the manufacturers, these types of pro gainers provide a sort of universal nutrition profile, with protein for lean mass creation, complex carbohydrates for energy and bulk, and fats like MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) for healthy weight gain.

With so many options available, you can find products with animal proteins from grass-fed, cage-free sources, maltodextrin from non-GMO organic tapioca, and even gluten-free options with no artificial sweeteners for your weight gainer shakes.

4. Exercise Boosters

There’s almost no way to gain muscle without exercise, so optimizing your workout energy and performance is important. Here are a few supplements to boost your workout.

5. Essential Amino Acids

Speaking of amino acids, as we mentioned at the top of this article, there is no new muscle creation without amino acids, specifically the full host of all nine essential amino acids. While many protein supplements focus on the branched-chain aminos, BCAAs are only three out of the nine essential aminos, and if any one of the essentials is deficient, the body starts catabolizing other muscle molecules to get it.

While studies show that BCAAs are indeed critical for new muscle growth, so are the other six essential amino acids, and other studies have found that supplementing with the BCAAs on their own doesn’t show any preferential effects towards muscle building. You need a balanced EAA supplement to truly benefit new muscle growth and bulk.

Gain Muscle, Gain Weight

Alongside whole food protein sources, supplements designed for weight gain, workout support, and new muscle creation can go a long way towards setting you up for success as you work to bulk up. We here at AminoCo are proud to offer a product with all the essential muscle-building amino acids, along with other nutrients for muscle growth, liver health, detox support, and more, all to provide the fitness-minded with the best of everything.

What Is Percussive Massage Therapy and Who Does It Help?

Percussive massage therapy: used by world-class athletes and trainers, and available for personal use. What is a percussion massage and who would it benefit the most? Find out here.

The percussion massager: it’s a machine that looks not unlike a nail gun, and it’s used to rapidly pummel soft tissue. What is percussive massage therapy good for treating and who needs it the most? We have these answers and more, including the top three percussive massagers on the market.

What Is Percussive Massage Therapy?

Percussive massage guns are designed to penetrate deep into your soft tissues using rapid, concentrated blows. This massage technique promotes localized tissue repair, aids in pain relief, and essentially forces relaxation into tight or damaged muscles. Also known as vibration therapy, these power massagers are used in sports medicine and by chiropractors to treat sore muscle tissue, encourage blow flow, deter lactic acid buildup, and support muscle recovery.

Who Needs a Percussion Massage?

Most people will experience some benefit from a percussive massage, assuming they’re strong enough to absorb the force of the massage head. Beyond that, those who work out vigorously and those who are training for a sporting event or are amateur or professional athletes will find a percussive massage tool helpful for relieving soft tissue pain, improving range of motion, and preventing delayed onset muscle soreness. In fact, it’s even beneficial for those who are recovering from surgery.

Percussive Massage Therapy and Muscle Stimulation Benefits

Percussive massage devices are handheld motors with power dense foam balls that move back and forth between 30 and 40 times per second. These machines can help cut down on muscle pain in the following ways.

1. Warm-Up and Improved Athletic Performance

A percussive massager can help stimulate blood flow and improve blood circulation to your muscles before and after exercise or sport, helping you prevent injuries and reduce potential muscle soreness much the same way a stretch and warmup can.

These machines are used by world-class trainers to help condition professional athletes, sometimes even between breaks at events like the NBA Finals. Massagers can treat and even prevent cramping and fatigue, help stretch out the connective tissues, and improve muscle strength and recovery time.

2. Pain Relief and Muscle Rehab

Percussion massages help relieve muscle soreness so you feel less pain without having to resort to drugs. This is applicable when it comes to the small-scale healing after an intense workout and to the rehabilitation of your muscles after suffering serious injury or undergoing surgery.

Percussive massages not only speed the recovery process by stimulating robust circulation to the area, but also cause contractions in the muscle that help strengthen it, which is incredibly helpful for those who cannot take part in physical therapy and are at high risk of muscle atrophy.

3. Medical Aid

Above and beyond the benefits to your muscles, percussive therapy can also be used after surgery to help increase your lymphatic circulation and break down internal scar tissue. This helps speed up a patient’s recovery time by elongating muscle fibers, reducing muscle spasms, and preventing stiffness in their joints.

4. Post-Surgery Cosmetic Benefits

Just as percussive massage helps break down internal scar tissue, it can also help with breaking up externally visible scar tissue. Moreover, percussive massage therapy helps accelerate healing by reducing inflammation and increasing the circulation that helps prevent swelling.

5. Relaxation and Stress Relief

Along with all the physical benefits that come from percussive massage therapy, there are also benefits for mental health and emotional well-being. By improving oxygen’s circulation throughout the body and unkinking your muscles, percussion massages help reduce stress, promote relaxation, and stimulate the lymphatic functions that are part of your immune system and detox operations.

What Is Percussive Massage Therapy?

The Top Handheld Percussive Massagers

If you’re interested in owning your own percussive massager, here are some of the top sellers along with their key features.

1. TheraGun G2PRO

This professional-grade, battery-operated massager has an adjustable head for flexibility, offers 2,400 percussions per minute, and is strong enough to provide you with a deep-tissue massage. Downsides, however, include only one speed and a 20-minute max battery life, though it does come with two batteries in a carrying case that you can switch back and forth. The G3PRO model has 50% less noise than the G2PRO.

2. TimTam

The TimTam massage therapy device has a 90-degree articulating head for reaching different tissues of the body, a variety of head shapes, and offers 2,000 percussions per minute. The major downside is that it’s quite loud.

3. Hyperice Hypervolt

The laser-gun-looking Hypervolt, much like a foam roller, can be used for both stimulation and recovery. With three speed settings and four head attachments (ball, fork, flathead, and bullet), it has 3 hours of battery life, is quieter than the majority of massagers, and provides 3,200 percussions per minute. The only downside outside of its high cost is its non-adjustable head.

A Final Note of Caution

If you’re looking to use a percussive massager personally and outside of the guidance of a doctor or physiotherapist, there are some cautions to be aware of. Percussion therapy massagers are not recommended for use if you have any lumbar injuries, are pregnant, have any cardiovascular issues, are diabetic, or on blood-thinning medications. Just to be safe, ask your doctor or a trusted health care professional if you are fit enough for percussive massage.

Amino Acids for Brain Repair and Cognitive Function

Amino acids are the precursors to neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, vital for mood and mental health. Even more important, the branched-chain amino acids may be able to help heal the brain after traumatic injury. Find out how amino acids impact brain repair and health.

The neurotransmitters in our brains are responsible for our energy levels, our memories, our moods, our learning abilities, and more. If these neurotransmitters are out of balance, our brains can’t function and our well-being is compromised. A disorder of serotonin levels can lead to anxiety and depression, an insufficiency of dopamine can lead to feelings of sloth and anger, and without GABA to help calm us down, we’re susceptible to panic attacks and stress. Amino acids both act as neurotransmitters and help stabilize levels of neurotransmitters, making them a key nutritional therapy for brain and mental health. Researchers are also applying amino acid therapy to traumatic brain injury. Truly, amino acids play a crucial role in our brain functions and more, and this article details how dietary amino acids for brain repair can help balance our minds.

How Brain Chemistry Works

Our brain cells communicate through a web of synapses. Each nerve cell has pre- and post-synaptic receivers that can communicate with the other cells using chemical signal molecules. Those molecules are our neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters travel through the tiny gaps between cells like untethered astronauts floating from ship to ship in space.

When enough neurotransmitters attach to one cell, that cell relays the signal to the next cell, creating a chain reaction of communication. Once the neurotransmitters have delivered their message, other enzymes come in to clean them up so the nerve cell isn’t permanently activated. The neurotransmitters are either destroyed or reabsorbed, which is known as reuptake.

Balance is key to avoid brain and mood disorders. For example, SSRIs are serotonin reuptake inhibitors designed to interfere with excessive serotonin uptake, increasing its signal strength so that happiness is felt more acutely and depression is subdued.

Any impairment in this process, whether due to imbalance or injury, can interrupt the entire nervous system. Amino acids play a vital role in the neurotransmitter dance. Let’s find out how.

How Brain Chemistry Works

Amino Acids for Brain Repair

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body, making them crucial for creating and repairing muscle fiber. But they also work to synthesize the hormones we need for communication throughout the body, and they are the precursors to our most important neurotransmitters.

The aromatic amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine are the precursors for the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (a hormone that functions as a neurotransmitter and works to regulate blood pressure). The branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine have data indicating that they can help rebuild the brain after traumatic injury. Here’s how each of these amino acids helps to support cognitive function and brain activity.

The Aromatic Amino Acids and GABA

Tyrosine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, and GABA are crucial amino acids that may just help enhance neurochemical repairs and cognitive performance. Without the proper balance of aromatic amino acids, you may experience too low or too high levels of the following neurotransmitters.

1. Dopamine

Low levels of dopamine are associated with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that interrupts balance, movement, muscle control, and other important bodily functions. Too high levels of dopamine have been linked to schizophrenia.

Disruption of your dopamine levels can manifest as a lack of motivation, unexplained feelings of dread or hopelessness, isolating behavior, and apathy towards family and friends. Without the proper balance of amino acids, your dopamine levels may be out of order.

2. Serotonin

Known as the “happy hormone,” serotonin is closely linked to mood and emotion, and insufficient levels can be behind feelings of social anxiety and depression. Serotonin helps shape our perceptions of reality, so much so that most psychedelic drugs that alter those perceptions operate on serotonin pathways in the brain.

Without enough serotonin, people feel unhappy, restless, and can no longer enjoy things they once did. These feelings can be life-threatening, especially in teenagers, young adults, and those going through major life changes.

3. Norepinephrine

Low levels of norepinephrine are linked to depression, ADHD, and low blood pressure. In health care instances, norepinephrine is sometimes prescribed specifically to help treat low blood pressure, but as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter, norepinephrine plays a large role in cognitive function.

4. GABA

Gamma-amino butyric acid, abbreviated GABA, operates as a balance against norepinephrine, calming the nervous system when it’s time to rest or sleep. Without sufficient GABA, people experience panic disorders and symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, restless thoughts, and excessive worry.

Human studies show GABA treatment can help regulate anxiety, bringing balance back to an imbalanced brain. GABA can be consumed as a supplement and also synthesized within the body from the branched-chain amino acids.

The Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The balance of chemicals in an otherwise healthy brain is important enough, but our nine essential amino acids (of which the branched-chain amino acids are three) can also bring beneficial effects in instances of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cognitive impairment.

Penn Medicine News states, “Neurology researchers have shown that feeding amino acids to brain-injured animals restores their cognitive abilities and may set the stage for the first effective treatment for cognitive impairments suffered by people with traumatic brain injuries.”

What is beginning as clinical trials based on animal models of brain injury may some day help human patients with brain damage from TBIs restore their quality of life just by ingesting the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Many athletes and bodybuilders take BCAAs as part of their supplement regimen for protein synthesis and muscle building, but for those athletes who perform sports that involve potential head injuries, these branched-chain amino acids may come to be so much more valuable in the area of brain repair.

How to Avoid Brain Imbalance

You can’t predict or prevent a brain injury (outside of wearing a helmet when it’s appropriate), but you can help prevent chemical imbalances by taking care of your gut.

The essential amino acids are so-called because we must consume them from outside sources like our food or targeted amino acid supplements. By eating amino acid foods like meat and plant protein sources, we gain the amino acids we need, and not only do we absorb our aminos in the gut, but we also synthesize our neurotransmitters there too. Up to 90% of serotonin is made in the gut, so if your gut health is poor, your gut microbes imbalanced, or you have a malabsorption disorder like Crohn’s disease, you may be experiencing disturbances to your brain health.

Other than maintaining digestive health, ensuring that you consume a proper balance of all nine essential amino acids is imperative. In fact, our amino acids are so important to so many functions in the body that the experts here at AminoCo have designed scientifically balanced amino acid formulas targeted to help build muscle and enhance liver health, brain health, and more.

Amino Acids: Food for Thought

Amino acid neurotransmitters for proper brain functioning are essential, and new research shows that they may even help restore function after a traumatic brain injury. Stay tuned as science reveals more and more amazing applications for amino acids every day, for brain health and beyond.

What Does Science Tell Us About Amino Acids for Bipolar Disorder?

Nutrients necessary for the production of neurotransmitters—namely, amino acids—can help treat bipolar disorder and facilitate mental health and wellness. In fact, some individuals find that eating a diet high in amino-acid-loaded foods suffices as a treatment for bipolar disorder, major depression, and other mental illnesses. Others achieve more success by combining nutritional therapy with conventional medications like prescription mood stabilizers.

Mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, account for 4 out of the top 10 causes of medical disability in the United States, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Typically, treatment for these conditions centers on the use of antidepressants, antianxiolytics, and other prescription drugs. While these medications can bring immense relief for some patients, others find they do not fully alleviate their symptoms, or worse, that they cause severe, intolerable side effects. This can result in high rates of noncompliance with pharmaceutical-reliant treatment plans. The risk of both suicide and institutionalization are much higher in patients whose bipolar disorder cannot be successfully treated with prescription medications, making it a high priority to identify effective alternative treatments, such as amino acids for bipolar disorder.

Researchers have found that amino acid supplements can be a valuable nutritional treatment for bipolar disorder, as well as other mental disorders, because the body converts them to neurotransmitters which can produce beneficial changes to brain chemistry.

Before examining the use of amino acids for bipolar disorder specifically, we’ll cover some basic facts about amino acids and their connection to mental health.

What Are Amino Acids?

In the simplest technical terms, amino acids are organic compounds formed from an amino group (-NH2) and a carboxyl group (-COOH). Amino acids link together to form proteins, earning them the moniker “the building blocks for all life.”

Perhaps the most crucial distinction to understand in relation to the different types of amino acids found in the human body is the one between essential and nonessential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be independently synthesized by the body, meaning it’s essential that you get an adequate supply from your diet or from dietary supplements. Nonessential amino acids are every bit as essential to your health, however, the liver can manufacture them, meaning you don’t need to think too much about your intake of these amino acids.

Our bodies use amino acids to build the proteins necessary for developing and maintaining our bones, muscles, organs, skin, and hair. Amino acids also actively regulate our nervous systems.

How Amino Acids for Bipolar Disorder Work

The Link Between Amino Acids and Mental Health

The body uses several amino acids either as precursors for neurotransmitters or simply as neurotransmitters, and levels of those amino acids can have a significant, and beneficial, impact on mental health.

If you’d like to gain a more nuanced understanding of the role of neurotransmitters, this article could serve as an excellent entry point. For the moment, however, the key aspect to grasp about neurotransmitters is that they’re the chemical messengers your brain uses to communicate. Studies have shown that increases or decreases to the levels of specific neurotransmitters can cause symptoms of mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and others.

Given the immense importance of the brain, the body has evolved a multi-layered defense system to safeguard it. One component of that system is the blood-brain barrier, a highly sensitive, semi-permeable membrane that envelops the brain and controls which substances are allowed to pass from the bloodstream into the brain.

Trials done with animal subjects indicate that the use of a substantial dose of an amino acid that either acts as a precursor for a neurotransmitter or as a neurotransmitter results in increased levels of the corresponding neurotransmitter in the brain. This suggests amino acids have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly influence brain chemistry.

It’s important to note—and we’ll return to this idea later—that while an increased intake of specific amino acids correlates to higher levels of specific neurotransmitters, supplementing with a single amino acid will likely not generate the results you hope for. That’s because amino acids work synergistically, so your body must have a balanced supply of all 9 essential amino acids in order to fully utilize any of them, or of the 11 nonessential amino acids.

Prior to our analysis of findings to date on the use of amino acids for bipolar disorder, we want to ensure we’re all working from a shared definition of bipolar disorder.

Defining Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar affective disorder, commonly abbreviated to bipolar disorder, was historically referred as manic depression. It’s still sometimes referred to as bipolar depression. This psychiatric disorder is characterized by pronounced, sometimes intense, changes to mood, energy level, and ability to carry out daily tasks. Some patients experience frequent shifts from highs—acute mania—to lows—severe depression, while others may linger on one or the other end of the mood spectrum for longer periods of time.

Data collected by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows that around 4.4% of adults in the United States will experience bipolar disorder at one time or another over the course of his or her lifetime. Experts have found that individuals with bipolar disorder typically have biochemical abnormalities in their brains, including:

  • Hypersensitivity to acetylcholine
  • Elevated levels of vanadium
  • Anemia
  • Vitamin D deficiencies
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies
  • Taurine deficiencies

Scientists have found that the hypersensitivity to acetylcholine can cause both depression and mania, while high vanadium levels have been linked to mania, depression, and melancholy. According to a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, correcting underlying nutrient deficiencies can decrease manic symptoms and balance out mood swings.

How Amino Acids Influence Neurotransmitter Levels

Three amino acids have been clearly shown to contribute to the progression of bipolar disorder:

  • Tyrosine
  • Tryptophan
  • Taurine

Tyrosine acts as a precursor to dopamine while tryptophan serves as the precursor for serotonin. Low levels of either of those key neurotransmitters have been shown to contribute to a depressed mood as well as a lower aggression threshold.

A deficiency of taurine, an amino acid that acts directly on the brain, producing a calming effect, has also been linked to symptoms of bipolar disorder. Low taurine levels seem to increase the number of manic episodes experienced by a person with bipolar disorder.

Key Findings on Amino Acids for Bipolar Disorder

While the idea of using amino acids to treat bipolar disorder might sound wholly a part of the realm of natural, alternative, complementary medicine, the truth is, the benefits of the conventional prescription drugs used to treat bipolar disorder may stem from their effect on amino acid neurotransmitters.

According to a study published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, two common prescription drugs used to treat bipolar disorder—lithium and valproate—both cause changes to amino acid neurotransmitter concentrations in the brain that may be connected to their mechanisms of action.

In an article written for Psychology Today, Dr. James Lake, an expert in integrative mental health care, examined the use of amino acids to alleviate mood swings, manic episodes, and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. Dr. Lake highlights the benefits of one particular amino acid, L-tryptophan, which studies have shown to be highly promising. According to Lake, taking between 2 and 3 grams of L-tryptophan up to 3 times daily can relieve anxiety linked to manic episodes in bipolar patients.

Research to date has focused primarily on the addition of L-tryptophan to bipolar depression treatment plans involving the use of conventional mood stabilizers such as lithium and valproic acid. In addition to relieving anxiety, findings indicate a particularly beneficial effect on insomnia and sleep quality. Taking 2 grams of L-tryptophan at bedtime decreased agitation for manic patients, allowing for better sleep. No concerning adverse effects have been reported in connection with that protocol. For bipolar patients experiencing severe insomnia, doses as high as 15 grams may be required—however, such a high dose should only be used with close supervision by a psychiatrist, Lake states.

Other amino-acid related supplement studies show 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has promise for the treatment of bipolar disorder. The body produces 5-HTP from tryptophan. 5-HTP acts as a precursor to the production of the always important neurotransmitter serotonin as well as melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Researchers have found that, thanks to its ability to raise serotonin levels, 5-HTP can alleviate psychological and even physical manifestations of mental illness, such as:

It’s important to speak with a trusted medical expert prior to taking 5-HTP supplements, as their interaction with certain prescription drugs as well as other supplements used to treat bipolar disorder may result in adverse effects.

Methionine, a sulfur-containing essential amino acid, has also been shown to have benefits for the treatment of bipolar disorder. When ingested, it combines with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to generate S-adenosyl methionine (SAM-e), which has been investigated for its potential benefits relating to the treatment of depression, which is a component of bipolar disease. Per a randomized, double-blind clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical PsychiatrySAM-e can alleviate depression as well as the popular antidepressant escitalopram (sold under the brand name Lexapro).

It’s important to keep in mind that the actions of a single amino acid are intimately interlinked with the actions of all amino acids. For this reason, supplementing with a single amino acid may not be the best way to access the benefits you desire. For instance, as a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology touches on, the large neutral amino acids, a group that contains tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine, all compete against one another for the use of the same blood–brain barrier transporter. Because of this, taking supplemental tryptophan can decrease concentrations of tyrosine, which in turn impacts the synthesis of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in the presentation of symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as the treatment of bipolar disorder.

While the amino acids mentioned here, as well as in the preceding section, have the most pronounced impact on symptoms of bipolar disorder, experts in the field of amino acid research have found that the use of a high-quality essential amino acid blend produces far more desirable results than the use of a single amino acid supplement.

Conclusion

It’s become inarguably clear that ensuring a consistent intake of the nutrients necessary for the production of neurotransmitters facilitates mental health and wellness. In fact, some individuals find that eating a diet high in amino-acid-loaded foods suffices as a treatment for bipolar disorder, major depression, and other mental illnesses. Others achieve more success combining nutritional therapy with conventional medications like prescription mood stabilizers.

Scientists have been interested in the role of nutritional therapies like the use of amino acid supplements for bipolar disorder since the 1970s. Unfortunately, securing funding for such research has proved to be an enduring challenge, as the pharmaceutical companies that often underwrite clinical trials see no appeal in treatment options they can’t patent and own. This has led to the dominance of synthetic drugs, despite their known risk factors, such as sometimes intolerable side effects.

Unfortunately, this resistance has carried over to mainstream clinicians, who tend to know less about nutritional treatment options for bipolar disorder, and therefore are far less likely to prescribe them. Some also feel hesitant about recommending treatments that aren’t governed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This can prevent individuals from accessing nutritional therapies that may be significantly more efficacious for their personal neurochemistry than more readily available prescription drugs.

Hopefully, as more patients become independently aware of the possibilities offered by nutritional supplements, health care providers will respond by becoming better versed in how to incorporate those modalities into an overall mental health treatment plan. Already, there’s been an uptick in the number of studies investigating natural and holistic treatment options for bipolar disorder and other conditions, which should help clinicians increase their knowledge base and comfort level with the potentialities of this realm.

In the meantime, outside research as well as the seeking out of medical experts who have already integrated such options into their practice may be exceptionally valuable for individuals with bipolar disorder who have yet to find a satisfactory treatment option.

The Top 10 Nutrients and Vitamins for Muscle Recovery

What are the top 10 nutrients and vitamins for post-workout muscle recovery? Which foods contain them naturally, and who should supplement where? This article answers all your questions about vitamins for muscle recovery.

If you’re looking to build muscle, you’ll have to master the balancing act between muscle protein breakdown and buildup, and that requires leaving time and space for muscle recovery. Vigorous exercise causes microtears and normal muscle damage that is then repaired by the body. This process makes your muscles stronger and tells your body that more muscle is needed. You can support muscle function and reduce the time spent with sore muscles during this post-workout window, so long as you have the proper nutrient support for rebuilding. So what are the best nutrients and vitamins for muscle recovery? We have the top 10 contenders.

How Muscles Are Built

Muscle recovery is an intrinsic part of building new muscle. It doesn’t just start in the gym either: it has one foot planted firmly in your kitchen. Your body needs proper nutrition and hydration to perform well at the gym, and then it needs the same again to clear out the cellular debris caused by workouts and build anew.

The average American diet is made up of more than 70% processed food, but even an extremely healthy diet may fall short if you’re pushing yourself to bulk up. Likewise, a general multivitamin may not do the trick either: if you’re working up to your body’s limit and striving to reach past it, you need more than average support. The CDC estimates that the general population has iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B6 deficiencies, and these deficiencies are more keenly felt by those who work their bodies to the max.

Outside of the whole grains, dietary fats, and protein you get from your food, what else is needed to promote strength and achieve lean muscle growth?

The Top 10 Nutrients and Vitamins for Muscle Recovery

The Top 10 Nutrients and Vitamins for Muscle Recovery

Sports nutrition prioritizes high amounts of protein in the diet for those seeking to build strength and muscle mass. That is because protein contains the building blocks of muscle, the essential amino acids needed to synthesize all new muscle. What other nutrients do you need to consume to get the most out of your workout in the recovery window? Here are the top vitamins for muscle recovery.

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays an important role in protein synthesis, and so, along with being important for eye health and serving as an antioxidant against the damage of free radicals, it’s also a key vitamin for muscle growth. Vitamin A contributes to workout strength thanks to its role in the creation of glycogen, the stored form of glucose energy (from sugar) that provides you the rapid strength needed for more reps, for sports like sprinting, and most certainly for weightlifting. Vitamin A is essential for bone health too, which walks hand-in-hand with muscle strength, but due to factors like diets low in fats, alcohol use and abuse, and diabetes, many people are deficient in vitamin A.

To get more natural vitamin A from your diet, look towards carrots, fatty fish like salmon, and eggs.

2. Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 (which also goes by the name niacin) supports muscle-building efforts by cleaning up your cholesterol ratio (promoting “good” HDL numbers while reducing “bad” LDL levels) and supporting the production of necessary hormones.

Vitamin B3 can be had by consuming animal foods like meat, fish, and eggs, and by eating plant foods like seeds and bananas.

3. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, another B-complex vitamin, targets circulation and heart health by boosting red blood cell production and maintaining the necessary level of nitric oxide in the blood, which relaxes our blood vessels and allows our blood to flow freely.

Found naturally in foods like fatty fish, bananas, and chickpeas, vitamin B6 is also well represented in vitamins and supplements, so you may just find a hefty dose in your multivitamin of choice.

4. Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, otherwise known as folate or folic acid (the synthetic version of folate), is important in human development from the womb to the tomb. It’s important as a prenatal vitamin for pregnant women, and it remains important throughout our lives for energy production, muscle tissue repair, and new muscle cell creation.

Vitamin B9 is found in foods like spinach and avocado, a healthy fat. It’s widely prevalent in multivitamin formulas and protein powders made for workout recovery, muscle repair, and more.

5. Vitamin B12

The last of the impressive family of B vitamins on this list, vitamin B12 works closely with folate for muscle repair and is essential for producing the red blood cells needed to deliver oxygen to our muscles.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods like meat, dairy, poultry, and fish, and vegans and vegetarians may suffer from a B12 deficiency due to their reliance on plant-based foods. For those who don’t eat meat, soy products, nut milks, and fortified cereals have some vitamin B12, and supplementation with B12 is often recommended to shore up any gaps.

6. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well known as the cold- and flu-battling antioxidant, but did you know it helps with muscle recovery too? Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin C both supports your immune system and reduces the lactic acid buildup in your muscles after a workout (the main culprit for muscle soreness). Vitamin C also boosts collagen production, which is needed for skin and connective tissue health and repair.

Food sources of vitamin C don’t stop at citrus fruits like oranges. You can also find high levels of vitamin C in leafy greens like kale, which is known as a superfood thanks to its abundance of vital nutrients.

7. Vitamin D

We can synthesize vitamin D from the sunshine we soak up through our skin, but vitamin D deficiency is nevertheless all too common, in part due to lifestyle necessities like working inside, but also due to circumstances outside of our control, like the melanin content of our skin, or even where we live. There are fewer hours of sunlight during the winter months, and those living in more northern locales may deal with a lack of sufficient vitamin D-rich sun throughout the year.

Vitamin D is critical for helping us absorb calcium, making it important for bone strength and dozens of other processes like insulin reaction, mood balance, and muscle protein synthesis.

Vitamin D foods include fatty fish, dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, beef liver, soy milk, and mushrooms if they’re left to soak up sunlight before you consume them. To optimize the effectiveness of vitamin D, make sure you also get enough vitamin K (found in dark, leafy green vegetables). If your vitamin D levels are low, sun exposure, as well as supplementation, is recommended.

8. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is known for encouraging skin tightening and suppleness, slowing down signs of aging, and helping to guard against free radical damage. Working out and vigorous physical activity creates oxidative stress in our bodies that needs to be met with antioxidant aid from nutrients like vitamin E.

Vitamin E can be found naturally in nuts, seeds, spinach, avocado, and fish such as rainbow trout. In addition to antioxidant support, vitamin E also helps flush out toxins and cellular waste, which is why it’s part of our recommended liver flush diet.

9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If you eat a standard American diet, you’re likely to have a skewed omega-3-to-omega-6 fatty acid ratio. The ideal is as close as possible to a 1:1 ratio, but due to the overabundance of omega-6s (thanks in part to vegetable oils in processed foods and the difficulty and cost associated with eating natural omega-3 foods), many first-world residents have around a 20:1 ratio when it comes to omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. We can optimize this ratio by eating more omega-3s.

Omega-3s are needed to help reduce post-workout muscle soreness and promote muscle growth (not to mention skin, brain, joint, eye, and cardiovascular health).

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the highest concentrations in fatty, oily fish like sardines, tuna, and mackerel, but they can also be found in eggs, nuts like walnuts, avocados, or fish oil supplements.

10. Amino Acids

There is no rebuilding muscle without a proper amount of all nine essential amino acids. Many workout aids and protein powders focus on the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), but they are only one-third of the full host of necessary aminos for muscle recovery and new muscle growth. If your body has to repair your muscles without a sufficient supply of amino acids, it will catabolize nearby muscle cells for these molecules, which is like building an addition on your house using supplies you have to rip out of the walls already built.

Amino acid foods include “complete protein” foods, such as quinoa, animal meats, and eggs, and complementary proteins like beans and lentils that almost contain all nine amino acids, but still need to be combined with another food like a whole grain for the rest. When actively building muscle, it’s important to keep your essential amino acid levels at max capacity at all times, which is where amino acid supplementation comes in handy.

Supplementing for Muscle Recovery

We here at AminoCo have an amino acid formula that combines a scientifically balanced amount of all nine essential amino acids, with protein support from creatine and with the inclusion of vitamins needed to reduce muscle cramps and aid workout performance. On top of a whole foods diet that contains lean protein and nutritionally dense plant foods, make sure you’re getting the best vitamins and amino acid support for your post-workout muscle recovery.

Glycine for Sleep: The Amino Acid for Better Rest

Glycine for sleep and so much more: find out how this amino acid and neurotransmitter aids your body’s most important functions, and learn how to supplement with it for better sleep quality, vital organ protection, and supple skin.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which probably makes you think of all things muscle, like muscle repair and new muscle creation. You do need all nine essential amino acids to build muscle, but amino acids perform a wide variety of important tasks in the body, including regulating your sleep-wake cycle and the quality of sleep you experience. Glycine is one of those amino acids working tirelessly behind the scenes so that you can get a good night’s sleep. We have the details on the effects of glycine for sleep, and how you can utilize it to optimize your sleep patterns.

What Is Glycine?

Glycine is a naturally occurring nonessential amino acid. It is the simplest in structure of all the amino acids, and yet it’s just as important in daily functioning. Glycine is used to make vital substances like various enzymes and hormones in the body, and it’s also used to synthesize new protein, a role it plays in muscle maintenance and growth.

The human body naturally produces glycine, but it’s also found in protein foods and can be taken as a dietary supplement. While glycine deficiency is extremely rare, studies have shown that low levels of glycine are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, which we’ll cover in a bit.

Insufficient glycine levels may also be associated with chronic sleep problems, and glycine supplements could function as a natural sleep aid.

Glycine for Sleep: Scientifically Proven Effectiveness

Glycine for Sleep: Scientifically Proven Effectiveness

Daytime sleepiness coupled with an inability to fall asleep easily can quickly interrupt your quality of life. It’s more dangerous to drive or commute to work if you’re not properly rested, it’s more difficult to concentrate on your daily tasks, and it saps the enjoyment you should be experiencing when your work is completed each day. Here are some of the scientifically backed data points showing that glycine ingestion could lead to better sleep.

1. Sleep-Promoting

Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter operating in our central nervous system. That means it has a role to play in hearing, vision, motor movement, and our intake and processing of sensory information. By working as an inhibitor, glycine has a calming effect on the central nervous system. The dietary glycine we consume has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, enter our brains, and go where it’s needed.

Perhaps working with other inhibitory neurotransmitters like the amino acid GABA (the exact mechanisms are still not fully understood by researchers), glycine has the ability to help “quiet down” the nervous system and effectively promote sleep.

2. Enhances Memory Formation, Organization, and Retrieval

Memory formation and memory organization are deeply connected to healthy, adequate sleep. One of the other roles glycine performs in the brain is to activate excitatory NMDA receptors, which are keys to synaptic plasticity and the creation of new synapses for learning and memory retention.

Research shows that glycine may be beneficial to memory retrieval in both old and young participants in instances of disrupted sleep, like jet lag or having to work a night shift. Researchers also suggest that glycine may be able to help those with Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, and schizophrenia in the area of memory retrieval.

3. Encourages Deeper Sleep

Studies on glycine’s effect on sleep have revealed that glycine ingestion before bedtime improves the subjective sleep quality of those dealing with insomnia. Researchers studied both rat and human subjects, and found the same effects in both, with more information coming from the rat models on the inner workings of glycine.

Glycine taken orally significantly increased the concentration of glycine in the cerebrospinal fluid of rats. Researches noted an increase of cutaneous blood flow coupled with a decrease in core body temperature. A low core body temperature is maintained during human sleep, revealing another facet of how glycine may beneficially interact with our sleep patterns.

4. Calms Anxiety

Studies on glycine for anxiety work closely with serotonin and its relationship to restful sleep. Serotonin is known as the “happy hormone” because it contributes to feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and well-being. Serotonin is also needed to create the hormone melatonin, which encourages deeper sleep and is often lacking in those with sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea.

By increasing serotonin levels, you can lessen anxiety and promote restful sleep, and consuming glycine has been shown to elevate serotonin levels and encourage healthy sleep cycles, both of which provide much needed anxiety relief.

5. Improves Daytime Performance

A study on the effects of glycine on subjective daytime performance in partially sleep-restricted healthy volunteers asserts that about 30% of the general population suffers from insomnia. Knowing that, researchers chose to test the effects of glycine on the daytime levels of fatigue and sleepiness on people restricted to 25% less of their usual sleep time. They then measured the cognitive performances of the participants.

The results found that those who were given glycine instead of a placebo reported significantly less fatigue and sleepiness, and demonstrated improvements in psychomotor vigilance tests. The researchers also measured circadian rhythms by looking at the suprachiasmatic nucleus (one of a pair of small nuclei in the hypothalamus of the brain). While they found no changes in the circadian clock, they did find that glycine altered specific neuropeptides in the brain, which they suggest accounts for glycine’s ability to improve feelings of sleepiness and fatigue in those who are sleep deprived.

A previously linked study also found that taking supplemental glycine helped people reach slow-wave sleep faster, providing the benefits of deeper REM sleep in a shorter amount of time. This benefit may extend to better mental performance during the day, even when sleep is restricted.

Other Benefits of Glycine Supplementation

The use of glycine in both animal models and human volunteers shows that it has a beneficial impact on the polysomnographic changes in our brains and bodies. But glycine amino acid supplementation can benefit even more than sleep. For instance:

  • Antioxidant support: Glycine is one of the three amino acids needed to create glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the body from the oxidative stress damage caused by free radicles.
  • Collagen creation and skincare: Ingesting glycine promotes collagen levels in the body and helps keep our connective tissues supple and young. Externally, glycine soja oil from soy contains all of the essential amino acids along with vitamin E, and is commonly found in skin conditioning products, beauty supplies, moisturizing soaps, and bath oils.
  • Creatine and workout aid: Glycine is needed to form creatine, a substance you most likely know as a main ingredient in protein shakes that are used to build muscle bulk. Creatine provides fast energy to muscles, making it a vigorous workout aid for any strenuous activity, from weightlifting to sprinting.
  • Liver protection: Glycine has been shown to help prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic cirrhosis.
  • Heart health and blood pressure support: Glycine treatment has been found to improve the usability of nitric oxide in the body, increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack.
  • Diabetes management: Glycine aids in both preventing and managing the development of type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity and response.

Glycine Foods and How to Supplement with Glycine

“Glycine” comes from the Greek word glykys (γλυκύς), meaning “sweet-tasting.” In fact, the original betaine, now known as glycine betaine, was first discovered in the sugar beet in the 19th century. Glycine in supplement form still tastes quite sweet, and for that reason it is easily added to foods and beverages like oatmeal, coffee, protein shakes, yogurt, and pudding. Natural glycine foods include high-protein options like:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

Dosages and Possible Adverse Side Effects

When studied, up to 90 grams of glycine can be administered every day for several weeks without adverse effects. However, the standard effective dosage is between 3 and 5 grams per day. It’s also important that you seek professional medical advice before adding glycine or any other supplement to your routine if you are already on medications or if you are pregnant or nursing. Some reported potential side effects of supplementing with glycine include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Soft stools

Glycine: Neurotransmitter Extraordinaire

There you have it: glycine is not only effective at improving sleep but also a vital contributor to many functions in the body, including maintaining healthy skin and protecting the liver and the heart. By ensuring that you have sufficient amounts of both your essential and nonessential amino acids like glycine, you can improve your whole-body health.