How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally

Find out the difference between acute and chronic inflammation (one is good, one is bad). Also learn about the natural ways to reduce inflammation and improve your health through lifestyle, exercise, diet, and supplementation. 

Inflammation is one of those necessary evils. Yes, you need an inflammatory response in the body to alert you and your healing resources that something is wrong, and that is healthy inflammation. A twisted ankle, a reaction to stress, a bug or mosquito bite: these are common external examples of inflammation that let you know: you’ve hurt your ankle, you need a vacation, or it’s time to reapply the bug spray.

Unhealthy inflammation is chronic and persistent inflammation that is no longer helping you, only hurting. For instance if your ankle swells up so badly you can’t walk, you have to put ice on it, elevate it, maybe take an anti-inflammatory medication. But how do you reduce inflammation inside your body? You can’t ice your liver! Moreover how do you reduce inflammation naturally, without resorting to taking over-the-counter drugs and risking their side effects? Read on to find ways to reduce overall inflammation through lifestyle, diet, and natural supplements.

What Is Inflammation? Acute vs. Chronic

Acute inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury or foreign substance. It activates inflammation to deal with a specific threat, and then subsides. That inflammatory response includes the increased production of immune cells, cytokines, and white blood cells. The physical signs of acute inflammation are swelling, redness, pain, and heat. This is the healthy function of inflammation.

Chronic inflammation on the other hand is not beneficial to the body, and occurs when your immune system regularly and consistently releases inflammatory chemicals, even when there’s no injury to fix or foreign invader to fight.

To diagnosis chronic inflammation, doctors test for blood markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6), TNF alpha, homocysteine, and C-reactive protein (CRP). This type of inflammation often results from lifestyle factors such as poor diet, obesity, and stress, and is associated with many dangerous health conditions, including:

These are the conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by chronic inflammation, but what causes chronic inflammation itself? There are a few factors.

Habitually consuming high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, refined carbs (like white bread), trans fats, and the vegetable oils included in so many processed foods is one contributor. Excessive alcohol intake is another culprit, and so is an inactive or sedentary lifestyle.

Now that you know what chronic inflammation is, where it comes from, and how it works, the final question is: how can you reduce chronic inflammation with natural remedies? Read on for the answers.

How to reduce inflammation naturally.

How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally Through Lifestyle, Diet, and Supplements

Here are several approaches you can take to combat inflammation naturally before resorting to over-the-counter drugs or medications.

Lifestyle Choices and Therapies to Fight Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is also called low-grade or systemic inflammation. There are some ways you can boost your health by managing lifestyle practices and fitness activities. Some practices you may want to adjust are as follows.

  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Manage stress naturally (meditation perhaps, or tai chi)
  • Get sufficient sleep
  • Exercise regularly

When it comes to exercise, something as readily available as walking can help improve your health drastically, and when it comes to fitness with meditation, you could look into yoga. Those who practice yoga regularly have lower levels of the inflammatory marker IL-6, up to 41% lower than those who don’t practice yoga.

An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A diet of anti-inflammatory foods is a huge component to reducing inflammation. As a general rule, you want to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, as they contain more nutrients and antioxidants for your health. Antioxidants help by reducing levels of free radicals in your body, molecules that cause cell damage and oxidative stress.

You’ll also want a healthy dietary balance between carbs, protein, fats, fruits, and veggies to ensure the proper amount of minerals, vitamins, and fiber throughout each day. One diet that’s been scientifically shown to have anti-inflammatory properties is the Mediterranean diet, which entails a high consumption of vegetables, along with olive oil and moderate amounts of lean protein.

Foods to Eat

Healthy eating can help you reduce inflammation in your body. These foods are the answer to how to reduce intestinal inflammation naturally. Reach inside and soothe what ails you!

  • High-fat fruits: Stone fruits like avocados and olives, including their oils
  • Whole grains: Whole grain wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, brown rice, spelt, rye, etc.
  • Vegetables: Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables especially, like kale, broccoli and broccoli greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage
  • Fruit: Dark berries like cherries and grapes particularly, either fresh or dried
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, and mackerel for omega-3 fatty acids
  • Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, etc.
  • Spices: Including turmeric, cinnamon, and fenugreek
  • Tea: Green tea especially
  • Red wine: Up to 10 ounces of red wine for men and 5 ounces for women per day
  • Peppers: Chili peppers and bell peppers of any color
  • Chocolate: Dark chocolate specifically, and the higher the cocoa bean percentage, the better

Foods to Avoid

These foods can help cause inflammation and amplify negative inflammatory effects in your body. You’d do well to reduce intake of or avoid entirely.

  • Alcohol: Hard liquors, beers, and ciders
  • Desserts: Candies, cookies, ice creams, and cakes
  • Processed meats: Sausages, hot dogs, and bologna
  • Trans fats: Foods containing partially hydrogenated ingredients like vegetable shortening, coffee creamer, ready-to-use frosting, and stick butter
  • Sugary beverages: Sugar-sweetened fruit juices, sports drinks, etc.
  • Refined carbs: White bread, white pasta, and white rice
  • Processed snacks: Crackers, pretzels, and chips
  • Certain oils and fried foods: Foods prepared with processed vegetable and seed oils like soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, etc.

When it comes to how to reduce liver inflammation naturally, what you avoid is just as important as what you put into your body, which is why it’s also recommended to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke and to limit your contact with toxic chemicals like aerosol cleaners.

Anti-Inflammatory Natural Supplements

You can help treat inflammation by including certain supplements that reduce inflammation.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Supplements like fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids, and while eating fatty fish can also provide this nutrient, not everyone has the access or means to eat two to three helpings of fish per week.

Though both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to get from our diets, we often have a drastic overabundance of omega-6s and not nearly enough omega-3s to keep the ideal ratio between the two. Likewise, while red meat and dairy products may have anti-inflammatory effects, red meat and dairy are also prohibitive on certain diets and health care regimens (for example, red meat is not recommended for those with heart-health concerns). Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil can help defeat pro-inflammatory factors.

Herbs and Spices

Curcumin, found in the curry spice turmeric, has been shown to fight back against pro-inflammatory cytokines. And ginger also has been found to reduce inflammation even more successfully than NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, and with fewer side effects. Whether fresh or dried, certain herbs and spices can help reduce inflammation without having any detriment to your overall health.

Flame Off

With these tips, you can help reduce chronic inflammation in your life naturally, and the rewards for taking such precise care of yourself could be great. Those on an anti-inflammatory diet, for example, may find that certain health problems improve, from inflammatory bowel syndrome, to arthritis, to lupus and other autoimmune disorders. Not only that, but a healthier lifestyle leads almost invariably to lowered risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, and cancer. You’ll have better cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels, plus an improvement in mood and energy. The bottom line is: lowering your levels of inflammation naturally increases your quality of life!

Serrapeptase: The Science Behind the Supplement

Mostly used by health care professionals in Japan and Europe for reducing inflammation after trauma, surgery, or in other inflammatory circumstances, serrapeptase is also available as a dietary supplement for its various health benefits. Find out what serrapeptase is, how it was discovered, and which of its supposed benefits have the strongest evidence backing them.

Serrapeptase, also known as serratiopeptidase, serratia peptidase, or silk worm enzyme, is an isolated enzyme from bacteria found in silk worms. Mostly used by health care professionals in Japan and Europe for reducing inflammation after trauma, surgery, or in other inflammatory circumstances, it is also available as a dietary supplement for its various health benefits. This article will explore the science behind those health claims, discuss the potential side effects of serrapeptase, and help you decide whether this anti-inflammatory is right for you.

What Is Serrapeptase?

The serrapeptase enzyme is a proteolytic enzyme, which means it has the ability to break down proteins into their building blocks, amino acids. It’s an enzyme produced by the bacteria living in the silk worm’s digestive tract, and specifically it’s the enzyme that allows an emerging moth to dissolve and digest its own cocoon. If you’re the kind of person who finds bugs and worms to be skin-crawlingly gross, it might do you well to think less about where this enzyme comes from, and more about what it and other proteolytic enzymes like bromelain, chymotrypsin, and trypsin can do to benefit you.

Discovered throughout the 1950s, these enzymes were used in the United States to relieve the inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-surgical swelling. By 1957, the Japanese were using serrapeptase in the same manner, and in the 1990s these different enzymes were compared and it was found that serrapeptase was the most successful at reducing inflammatory responses. Since then it has become more widely used in Europe and Japan for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

The Benefits of Serrapeptase

Though serrapeptase is relatively new to the medicinal scene, there have nevertheless been many studies done to document its effectiveness and safety. Here are some of the benefits that have been observed from the use of serrapeptase.

Serrapeptase supplements: the science and the speculation.

May Reduce Inflammation

This is the health benefit serrapeptase is best known for, reducing inflammation in instances like tooth removal or post-surgery recovery. It’s thought that serrapeptase works by decreasing inflammatory cells at the site of injury. The anti-inflammatory effects of serrapeptase were shown in a clinical trial on the surgical removal of wisdom teeth, and serrapeptase was found to be more effective at improving lockjaw than more powerful drugs like ibuprofen and corticosteroids.

Though corticosteroids improved facial swelling more effectively on the first day post-surgery, the differences on the second day were insignificant. While more research is still needed to define the best uses of serrapeptase going forward, the researchers in the study did note that serrapeptase had a better safety profile than the other drugs analyzed, which may make it particularly useful in cases of drug intolerance in patients, or those who have adverse side effects with stronger drugs.

May Prevent Infections

There is evidence that serrapeptase may decrease the risk of bacterial infection by acting as a “biofilm buster,” so-called because bacteria have the ability to join together and form a protective barrier or film around themselves. The biofilm shields them from antibiotics long enough that their rapid growth can take place and cause infection. Serrapeptase can inhibit the formation of biofilms, increasing the efficacy of antibiotics in cases like Staphylococcus aureus (Staph. aureus), or staph infection, one of the most common opportunistic dangers associated with hospital stays.

Both animal and test-tube studies have shown that serrapeptase combined with antibiotics was more effective than treating Staph. aureus with antibiotics alone, including those strains that have become drug-resistant. An example of a drug-resistant form of staph infection is MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph. aureus), an especially dangerous infection to those who are already hospitalized in immune-compromised states.

May Reduce Pain

Pain being a symptom of inflammation, serrapeptase has been known to reduce pain by inhibiting certain compounds. For example, in one double-blind study that examined the effects of serrapeptase in about 200 people with inflammatory conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, researchers found that those who took a serrapeptase supplement had significant reductions in mucus production and pain severity than did those who took a placebo.

Another study found that serrapeptase reduced pain significantly compared to a placebo in 24 participants following the removal of their wisdom teeth. More research is needed for scientists to be sure of serrapeptase’s effects, but these findings show promise for those hoping to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) after medical procedures.

May Help Dissolve Blood Clots

It is thought that by acting to break down fibrin (a protein formed in blood clots) as well as damaged and dead tissue, the serrapeptase enzyme could help treat atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis involves plaque buildup inside your arteries, which leads to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries and an increased danger from blood clots.

If serrapeptase is successful at dissolving plaque or blood clots, it could reduce a person’s risk of stroke or heart attack. However, not enough studies have been done showing a direct effect, and so while there is potential that serrapeptase has a role in treating blood clots, more research is warranted.

May Be an Aid Against Chronic Respiratory Disease

Chronic respiratory and chronic airway diseases affect the lungs and breathing apparatuses of the body. Serrapeptase’s potential to clear mucus and reduce inflammation in the the lungs could help improve breathing in those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary hypertension, which is a form of high blood pressure in the vessels of your lungs.

These chronic conditions are ongoing and incurable, and yet managing the symptoms effectively (as with increased mucus clearance and better dilation of air passages) can greatly improve a person’s quality of life. One month-long study of 29 participants with chronic bronchitis involved a test group that was given 30 milligrams of serrapeptase per day, which resulted in less mucus production than the control group, better lung-clearing ability, and greater ease of breathing.

May Treat Endometriosis

Due to the potential serrapeptase has for targeting dead tissue and scar tissue throughout the body, some believe there is potential in using serrapeptase for endometriosis treatment. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial cells grow outside the uterus, in the tissues surrounding the pelvic area, causing pain and often issues with fertility.

Likewise with conception issues arising due to ovarian or uterine cysts, serrapeptase for fertility is another natural therapy that currently has more anecdotal evidence than scientific research done on it, though that does not mean the research won’t be done, nor that it wouldn’t be a safe supplement to try in consultation with a qualified health care professional.

May Help Relieve Alzheimer’s Disease

One study on rat models revealed that the proteolytic enzymes nattokinase and serrapeptase may have a therapeutic application in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, modulating the different factors that characterize the disease. Oral application of these enzymes provided a decrease in transforming growth factor, acetylcholinesterase activity, and interleukin-6, all of which are found in high levels among patients with Alzheimer’s disease. While more research still needs to be done, Alzheimer’s is a medical condition that needs any relief options available.

Potential Serrapeptase Side Effects

Because it’s such a new commodity, people are rightly concerned that there could be potential serrapeptase dangers. There are not many published studies touching on potential adverse reactions to taking serrapeptase, however some studies have reported the following side effects.

As there is a lack of data on the long-term safety and tolerability of this enzyme, should any side effect occur after you take it, you should stop immediately and seek medical advice. What works for some may not work for all, and so your judgement is paramount when it comes to whether you’re getting the benefits you want.

How to Take Serrapeptase

It’s advised against taking serrapeptase with any sort of blood thinner, or other dietary supplements like turmeric, garlic, or fish oil which could increase a risk of bruising or bleeding. For serrapeptase dosage, it’s recommended to take between 10-60 milligrams per day (the range used within the various studies) on an empty stomach, and to avoid eating for at least 30 minutes afterwards.

When purchasing the supplement, choose a product in an enteric-coated capsule to prevent your stomach acid from neutralizing the enzyme before it reaches your intestine. Without a strong enough capsule, the enzymatic activity could be deactivated before it has a chance to work.

How long does it take serrapeptase to work after you take it? For pain and swelling it can have immediate effects post-surgery, but for more gradual or ongoing treatments, the effects might be felt over a period of weeks. It truly depends on your condition, your health, and how you’re using the supplement.

The Secrets of Serrapeptase

Our understanding of serrapeptase is far from comprehensive at this moment. There is one study linking it to treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and anecdotal evidence suggesting serrapeptase for weight loss (albeit temporary). There are far more clinical studies on the use of serrapeptase for reducing inflammation, fighting infections, and preventing blood clots, but researchers are still exploring its uses. Should you be interested in seeing what serrapeptase supplementation can do for you, we only ask that you do so wisely, and with a willingness to consult a medical professional about any results you find, be they bad or good.

Essential Amino Acid Supplements and Bariatric Surgery

Let’s take a look at the different types of bariatric surgery available, the benefits and risks of these procedures, and how amino acids can help you maintain the nutrition so important to your health both during recovery and long after this weight-loss procedure is over.

According to figures from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the number of Americans choosing to undergo bariatric surgery has risen steadily over the past several years, with over 200,000 undergoing the procedure in 2017 alone.

However, while the obesity epidemic leads more and more people to consider a surgical solution to excess weight, many may not realize that the physical changes to the digestive tract caused by bariatric surgery also result in changes to the body’s ability to absorb nutrition.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the different types of bariatric surgery available, the benefits and risks of these procedures, and how amino acids can help you maintain the nutrition so important to your health both during recovery and long after the procedure is over.

Types of Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is performed on severely obese individuals who have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise alone.

Generally, the procedure is not recommended unless you have extreme obesity, characterized by a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 and at least one obesity-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or heart disease.

The surgery works by changing the shape of or removing portions of the stomach and (sometimes) small intestine. In the United States, three types of bariatric surgery procedures are most commonly performed:

  • Gastric bypass
  • Gastric banding
  • Gastric sleeve

Each type of surgery also has its advantages and disadvantages.

1. Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

The Roux-en-Y gastric bypass works by dividing both the top of the stomach from the bottom and the first part of the small intestine. The bottom end of the small intestine is then attached to the newly created pouch at the top of the stomach.

This procedure reduces both the amount of food the stomach pouch can hold at any one time and the small intestine’s ability to absorb calories and nutrients. This type of gastric bypass surgery is also typically not reversible.

2. Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch

In this second, more complicated form of gastric bypass, approximately 80% of the stomach is removed. The majority of the small intestine is then bypassed by connecting the end portion of the intestine to the duodenum.

Like the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, this procedure works to reduce both stomach capacity and calorie and nutrient absorption. However, because it also carries with it more risks, the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch is generally limited to people with a BMI greater than 50.

3. Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding

Gastric banding is a laparoscopic surgery in which an inflatable band, commonly known as a lap band, is placed around the upper portion of the stomach. When the band is inflated, it creates a small pouch that restricts the amount of food the upper portion of the stomach can hold.

4. Sleeve Gastrectomy

Gastric sleeve surgery actually makes use of the first part of the biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, drastically reducing the size of the stomach until it’s shaped like a tube.

Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery can help patients avoid serious health problems by improving many of the health risks associated with severe obesity. These include:

In addition, the weight loss that results from bariatric surgery may improve mobility and reduce symptoms of arthritis, thereby increasing the ability to engage in physical activity.

Side Effects of Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery also comes with both short-term and long-term risks. These include:

  • Infection
  • Acid reflux
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Low blood sugar
  • Malnutrition
  • Diarrhea
  • Hernias

The Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS) program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recruits bariatric surgery patients in order to track both short-term and long-term outcomes of surgery.

LABS has found that approximately 4% of individuals have at least one major adverse outcome within a month of surgery. The program has also shown no difference in adverse outcomes with different bariatric procedures.

Bariatric Surgery and Body Composition Changes

Bariatric surgery causes weight loss in most individuals, and the greatest percentage of that weight loss is a reduction in fat mass. However, it’s been demonstrated that lean body mass is reduced by approximately 20% as well.

This is an unfortunate finding, as lean muscle lays the foundation for successful weight loss and maintenance as well as optimal health.

However, the good news is that the addition of an amino acid supplement to the diet following bariatric surgery can minimize the loss of lean body mass.

Essential Amino Acid (EAA) Supplements and Weight Loss Following Bariatric Surgery

Weight loss following bariatric surgery is fundamentally governed by the same principles that govern any other weight-loss program—that is, weight is lost due to a negative energy balance.

In other words, the amount of energy you consume throughout the day must be less than the amount of energy you expend. And since calories are the unit of energy we’re talking about here, a negative energy balance simply refers to a caloric expenditure that’s greater than caloric intake.

However, losing weight isn’t as simple as dropping pounds. If it were, it wouldn’t matter whether those pounds were in fat or muscle.

But you want to lose fat and preserve muscle, so weight loss must be focused on losing just the fat. After all, that’s the definition of successful weight loss.

Unfortunately, when you reduce the number of calories you eat, you potentially negatively affect muscle mass in two ways.

Protein Intake

If you don’t change the composition of your diet, your protein intake is going to be cut in half along with your caloric intake. To avoid this, you need to keep your protein intake high so you can preserve lean muscle mass during weight loss.

But to do this, you have to double the percentage of calories you’re taking in as protein just to maintain the same amount of protein you normally eat.

For example, if you consume 25% of your calories as protein, to keep protein levels constant during weight loss, 50% of the calories you eat need to be protein.

And given that most forms of protein provide at least half their calories as carbohydrates and/or fats, that means your entire diet may have to be composed of foods from the protein food group.

Muscle Protein Synthesis

In addition to the negative effects on protein intake, a negative energy balance also makes it much harder to maintain the same rate of muscle protein synthesis when calories are cut.

In the human body, protein is constantly being built up and broken down. And we’ve known for more than a hundred years that the amount of protein needed to maintain this balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown is influenced by energy intake (in the form of nutrition), which fuels the energy cost of protein synthesis.

However, when you reduce the number of calories you eat, muscle protein is inevitably lost. And this is the fundamental challenge of maintaining muscle mass when you’re losing weight.

How does all this play out in light of the negative energy balance created by bariatric surgery?

Muscle can only be preserved following bariatric surgery if enough essential amino acids (EAAs) are available to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a degree sufficient to maintain muscle mass. And the most effective and practical way to accomplish this goal is by increasing dietary EAA intake.

Bariatric surgery is for severely obese individuals who have not been able to lose weight by calorie restriction.

The loss of lean body mass—and muscle mass, in particular—is dramatic following bariatric surgery.

This undesirable effect reflects, in part, an impaired ability to digest intact protein (the “whole” form of protein we ingest via food sources, made up of strings of individual amino acids connected to one another, as opposed to the separated amino acids found in free-form amino acid supplements) effectively, especially in the first few weeks after surgery.

In addition, patients who go through any surgical procedure may develop anabolic resistance. When this happens, intact protein loses its normal effectiveness in stimulating muscle protein synthesis.

Unlike intact proteins, such as meat and eggs, free EAAs are extensively digested and absorbed even after bariatric surgery, so their effect on muscle protein turnover is fully retained.

The fact that free-form EAAs can be formulated to overcome anabolic resistance is another potential advantage of relying on EAA-based nutrition following bariatric surgery.

How Many EAAs Are Needed to Maintain Muscle Mass After Bariatric Surgery?

You need to consume at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day to maintain muscle mass during weight loss. So, if you weigh 350 pounds, you need to eat 190 grams of protein, or about 400 grams of protein food sources such as meat, fish, and dairy products.

That’s about 2,000 kilocalories just from protein food sources alone!

Add to this the fact that the normal total caloric intake during weight loss following bariatric surgery is about 1,200 kilocalories per day, and it’s clear the numbers don’t add up.

You just can’t get enough protein from food sources to maintain lean mass.

This is particularly relevant when we’re talking about weight-loss surgery, as the amount—and sometimes type—of food bariatric surgery patients are able to eat after the procedure is limited.

Thankfully, this disadvantage can be remedied by supplementing with a free-form EAA formula. Not only have EAAs been proven to help you lose the fat, but they can also ensure you retain that all-important muscle.

Let me explain how this works.

Based on our earlier example—and given the normal proportion of EAAs in high-quality dietary proteins—a protein intake of 190 grams per day would translate to about 80 grams of EAAs.

However, in the early stages after surgery, it may not be feasible to eat more than 50 grams of protein per day, or about 20 grams of EAAs.

In this scenario, your diet would be 60 grams short of enough EAAs to maintain lean body mass, so to make up the difference, you’d need to consume 60 grams of EAAs in the form of a dietary supplement.

And this is as simple as taking a 15-gram dose of EAAs 5 times a day. In fact, a recently published study showed that 5 × 15 grams of EAAs was sufficient to maintain lean body mass during weight loss.

As your ability to obtain protein from food sources increases with time, the amount of supplemental EAAs required to maintain muscle mass will decline, but an intake of at least 30 grams of EAAs will ensure continued maintenance of muscle mass.

If you think you or a loved one may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery and would like more information on the different procedures available and what to expect before, during, and after surgery, I encourage you to visit the ASMBS website.

And if you’re already preparing to undergo bariatric surgery, I recommend exploring essential amino acid supplementation to support your nutritional intake during recovery and beyond.

Hashimoto’s Disease: When the Thyroid Sleeps on the Job

In the early 20th century, Dr. Hashimoto discovered a new form of thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland. That new form of thyroiditis, called Hashimoto’s disease, is now considered the most common cause of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.

Hashimoto’s disease, also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, is named after Dr. Hakaru Hashimoto, a Japanese physician and scientist. In the early 20th century, Dr. Hashimoto discovered a new form of thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland. That new form of thyroiditis is now considered the most common cause of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.

Most people have probably never given much thought to the butterfly-shaped gland positioned near the bottom of the neck. Unless they’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid problem, that is.

Everyone has a thyroid, and everyone needs the hormones produced by the thyroid to maintain a healthy body. When the thyroid behaves itself, it produces just the right amount of thyroid hormones. However, if it acts up, it can overproduce, resulting in a condition called hyperthyroidism, or it can underproduce, resulting in a condition called hypothyroidism. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of the United State’s population will develop some type of thyroid condition during their lifetime.

What Causes Hashimoto’s Disease?

Thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid gland, or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells for dangerous foreign invaders and attacks. In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid, causes inflammation, and often results in the underproduction of the thyroid hormones.

No one knows for sure what causes the autoimmune response, though some risk factors have been identified. Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, and lupus, can all increase your risk for Hashimoto’s.

Most people have probably never given much thought to the butterfly-shaped gland positioned near the bottom of the neck. Unless they’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid problem, that is.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease

One of the most overt symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease is a goiter, or swelling of the thyroid. It appears as a large lump near the bottom of the throat, just below the Adam’s apple, that causes the front of your neck to look swollen. If the thyroid is swollen, movement can often be felt by placing fingers at the base of the neck, just below the thyroid, and swallowing. Movement when swallowing can usually be seen as well as felt.

Sometimes, a person may not notice that his or her thyroid is swollen, particularly if it has happened gradually. But someone else may notice the growth and movement and mention it. This is often how people are prompted to look into their thyroid health, from someone else who has had experience with a swollen thyroid noticing the symptoms and pointing them out.

Since this thyroid disease often causes hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s symptoms often match those of an underactive thyroid.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Fatigue Increased cholesterol levels Constipation Sensitivity to cold
Dry skin Muscle aches and stiffness Memory fog Hoarseness
Weight gain Joint pain, stiffness or swelling Slowed heart rate Depression
Puffy face Irregular menstrual periods Weak muscles Hair loss

If you notice any symptoms of hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s a doctor’s visit is called for, as serious health problems can emerge from untreated hypothyroidism, such as:

  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Birth defects
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart failure
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Most people have probably never given much thought to the butterfly-shaped gland positioned near the bottom of the neck. Unless they’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid problem, that is.

Diagnosing Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests to check levels of thyroid hormones and to check for antibodies against the thyroid called thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies. There are multiple causes of hypothyroidism so determining that the thyroid is under-producing is only step one of making a diagnosis.

A thyroid function test determines if you have the right amounts of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone. An underactive thyroid will show high levels of TSH.

The physician will next need to determine why the thyroid is under-producing. A positive TPO antibody test will let the physician know that there is likely an autoimmune response occurring and that the immune system is producing antibodies against the thyroid. The antibody test helps point physicians toward conditions like Hashimoto’s disease and other thyroid disorders like Graves’ disease. The difference is that with Hashimoto’s the thyroid usually under-produces and with Graves’ the thyroid usually overproduces.

Treatment for Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s treatment isn’t always necessary if the thyroid is producing the proper amount of thyroid hormones. Even if the TPO antibody test is positive, if the antibodies are not affecting thyroid function, then no treatment may be recommended. The physician will likely continue to monitor thyroid hormone levels and antibody levels.

Thyroid Medication

If thyroid hormones are low, then the physician will likely recommend thyroid hormone replacement. The medication is usually taken in the form of a daily thyroid supplement. The physician will monitor the patient’s medication level through blood work every few weeks. Once the dosage is stabilized, then an annual blood test is usually recommended.

Surgery

Once a patient begins thyroid hormone replacement, symptoms and the goiter, if present, usually disappear. However, if the goiter does not respond to treatment, then surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid may be recommended. If a thyroidectomy is performed, the patient will need to start thyroid hormone replacement and remain on the treatment for life.

Amino Acid Supplements

Amino acids are critical to maintaining a healthy body. They help build protein, which in turn assists with just about every function and system of the body. Amino acids help to make chemicals that are essential to healthy organs, including proper brain function.

The Penn State Hershey Medical Center has advised that those with a low-producing thyroid may benefit from taking the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine helps with the production of the thyroid hormone and may be beneficial to those who have under-producing thyroids.

Even though tyrosine may have benefits for those dealing with hypothyroidism, it is best to take a balanced mixture of all essential amino acids to make sure that the blood concentration of amino acids is optimal. Hypothyroid patients should always discuss any new supplements or alternative treatments with their physicians before starting them to make sure they are safe and will not interfere with an established treatment plan.

How to Heal Gastritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

A general term, gastritis refers to a group of conditions that result in inflammation of the stomach lining. With knowledge of the various causes, symptoms, and available treatments, it’s possible to take control of the situation and both treat and heal gastritis.

Gastritis is a condition that leads to inflammation of the stomach lining. Episodes of acute gastritis may occur suddenly and last only a short time, while chronic gastritis may last weeks, months, or even years. While most cases of gastritis aren’t serious, the condition can occasionally lead to complications, including peptic ulcers and even stomach cancer. But with knowledge of the various causes, symptoms, and available treatments, it’s possible to take control of the situation and both treat and heal gastritis.

Causes of Gastritis

Gastritis can be caused by a number of factors, including damage to the lining of the stomach due to bacteria or viruses or thinning due to age. But by far, the majority of cases are caused by a type of bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori for short.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately two-thirds of the world’s population suffers from H pylori infection. Additional risk factors associated with gastritis include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Bile reflux

Signs, Symptoms, and Potential Complications of Gastritis

Interestingly, many people with gastritis never have any symptoms. In addition, people who are infected with H pylori in childhood may not have any symptoms until they reach adulthood. However, if gastritis symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain or burning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal fullness after eating

Symptoms of gastritis may be mild or severe and, if left untreated, can sometimes result in serious complications. Some of these include:

  • Peptic ulcers: Both NSAIDs and H pylori increase the risk of developing duodenal and stomach ulcers.
  • Atrophic gastritis: A complication especially of chronic gastritis, atrophic gastritis leads to destruction of the stomach’s mucosa and can develop into gastric cancer.
  • Pernicious anemia: Gastritis caused by autoimmune conditions can lead to loss of the stomach cells that help the body absorb vitamin B12, which results in impaired production of red blood cells.

If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen or you develop any shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness, vomiting with blood, blood in the stool, or black, tarry stool, see your health care provider right away. These are all symptoms of bleeding in the stomach and require immediate medical attention.

Tips to improve gastritis

Diagnosing Gastritis

While your health care provider will probably suspect gastritis after speaking with you about your medical history and conducting a physical exam, they may also choose to perform additional tests to determine the exact cause and help guide treatment. These tests may include:

  • H pylori testing: H pylori bacteria can be detected using breath, blood, or stool tests. Your health care provider may choose any of these, though the fecal antigen test has been found to be the most accurate.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series: To perform an upper GI series, you’ll be asked to drink a chalky powder (barium) mixed with water and then undergo an X-ray. The barium coats your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and absorbs the X-rays, making the organs of your upper digestive tract easier to see.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a lens, passed down the throat, to identify signs of inflammation in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. If any abnormalities are found, biopsies (tissue samples) may be taken for laboratory analysis.

Treatment to Heal Gastritis

Once the diagnosis of gastritis has been confirmed, treatment will be tailored to the specific cause, though therapy should address any symptoms that are present as well.

In the case of pernicious anemia resulting from atrophic gastritis, B12 injections may be administered to help prevent complications of B12 deficiency.

Symptomatic treatment may also be provided in the form of medications designed to decrease the level of acid produced by the stomach, thereby helping to promote healing of the inflamed stomach lining. These types of medications include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 blockers, and antacids, such as:

  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Maalox

When addressing the cause of gastritis, treatment may be as simple as removing the offending agent, such as alcohol, or, in the case of NSAIDs, recommending a dose reduction or change to another type of medication.

If you’re found to have H pylori infection, you’ll be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria and decrease your risk of developing complications such as peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Several natural remedies have also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of H pylori:

  • ProbioticsAccording to a study published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews, probiotics may be helpful in treating H pylori due to their activation of the immune system and direct competition with the pathogen.
  • Green teaStudies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of green tea, along with its lower levels of caffeine, may reduce the risk of developing gastritis by 40%.
  • Broccoli sprouts: A study found that daily intake of broccoli sprouts for 2 months reduces H pylori colonization in mice and decreases the risk of complications in both mice and humans.
  • Honey: A study found that honey decreases stomach acid production and aids in the healing of the stomach lining.
  • Nigella sativa (black seed): A study found that a mixture of black seed and honey was effective in treating both H pylori infection and dyspepsia.

While gastritis caused by H pylori, NSAIDs, or alcohol may be rather easily treated with the use of antibiotics (in the case of H pylori) or withdrawal of the offending agent (in the case of NSAIDs and alcohol), the treatment of gastritis resulting from other causes may be more complex. Cases resulting from stress or autoimmune disorders, for example, may benefit from equal parts healing and therapeutic prevention.

The Best Gastritis Diet

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), research has not been able to find a significant connection between a person’s diet and nutritional status and the development or prevention of gastritis.

However, the Mayo Clinic advises several changes to the diets of people suffering from gastritis. These include eating frequent, small meals and avoiding fried, fatty, acidic, or spicy foods.

Other sources suggest that foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to support immune and digestive system health may be helpful in fighting both the underlying causes and inflammation that characterize gastritis.

When choosing foods to aid in recovery from gastritis and help prevent its return, look for foods high in fiber, lean protein, antioxidants, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids. And be sure to avoid substances that irritate your sensitive stomach lining, such as carbonated beverages, coffee, and processed foods.

Tips to improve gastritis

Amino Acids for Gastritis

There’s also a growing body of evidence indicating that the use of certain supplemental amino acids may be beneficial in the treatment of gastritis.

For example, studies have shown that a combination of zinc and carnosine peptide—a substance derived from the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine—is effective against H pylori and has the ability to repair the stomach’s damaged mucosal lining. One study also found that these effects were perfectly achievable with the use of over-the-counter zinc carnosine supplements.

Another study found that the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) leads to improvements in both symptomatology and endoscopic findings in patients with chronic atrophic gastritis.

In addition, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that the amino acid glutamine has the ability to decrease the inflammation and mucosal abnormalities associated with H pylori infection.

The pain and discomfort of gastritis, when they occur, are never pleasant and shouldn’t be ignored. But with appropriate treatment and the help of your health care provider—who can provide you with tips on everything from reducing stress to eradicating H pylori and supporting the body’s healing process with proper nutrition—symptoms can be alleviated and healing achieved.

Encephalitis: What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, and it can occur at any time and doesn’t favor any particular age, gender, race, or ethnicity. We’ve broken down the causes and symptoms of encephalitis as well as the treatments available so you can comfortably confront this intimidating condition.

Inflammation is a vital response of the body to injury and infection. Without it, the immune system wouldn’t intervene to heal damaged tissue or fight off dangerous pathogens. When the inflammatory process is working smoothly, it helps us conquer acute illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections. But when it goes awry, chronic inflammation can lead to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Sometimes inflammation even affects the brain. And when inflammation of the brain occurs—but the spinal cord remains unaffected—it’s called encephalitis.

What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

While the exact cause of encephalitis isn’t always clear, most cases are associated with viruses that have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier—the semipermeable membrane surrounding the brain—and infect the central nervous system. Viral infections that have been known to cause encephalitis include:

  • Herpes viruses:
  • Enteroviruses:
    • Poliovirus
    • Coxsackievirus
  • Mosquito-borne viruses:
    • West Nile
    • La Crosse
    • St. Louis
  • Tick-borne viruses:
  • Rabies virus
  • Viruses generally associated with childhood:

Even though viruses are the main cause of encephalitis, the condition can also be the result of bacteria, parasites, noninfectious causes like drug allergies, demyelinating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune diseases, including a rare condition known as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, which was only recently identified in 2007.

Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis was largely brought to public attention by the memoir Brain on Fire and can result in a number of bizarre psychiatric symptoms, which has led experts to speculate that the disorder most likely explains the cases of so-called demonic possession that have been documented over the centuries.

Types of Encephalitis

There are two broad types of encephalitis, and which kind you have depends on how the infection attacks your body and how your body responds.

  • Primary encephalitisThe primary form of encephalitis occurs when the offending pathogen directly infects the brain.
  • Secondary encephalitis: The secondary form of encephalitis results when an infection occurring elsewhere in the body triggers an abnormal response in the immune system in which both the substance causing the infection and healthy brain cells are attacked. As this form of encephalitis often appears 2 to 3 weeks after the initial infection, secondary encephalitis is also known as postinfectious encephalitis.

Amino Re Input Updates Encephalitis: What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

Symptoms of Encephalitis

Symptoms of brain inflammation can range from mild to severe. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), benign forms of encephalitis may present as mild flu-like symptoms. According to NINDS and the Mayo Clinic, those who do have symptoms often experience some of the following:

Flu-like symptoms: Brain fog Loss of consciousness
Fever
Headache
Muscle aches
Joint pain
Fatigue
Weakness
Confusion Seizures
Agitation Double vision
Hallucinations Impaired judgment
Difficulty hearing or speaking Memory loss
Partial paralysis or loss of sensation Personality changes

In cases of encephalitis involving young children, symptoms may also include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability

Diagnosing Encephalitis

After obtaining a medical history and performing a physical exam, your health care provider may order a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis of encephalitis. Tests commonly used to diagnose the condition include:

  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Spinal tap
  • Brain biopsy
  • Urine or blood tests
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)

Risk Factors for Encephalitis

According to the Encephalitis Society, approximately 250,000 cases of encephalitis have been diagnosed in the United States over the last decade. While that equates to only about 1 in 200,000 cases each year, several factors are known to increase the risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • Age: Young children and older adults are more at risk.
  • Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems due to conditions such as HIV, certain drugs, illnesses, or poor nutrition are more at risk.
  • Geographic location: People who live in areas where mosquito- and tick-borne diseases are common are more at risk.

Complications of Encephalitis

Most cases of encephalitis are relatively mild, and those affected generally recover within a few weeks with no long-term side effects. However, in severe cases, the resulting brain damage can lead to coma or even death. Other less life-threatening complications can occur as well and may persist for months or years. These include:

  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Personality changes
  • Speech and swallowing issues
  • Epilepsy
  • Mood disorders
  • Attention and concentration problems
  • Balance and coordination issues

People suffering from these types of long-term side effects will need additional therapy to improve functioning. Types of therapy that might be required include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy

Encephalitis Treatment

Because encephalitis is considered a serious medical condition, even mild cases require hospitalization and close monitoring. Beyond that, specific care will be determined based on age, overall health, medical history, and disease severity. Treatment will also focus on addressing the underlying cause and symptoms and supporting overall well-being.

Mild cases of encephalitis may be treated with:

  • Bed rest
  • Fluids
  • Headache and fever medications

If the encephalitis is found to be the result of bacteria or fungi, the appropriate antibiotic or antifungal medication will be instituted.

Likewise, cases resulting from viruses are usually treated with antiviral medications even though not all viruses respond to antivirals. This is because the risk of severe complications with encephalitis, coupled with the fact that the specific virus may never be identified, leads many health care providers to opt for antivirals as a precaution.

Supportive treatment for severe cases of encephalitis may also include:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Steroids
  • Anticonvulsant medications
  • Anti-inflammatories

Amino Acids for Encephalitis

Amino acids are well known as building blocks of protein and are needed for proper functioning of the entire body, including the immune system and brain. Some amino acids also offer anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits.

Interestingly, recent research has even suggested a link between Alzheimer’s disease and HSV—one of the viruses known to cause encephalitis. In addition, like Alzheimer’s, herpes simplex encephalitis may lead to long-term memory loss. However, the amino acid lysine has the ability to suppress replication rates of the herpes virus and may therefore be a valuable addition to encephalitis treatment.

Recovering from Encephalitis

As you begin the process of recovering from encephalitis, it’s especially important to focus on ways to improve your overall health and help decrease levels of inflammation in the body. To this end, making dietary changes with the ability to reduce chronic inflammation may be particularly helpful. Some of these dietary changes include:

  • Eating more antioxidant-rich foods
  • Eating less red meat
  • Avoiding refined or processed foods
  • Cooking with healthy oils
  • Eating more healthy fats
  • Drinking plenty of filtered water

According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the following supplements and herbs may also be helpful in rebuilding the body after encephalitis:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics
  • Green tea
  • Cat’s claw
  • Garlic
  • Astragalus
  • Elderberry

Finally, it’s important to remember that early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for preventing potential complications of encephalitis, so be sure to seek immediate medical attention at the first sign of severe headache, fever, or altered consciousness.

Amino Re Input Updates Encephalitis: What Causes Inflammation of the Brain?

What Is COPD and How Can Essential Amino Acids (and Other Remedies) Help?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in America, with over 11 million sufferers and millions more remaining undiagnosed. With appropriate treatment and essential amino acid nutrition, COPD can be managed, but it can also cause long-term disability and premature death.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with almost 16 million Americans reporting the diagnosis and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that the total number may be much higher. COPD is also expected to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020. While there’s currently no known cure, the symptoms of COPD can be managed and lung function even improved. However, before discussing the various treatments available for this chronic and sometimes debilitating condition, it might be helpful to first ask ourselves, what is COPD?

What Is COPD?

COPD refers to a group of progressive lung diseases—the most common of which are chronic bronchitis and emphysema—that make it difficult for you to take in the oxygen you need and breathe out the carbon dioxide you don’t.

In the case of chronic bronchitis, the bronchial tubes become inflamed and less efficient in expelling mucus, which can result in your airways becoming clogged. This in turn may result in limited airflow that makes it harder to breathe.

With emphysema, the delicate air sacs of the lungs become damaged. When this occurs, the walls of the air sacs begin to expand, which causes them to weaken and eventually rupture. This not only decreases the amount of air the lungs can move but also causes them to grow in size.

This expansion of the lungs is why some people with emphysema develop a barrel chest in the later stages—their rib cages have actually widened to accommodate their chronically overinflated lungs.

What Causes COPD?

In the United States, tobacco smoke (from cigar, pipe, and cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure) is the most common cause of COPD. Other risk factors include long-term exposure to environmental contaminants such as dust, air pollution, and chemicals in the home and workplace and genetic factors such as alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in America, with over 11 million sufferers and millions more remaining undiagnosed. With appropriate treatment and essential amino acid nutrition, COPD can be managed, but it can also cause long-term disability and premature death.

Symptoms of COPD

COPD symptoms may progress for years before they become severe. In fact, in the early stages of the disease, symptoms may be so mild as to be easily dismissed. However, the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more successful treatment will be. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to these early warning signs:

  • Intermittent mild cough
  • Occasional shortness of breath
  • Frequent throat clearing

As symptoms progress, you may also begin to notice the following:

  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent respiratory infections

Diagnosis of COPD

As soon as you begin to notice symptoms, you should make an appointment to speak with your health care provider. You and your provider will then be able to discuss your symptoms, your family and medical history, and any exposures you may have had.

Your provider may also order several tests to assist in diagnosing your condition. These include:

  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • Blood tests

Medical Treatment for COPD

If your health care provider determines your symptoms warrant a diagnosis of COPD, they may place you on bronchodilators, which are considered first-line treatment for COPD.

Bronchodilators work by relaxing the muscles around the airways, thus helping to widen the airways and make it easier to breathe. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, short- or long-acting bronchodilators may be prescribed.

As the name suggests, short-acting bronchodilators are designed to provide quick relief of symptoms, lasting from 3 to 6 hours. These types of bronchodilators are used in less severe cases of COPD and should be used only when needed.

Examples of short-acting bronchodilators include:

  • Albuterol
  • Levalbuterol
  • Ipratropium

By contrast, long-acting bronchodilators are intended to control ongoing symptoms. With effects lasting up to 12 hours, these medications are designed for use in those with more severe forms of COPD.

Examples of long-acting bronchodilators include:

  • Salmeterol
  • Formoterol
  • Tiotropium

In the most severe stages of COPD, you may develop low oxygen levels and may be prescribed oxygen therapy in the form of supplemental oxygen.

However, help for COPD is not limited to these conventional treatments. In fact, there are a host of additional therapies that show promise in easing the symptoms of COPD. And one of the most important available today is undoubtedly essential amino acids.

How Can Essential Amino Acids Help COPD?

One of the most common problems among people suffering from COPD is loss of skeletal muscle mass. This potentially debilitating byproduct of COPD can contribute to even greater COPD symptoms due to the effects of muscle loss on exercise tolerance.

While there are a number of reasons for this loss of muscle, including inflammation, loss of appetite, and decreased levels of physical activity, the extent of muscle wasting is directly related to mortality from COPD.

Essential amino acids are the most potent dietary stimulators of muscle protein synthesis (the process of building muscle), and supplementing with these building blocks of life has been shown to effectively combat muscle loss and help increase exercise tolerance.

For example, in a recent study, patients with moderate to severe COPD were given either a free essential amino acid mixture (composed of separate amino acids, as opposed to the strings of amino acids found in complete proteins) or a similar mixture of both essential and nonessential amino acids in the same profile as that found in whey protein.

The results showed that subjects who ingested the free essential amino acids had a net protein gain that was an astounding 49% higher than those who consumed amino acids that were included as part of a complete protein.

Another study showed that COPD patients treated with essential amino acids had significant increases in fat-free mass (lean body mass minus remaining fat), muscle strength, and oxygen saturation.

In yet another study, it was demonstrated that a combination of the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and the amino acid creatine resulted in increased lean body mass and exercise tolerance and decreased shortness of breath and COPD exacerbations.

Finally, patients treated with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), the precursor to the amino acid cysteine and, by extension, the potent antioxidant glutathione, have been shown in studies to have significantly and consistently fewer exacerbations of both chronic bronchitis and COPD.

Clearly, the use of essential amino acids may prove beneficial to those suffering from COPD. However, even further benefits may be obtained by incorporating the following additional natural remedies into your management regimen.

Nine More Natural Remedies to Help Manage Your COPD Symptoms

1. Quit Smoking

If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD—and even if you haven’t—the first thing you need to do is quit smoking (if you smoke) and avoid secondhand exposure to anyone else’s cigar, pipe, or cigarette smoke.

While this may be admittedly easier said than done, tobacco smoke is the leading cause of COPD in the United States, and continued smoking will only lead to worsening of symptoms.

2. Practice Your Breathing

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), patients with COPD who practice breathing exercises experience greater improvements in exercise capacity than those who receive standard treatment only.

Although some pulmonary rehabilitation programs offer breathing exercises that make use of breathing devices, there’s one exercise you can practice on your own that’s been proven to decrease shortness of breath: pursed lip breathing.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in America, with over 11 million sufferers and millions more remaining undiagnosed. With appropriate treatment and essential amino acid nutrition, COPD can be managed, but it can also cause long-term disability and premature death.

Practicing this technique daily can result in:

  • Improved breathing patterns
  • Decreased shortness of breath
  • General relaxation

3. Add Vitamin D and Antioxidants

People with COPD often suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which is associated with increased susceptibility to lung infections. A recent meta-analysis also demonstrated that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher risk and greater severity of COPD.

Low levels of vitamins C and E have also been associated with increased levels of wheezing, mucus, and shortness of breath.

One recent study also showed that vitamin C reduces the risk of developing COPD regardless of smoking history. And another study conducted by researchers at Cornell University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that regular, long-term use of vitamin E by women may help reduce their risk of developing COPD.

4. Avoid Mucus-Producing (and Thickening) Foods

Many of us may not be aware that certain foods actually contribute to the body’s production of mucus and others cause existing mucus to become thicker, both of which may lead to issues in people suffering from symptoms of COPD. Some examples of these foods are:

  • Red meat
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Potatoes
  • Corn products
  • Pasta
  • Sweets

By contrast, there are also foods that contribute to lower levels of mucus. Some examples of these foods are:

  • Salmon
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pineapple
  • Grapefruit
  • Honey
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne pepper

5. Stay Hydrated

In addition to using food to help manage mucus production, it’s especially important for people with COPD to stay well hydrated. This is because proper hydration helps the body thin mucus, which not only makes breathing easier but also helps prevent respiratory infections. In fact, health care providers generally recommend that people diagnosed with COPD drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day.

6. Manage Stress

The challenge of living with COPD can often lead to stress. This may be noticed in the form of depression due to the inability to participate in certain activities or anxiety from sudden symptom flare-ups.

And in what can become a vicious cycle, mental health issues have also been shown to increase COPD exacerbations. For example, one study showed that depression and anxiety contributed significantly to hospital readmission rates in elderly patients with COPD.

However, people with COPD who practice meditation have reported an improved sense of well-being and better mood. This has also been borne out by clinical studies.

In fact, one study showed that a program of qigong promoted functional capacity and quality of life in older adults with COPD. Another study also demonstrated positive impacts on the emotional health of participants.

7. Try Essential Oils

Eucalyptus oil, derived from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, has a long history of benefits to the respiratory system. Not only is it known to open the lungs’ airways, but it can also reduce mucus production and break up existing mucus so that it’s easier to expel.

In a rather interesting study, cineole, the main component of eucalyptus oil, was shown to reduce COPD exacerbations and shortness of breath and improve lung function and health status.

And in a more recent study, patients receiving oral cineole 600 milligrams a day improved their breathing difficulties by an impressive 42.8% compared with the control group.

8. Avoid Chemicals

As stated earlier, long-term chemical exposure has been linked to the development of COPD. To reduce your chances of developing the disease or experiencing progression of current symptoms, try to avoid the use of chemicals in and around the home. These types of products may include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Paints and varnishes

Instead, look for safer natural alternatives that will do the job just as well but not expose your sensitive lung tissue to toxic chemical fumes.

9. Keep Your Home’s Temperature Optimized

High indoor air temperatures have been associated with flare-ups of COPD symptoms. In fact, a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that higher indoor air temperatures resulted in increased levels of breathlessness, cough, and sputum scores and increased rescue inhaler use.

As we’ve seen, whether you’re seeking to reduce your chances of developing COPD or already have the condition and are interested in slowing its progression, you have a number of options.

And even though the many complexities of this disease mean we still have a way to go before a cure can be declared, the combination of early diagnosis and optimal medical care via a variety of treatments, including essential amino acids, can help ensure a better quality of life and more successful outcome.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in America, with over 11 million sufferers and millions more remaining undiagnosed. With appropriate treatment and essential amino acid nutrition, COPD can be managed, but it can also cause long-term disability and premature death.

Amino Acids and Kidney Disease

Amino acids and kidney disease are inextricably linked. There is no circumstance in which the judicious use of dietary essential amino acids can provide more unique benefit than kidney disease.

Amino acids and kidney disease are inextricably linked. The kidneys are responsible for excreting metabolic waste products, including urea and ammonia, which are the end products of amino acid metabolism. Kidney disease is characterized by the failure to effectively clear these and other compounds from the blood.

Many individuals have a degree of kidney disease. Approximately 60% of people over the age of 65 have some impairment in renal function. This gradual decline in kidney function is called chronic kidney disease (CKD) or chronic renal failure and affects over 30 million Americans. The biggest risk factors for developing renal disease are high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes, all of which put excess stress on the narrow blood vessels in the kidneys.

Monitoring Kidney Health

Kidney health is typically measured by looking at the GFR (glomerular filtration rate), which is a measure of how well the kidneys are filtering toxins from the blood. As part of a blood test a doctor will measure the kidneys’ ability to handle the waste product creatinine in what is called the creatinine clearance rate, and from this, the doctor can measure the rate at which blood is being filtered through the kidneys. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that GFR tests be performed regularly as part of an annual physical exam since early detection can help stop the progression of the disease.

Kidney Failure and Muscle Loss

In addition to causing massive oxidative stress that can result in a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, kidney failure induces the stress response, and by association, loss of muscle mass and strength. The onset of the stress response is brought about in part by inflammation, as well as hormonal responses, including elevations in cortisol and epinephrine. In addition, the accumulation of urea and ammonia acidifies the blood, which has a direct inhibitory effect on muscle protein synthesis and can cause metabolic acidosis. The result is a profound loss of muscle mass and strength that has many unfavorable consequences.

Kidney Failure and Protein Intake

When kidney function is adequate, excreting the urea and ammonia produced from the metabolism of dietary protein intake is not an issue. In fact, it is well established that high-protein intake does not cause kidney failure when kidney function is normal. Unfortunately, with kidney failure, dietary protein has to be limited because of the impaired secretion of urea and ammonia.

Anabolic resistance—the compromised ability of the body to build muscle protein—is difficult to overcome in any circumstance but is particularly problematic when it comes to kidney disease. It would seem logical that the most effective dietary approach to anabolic resistance would be to consume a high-protein diet because protein metabolism fuels muscle protein synthesis. However, consumption of large amounts of dietary protein increases urea and ammonia production due to the metabolism of the absorbed amino acids that are not incorporated into protein. This is a high metabolic price to pay since anabolic resistance minimizes the effectiveness of protein intake.

Consequently, a low-protein diet is usually recommended for chronic kidney disease patients. While a protein-restriction diet minimizes the amount of urea and ammonia in the blood, in the setting of anabolic resistance a low-protein diet accelerates the rate of muscle loss. Because the importance of maintaining muscle mass is becoming much more widely appreciated, many experts in kidney disease are torn between the traditional recommendation for CKD patients to eat a low-protein diet and the adverse effects a low-protein diet has on muscle mass and function.

Essential Amino Acids and the Kidney

There is no circumstance in which the judicious use of dietary essential amino acids can provide more unique benefit than kidney disease. A brief overview of the relationship between amino acids and the kidney should make clear the role of dietary essential amino acids in lessening the devastating loss of muscle mass and function that normally occurs with kidney disease.

Muscle protein is in a constant state of turnover—protein is being broken down and releasing the component amino acids into the cell (protein breakdown), while at the same time cellular amino acids are being incorporated into new protein (protein synthesis). Part of the process of muscle protein turnover also involves the release of amino acids into the blood. While some of those amino acids released by muscle are taken up by other tissues and organs and incorporated into protein, others travel to the liver for metabolism, resulting in the production of urea and ammonia. The balance between protein synthesis and breakdown is determined by the rate of these various processes that are all occurring simultaneously.

The free amino acids in muscle cells are derived from blood, protein breakdown, or, in the case of the nonessential amino acids, production from other amino acids. In turn, cellular amino acids may be incorporated into protein or released into the blood in their original form. Additionally, they may be partially metabolized, and the nitrogen transferred to form the nonessential amino acids glutamine and alanine.

Glutamine and alanine are the major vehicles that transport nitrogen from muscle to the liver, where the nitrogen is then converted to urea and ammonia and released into the blood. The blood is filtered by the kidneys to selectively clear both urea and ammonia so they can be excreted in urine.

Dietary essential amino acids stimulate the synthesis of new muscle protein. Since nonessential amino acids make up approximately half of muscle protein, and consumption of an essential amino acid dietary supplement does not include the nonessential amino acids, the production of complete muscle protein requires that nonessential amino acids be derived in part from protein breakdown. As a result, nonessential amino acid concentrations, including alanine and glutamine, are reduced when you take an essential amino acid supplement. This imparts a positive effect on individuals with chronic renal insufficiency because a release of alanine and glutamine into the blood from muscle is correspondingly reduced. As a result of reduced flux of alanine and glutamine to the liver, the production of both urea and ammonia are lowered, which greatly helps uremic patients.

Thus, essential amino acid consumption stimulates muscle protein synthesis while lessening the burden on the kidney to excrete urea and ammonia. The devastating effect of the combination of anabolic resistance and reduced protein intake can be overcome with essential amino acids.

The relationships between muscle protein and amino acid metabolism, urea production in the liver, and urea excretion by the kidney are shown in the figures below. (Ammonia is not shown because it contributes much less than urea to the flux of nitrogen in the body.)

Amino acids and kidney disease are inextricably linked. The kidneys are responsible for excreting metabolic waste products, including urea and ammonia, which are the end products of amino acid metabolism. Kidney disease is characterized by the failure to effectively clear these and other compounds from the blood.

Since kidney disease necessitates a reduction in protein intake to minimize the burden of ammonia and urea on the kidneys, supplemental essential amino acids are even more important in kidney disease than in other catabolic states. The dosage should, therefore, be greater than in other circumstances to maintain a healthy nutritional status, and the supplement must contain all the essential amino acids and not just the branched-chain amino acids. Two 15-gram doses per day of essential amino acids are reasonable.

A Case Study

A noteworthy Johns Hopkins study published in the journal Kidney International confirmed the unique influence amino acids have on kidney disease, specifically on serum albumin levels. Your liver makes the protein albumin to help keep fluid in your bloodstream from leaking into other tissues.

Of the 47 patients studied, 29 were on hemodialysis and 18 were on peritoneal dialysis. On hemodialysis, the waste is filtered directly from the blood, and on peritoneal dialysis, toxins are removed through a soft tube in the abdominal wall that is replaced several times a day.

Patients were randomly prescribed either 5 amino acid capsules or 5 placebo capsules with meals 3 times a day for 3 months. Serum albumin levels were taken at the end of each month.

The hemodialysis patients who took the amino acid supplements had a 0.22 g/dl increase in serum albumin levels, but the peritoneal dialysis patients only had an average increase of 0.01 g/dL.

“We hope that this increase in serum albumin will result in better health and increased survival for patients treated with hemodialysis,” says Joseph A. Eustace, M.D., lead author of the study and an instructor of medicine at Hopkins.

By making sure the protein needs of CKD patients are met with amino acid supplements, secondary conditions such as metabolic acidosis, bone disease, and insulin resistance can be better prevented.

Loss of Muscle Mass and Function in Heart Failure: Can Amino Acids Help?

Heart failure develops when cardiac muscle becomes weakened. Loss of muscle mass and function is prominent in heart failure. In heart failure patients, conventional dietary intake has little or no beneficial effect on muscle protein. This is called anabolic resistance. A balanced mixture of essential amino acids (EAAs) can help overcome anabolic resistance.

Heart failure develops when the cardiac muscle becomes weakened. However, the term heart failure itself covers a broad array of conditions, though they all result when your heart no longer pumps blood as well as it should.

Heart failure is also often referred to as congestive heart failure. However, congestive heart failure refers specifically to a type of heart failure in which the heart’s pumping action becomes so compromised that it can no longer coordinate blood flow out of the heart with blood returning through the veins. This congestive heart failure results in fluid backing up and accumulating in the lungs and body tissues.

Heart failure reduces exercise capacity, which in turn leads to progressive muscle weakness and negative lifestyle changes, including a vicious cycle of sedentary behavior and weight gain, with subsequent development of metabolic abnormalities such as diabetes. Loss of muscle mass and function is also prominently seen in heart failure patients.

Most individuals over the age of 65 have some degree of heart failure, or stage 1 heart failure, which is characterized by shortness of breath during recreational exercise activities. Stage 1 heart disease is not usually diagnosed as a significant clinical problem. Stages 2, 3, and 4, however, are much more serious and may significantly impair the ability to perform activities of daily living and ultimately cause death.

But these stages don’t develop overnight. Let’s take a look at how the heart is supposed to function and what leads to the condition known as heart failure.

Normal Heart Function

The heart works by circulating blood through its four chambers: two atria and two ventricles. The right atrium takes in oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it to the right ventricle, which in turn sends blood to the lungs. By contrast, the left atrium receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the left ventricle, which then sends blood out to the entire body.

When this process is disrupted, signs of heart failure start to become noticeable. In addition, changes can be seen on one side of the heart or the other—or even both.

Causes of Heart Failure

When the heart muscle itself becomes too weak or stiff to pump blood effectively, heart failure results. This can be caused by a variety of disorders, from congenital heart defects to disease. However, many of the conditions that can lead to heart failure lie within our ability to control—or at least mitigate.

By far, the most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease, a condition that results in hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to the buildup of cholesterol and plaque on the arterial walls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 370,000 people in the United States die of coronary artery disease each year. That’s an average of one in seven deaths that can be attributed to this disease.

However, there are also many other conditions that have been implicated in the development of heart failure. These include:

Types of Heart Failure and Associated Symptoms

The main pumping chambers of the heart are the ventricles (left and right). When these become stiff or are stretched (dilated) to the point where they’re weakened and can no longer pump blood efficiently, you’ve entered the realm of heart failure.

Heart failure itself can be classified into two major categories: left-sided and right-sided.

Left-Sided Heart Failure

The left ventricle supplies most of the heart’s pumping action, and it’s consequently the largest and most muscular of the heart’s four chambers. Not surprisingly, heart failure most commonly affects the ventricle on the left side.

As alluded to earlier, the left ventricle can become so damaged that it can no longer pump oxygen-rich blood out to the body fast enough to keep up with the oxygen-poor blood returning to the heart through the veins. When this occurs, blood begins to back up in the lungs. This accumulation of fluid may result in several symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Foot and ankle swelling

Left-sided heart failure can also be further divided into two subtypes: systolic and diastolic.

Systolic Heart Failure

In systolic heart failure, or heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), the left ventricle becomes enlarged and too weak to contract normally, which reduces its ability to pump the blood effectively.

Diastolic Heart Failure

In diastolic heart failure, or heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), the left ventricle loses its ability to relax properly after a contraction and can therefore no longer fill up with enough blood during the period of rest between beats.

Right-Sided Heart Failure

Right-sided heart failure usually occurs as a result of left-sided failure, as the backup of blood in the lungs causes the ventricle on the right side to have to work harder, which can result in its weakening over time.

Right-sided failure can also be a secondary effect of lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary hypertension, or occur as a result of right ventricular damage from a heart attack.

While the symptoms of left- and right-sided heart failure are similar, the severity of symptoms seen with right-sided failure can be much greater.

For example, the fluid retention seen with right-sided heart failure may spread from the feet and ankles to the abdomen, or even the chest. The buildup of fluid in the abdomen may even be severe enough to result in tenderness and enlargement of the liver. In fact, 90% of patients with ischemic hepatitis (shock liver) have at least some right-sided heart failure.

People with right-sided heart failure may also experience loss of appetite (anorexia) and loss of consciousness (syncope) with exercise due to the heart’s inability to keep up with the demands of vigorous activity.

Pharmaceuticals for Heart Failure Treatment

Of course, optimal treatment of heart failure involves addressing the underlying cause. Pharmacologic treatment options predominantly target the heart’s ability to contract. A variety of drugs may be used for this purpose, with varying degrees of success. However, treating heart failure pharmacologically may be quite complex, particularly in the elderly, who are the most common sufferers of this disease.

More than 50% of individuals over the age of 65 with heart failure have at least four other significant health problems that may also require pharmacologic therapy. These additional conditions and therapies may complicate heart failure therapy.

Adverse responses to pharmacologic heart failure therapy are also not uncommon. In fact, the most common drugs for heart failure treatment, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta blockers, can adversely affect muscle function.

Heart Failure Fact: Despite the expenditure of millions of dollars and years of time and effort, no large-scale clinical study of a single drug therapy has demonstrated a substantial beneficial outcome for the most common form of heart failure, in which the principal problem is the failure of the heart to relax after a contraction.

This disappointing reality may reflect the difficulty of treating a syndrome with diverse causes, pathologic responses, and multiple associated chronic diseases using an entirely drug-oriented approach.

Skeletal Muscle Function and Heart Failure

There are multiple reasons for impaired physical functional capacity in heart failure. But most attention has focused on the inability of the heart to pump an adequate amount of blood, which consequently results in less oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the skeletal muscles.

Most heart failure treatments are aimed at improving cardiac function. Unfortunately, drugs that target cardiovascular function have often failed to influence exercise capacity.

However, science has shown that physical training in individuals with heart failure can improve exercise tolerance by improving skeletal muscle function even if heart function is not improved.

Likewise, testosterone treatment, which enhances skeletal muscle function but does not affect heart function, has also been shown to improve exercise capacity in heart failure patients.

Deficiencies in skeletal muscle function are common to all forms of heart failure, and it’s becoming clear that these deficiencies play an important role in pathophysiologic responses.

To further elucidate this, let’s discuss three aspects of skeletal muscle function that are altered in heart failure.

1. Muscle Mass and Strength

Heart failure induces a loss of muscle mass and strength by accelerating muscle protein breakdown. However, the loss of muscle mass is often not initially evident since many heart failure patients are overweight or obese, although in end-stage heart failure, the loss of muscle becomes painfully obvious.

This loss of muscle mass and strength in heart failure occurs in large part because the body’s normal response to dietary protein is altered.

In healthy individuals, dietary protein stimulates the production of new muscle protein. By contrast, in heart failure patients, conventional dietary intake has little or no beneficial effect on muscle protein. This is called anabolic resistance.

2. Energy Production

In people with heart failure, the organelles in muscle where energy is produced (mitochondria) don’t function normally. This is because the capacity of skeletal muscle mitochondria to produce the energy needed to perform physical activity—specifically, the ability to oxidize (combine chemically with oxygen) fatty acids for energy—is impaired in heart failure.

This is in large part due to a deficiency in the ability of fatty acids to enter the mitochondria. Incomplete oxidation of fatty acids leads to the accumulation of muscle products that impair normal metabolic function.

3. Blood Flow

Heart failure also leads to a disruption in the normal regulation of blood flow to the muscles. The amount of blood supplied to muscle tissue is normally tightly tied to the muscle’s metabolic demand. When the demand for oxygen and energy substrates (molecules acted on by an enzyme) increases with exercise, muscle blood flow increases proportionately.

However, the normal increase in muscle blood flow that occurs during exercise is reduced in heart failure patients. This diminished ability to appropriately regulate muscle blood flow is caused by the decreased production of nitric oxide (NO)—the principal vasodilator in skeletal muscle that helps widen blood vessels and increase blood flow.

Thus, whereas the decreased capacity of the heart to deliver adequate blood to peripheral tissues clinically defines heart failure, diminished skeletal muscle mass, strength, and oxidative capacity play important roles in the impairment in physical function.

Amino Acids and Heart Failure

We’ve seen how heart failure can send patients into an anabolic resistant state. Now we’re going to discuss how a balanced mixture of essential amino acids (EAAs) can help overcome anabolic resistance in heart failure.

Many studies have led to this discovery. Let’s highlight the key findings.

First, it’s been shown that only EAAs are necessary to promote muscle protein synthesis, or the building of muscle protein. (For example, check out this study my colleagues and I published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)

In addition, in a study my colleagues and I published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, it was shown that a formulation of concentrated EAAs was able to overcome anabolic resistance and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

It’s also been shown that the action of any one EAA or subgroup of EAAs is not effective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. For example, neither the three branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) nor leucine alone is effective in this regard, as evidenced by a 2017 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Finally, a balanced mixture of EAAs has been shown to effectively stimulate muscle protein synthesis in heart failure patients who have received no benefit from a popular meal replacement beverage designed and marketed specifically for support of patients with this condition.

Specific Amino Acids for Heart Failure

Four amino acids have shown particular benefit when included as part of a balanced formulation of EAAs. These are:

  • Citrulline
  • Arginine
  • Leucine
  • Carnitine

Although not an essential amino acid, citrulline is an amino acid that, when added to a mixture of EAAs, targets the impaired regulation of muscle blood flow that occurs in heart failure. In fact, consumption of this amino acid is the most effective way to promote NO production—the key to increasing blood flow to muscles during activity.

Dietary supplementation with arginine can also be an effective approach for increasing NO production. However, there are limitations in the use of supplemental arginine. Because of rapid uptake and the metabolism of this amino acid by the liver, a large dose is necessary to significantly increase NO production, and this can cause significant gastric distress.

In contrast to arginine, citrulline is well tolerated and has, again, been shown to stimulate NO production effectively in individuals with heart failure.

We’ve already discussed how heart failure results in a limited capacity of skeletal muscle mitochondria to produce energy via fatty acid oxidation and how this directly impacts the ability to perform physical activity.

This impairment is particularly problematic for individuals with heart failure, as it is this process that provides the energy necessary to perform the low-intensity exercise involved in activities of daily living.

However, amino acids can address several aspects of mitochondrial function. For instance, EAAs stimulate the production of enzymes in mitochondria that are involved in the metabolic reactions that produce energy.

In addition, the amino acid leucine stimulates the production of new mitochondria, and the amino acid carnitine can improve the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria.

As we have seen, amino acids have the ability to address the three major ways heart failure impairs muscle function. Again, these three ways are:

  • Accelerated breakdown of muscle protein
  • Poor regulation of muscle blood flow
  • Impaired production of energy

In light of this ability, not only do EAAs show great promise for enhancing heart health, but they can also be effective in mitigating the causes of and risk factors for heart failure.

And when combined with a healthy lifestyle, these aptly named building blocks of life may even result in improvement in both the symptoms of heart failure and, most importantly, quality of life.