Taking Charge of Your Health

Hello, everybody, my name is Dr. Talia Marcheggiani. I am a naturopathic doctor and I work in Toronto
and I focus on mental health and hormones, especially women’s hormones. Today I want to talk to you guys about amino
acid therapy and amino acid supplementation in preventing cravings, particularly for substance
addictions or sugar addiction, but also for improving our mood and mental health and for
treating specific psychiatric conditions. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. If you think of a string of beads, amino acids
are the individual beads that get connected in a string and then folded up into the proteins
that make up our body. Our body is basically just a hunk of protein
and water. And these proteins set the stage for all of
the chemical reactions, as well as the structure of our body. When it comes to addictions and mental health
conditions, there’s a lot of debate around what sets the stage for someone to experience
addiction, or struggle with addictions throughout their life. And one of the things that gets a lot of blame,
that also fits the pharmaceutical model, especially when it comes to depression and the prescription
of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, is this idea that mental health and addiction is something
innate, that we’re born with and that needs to be corrected chemically with something
like a drug like an SSRI. And we know that there’s obviously a genetic
component to addictions and mental health and it’s certainly not the fault or moral
failing in the person that’s suffering from these kind of things, but we also know that
our genes don’t write the entire story of our experience and that, for many people,
there’s lifestyle changes that can really influence genetic predispositions. So a study that was done in rats who had a
built-in genetic predisposition to addiction, to cocaine addiction, particularly, because
they had a deficiency in a hormone called “dopamine”, or issues with their dopamine
synthesis, and cocaine is a really potent stimulator of dopamine, which is kind of like
a pleasure and reward hormone, or neurotransmitter, in our brains. These kinds of rats that were treated with
amino acids, they didn’t display addictive behaviours, so they were essentially cured
and their genetics were no longer relevant in terms of how they were acting out, or their
behaviour, which is really promising because it was just amino acid therapy. So neurotransmitters are hormones that work
in our brain; they’re produced and act in the brain. Well, we know now with more research, I mean
that’s the traditional definition of neurotransmitter, but from more research we’ve found that there’s
evidence for the gut producing certain neurotransmitters like serotonin. So you can watch another video where I talk
about the gut and how important it is to have a healthy gut when it comes to managing mental
health, especially in depression and anxiety. There’s a few neurotransmitters that are really,
that really influence our behaviour and our mental health status and so the first one
I already mentioned is dopamine, which gives us that sense of reward and gives us a sense
of pleasure. So, dopamine is active when you’re doing something
that is really internally motivating. You’re engrossed in a task. In terms of addictions, it’s that seeking
behaviour. So a lot of people will experience pleasure
in seeking out their substance of choice or thinking about indulging in sugar when they
get home from work. So, that’s dopamine, that’s sort of our—the
pleasure that we get from acting in the world and it definitely runs part of the show when
it comes to addictions. To quote another study in rats, so dopamine
is really prevalent in our hypothalamus and so, with rats, you can give them a lever where
they can direct cocaine directly into that area, and so it gives them a giant hit of
dopamine. And rats that are given that option, will
choose that option over food and so they’ll just stimulate their brain until they die. They’ll drink some water here and there but
most of the time all they do is stimulate their dopamine. So that’s how pleasurable it is. It’s pretty much the influence of how we behave
in the world and what goals we set for ourselves in the world as well. It’s how we get our delayed gratification,
it’s how we work towards pleasurable tasks and how we engage in things like study or
work goals or things like that. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, which
I’ve talked about before, and that’s what the SSRIs, so selective serotonin re-uptake
inhibitors are working on. And those are the most widely prescribed psychiatric
medications. And that’s the hypothesis that people with
depression and anxiety have a deficiency in serotonin: just this kind of innate serotonin
deficiency where they either don’t make enough or they’re metabolizing it more quickly than
other people. So serotonin is kind of our happy hormone,
that’s what gives us a sense of well-being and pleasure. And, there’s no evidence for this hypothesis,
however know that through stimulating serotonin pathways, to an extent, we can get some favourable
outcomes. We also know that SSRI medications deplete
serotonin, and that there’s a connection between serotonin and sugar addictions, because eating
sugar will increase serotonin. So a lot of women with sugar cravings during
PMS. So a couple of weeks, sometimes up to two
weeks before their periods, some women will get really intense cravings for sugar and
carbs, and that’s indication of a fall in serotonin before their period, which is causing
them to seek out these things to boost their serotonin levels. And that can be treated with amino acids. And then a third is acetylcholine. So acetylcholine is involved in memory and
cognition and sort of that feeling of being engrossed in a task. Not so much involved in pleasure, but in our
ability to stay focussed and to concentrate. A fourth neurotransmitter is called GABA. GABA suppresses our nervous system. So, this is relevant in people with anxiety
and this is what the drug class benzodiazepines work on, is GABA receptors. So, in our limbic system, GABA kind of calms
down that fight or flight, or that fear state in our body. And oftentimes people who have a heightened
nervous system or stress response could use some GABA to calm them down. So there’s a few amino acids that work on
these neurotransmitters. So these neurotransmitters are built with
an amino acid backbone. By giving these amino acids, we’re kind of
like—if you think of all these neurotransmitters assembled on a factory line, the amino acid
is the starting point. So if you’re giving a lot of the supplies,
then you’re more likely to cause in increase in production of the thing that you’re increasing
the supply for. We also know that there can be deficiencies
in amino acids and therefore, if there’s a shortage of supplies for the key ingredients
for the things you’re producing in a factory, you’re not going to get the end result because
there’s just not enough of the raw materials to make what you’re trying to make. So, we can have things like serotonin deficiency
not so much because there’s a genetic predisposition, or an issue with the brain’s ability to metabolize
it or make it, but maybe that there’s a deficiency in the amino acids, or the vitamins and minerals
that are needed to create serotonin. When it comes to naturopathic medicine and
functional medicine, we kind of look at this. We try and see how we can influence the body’s
biochemical pathways to get more of what we’re noticing is lacking. And so one of the ways that we can find out
which neurotransmitters are lacking is by running some functional tests. That’s not really a big part of my practice
because of the cost involved in that, but we can tell a lot through symptoms. So we can tell a lot by asking, are people
getting sugar cravings, what’s their drug of choice, are they heading towards cocaine
or are they calming their nervous system down and stimulating their GABA pathways with alcohol. Are they trying to get that pleasure sensation
with something like heroin? Are they going for stimulants or central nervous
system depressants? So, based on what someone is addicted to,
or looking at and really breaking down their addictive behaviours, we can find out more
about which neurotransmitters might be off. And in a lot of cases there’s a deficiency
in many of them. One of the first things to recommend, just
generally, is to increase more protein in the diet, because we know that these amino
acids are contained in proteins. And, strangely enough, we don’t get a lot
of high-quality protein in our diet in the Standard American Diet, so you think of a
bacon and eggs breakfast and McDonald’s lunch and you’re like, ‘well, there’s protein in
those foods…’ But, in something like eggs, we’re only getting
about 6 grams of protein an egg, whereas I recommend more like 20 to 30 grams of protein
in the morning for breakfast. And the reason for this is, of course, to
just increase the amount of amino acids that your body can then use to make neurotransmitters,
but also to keep blood sugar stable, because drops in blood sugar are going to cause stress
hormones to be released and potentially for these neurotransmitters to be altered, worsening
addictions, especially addictions to sugar and alcohol, which boost our blood sugar. So the first thing, dopamine, that amino acid
that creates dopamine is tyrosine. So, for some people, and tyrosine is a very
stimulating amino acid, so people that kind of have that 2 pm slump, sometimes benefit
with some tyrosine, or tyrosine in the morning when they’re feeling really low. And so these people kind of suffer from boredom,
they really like stimulants, so they’ll do the caffeine, or they’ll use cocaine on the
weekends, or they’re really involved in pleasure-seeking behaviour like, maybe they had a diagnosis
of ADHD as a kid, or adult-onset ADHD, which is more involved in traumatic experiences
and mental health and neurotransmitter imbalance than it is some genetic predisposition. Sometimes with these people, supplementing
with tyrosine can help, just give them that dopamine boost and keep their nervous system
more stimulated so that they don’t need to stimulate it with substances. For serotonin, the building block is l-tryptophan,
which is then made into something called 5-HTP. So some naturopaths will prescribe l-tryptophan
as a supplement, I tend to go more with 5-HTP because it passes a step so that your body
has to do less work. 5-HTP is really great to help with sleep. It’s good to help with boosting mood, to a
certain level, and it’s also really great for PMS sugar cravings, and alcohol cravings. I find myself, personally, so this Christmas
I’m going sugar and alcohol free. I’ve been sugar and alcohol free for a few
months, but I’m going to carry that on through the holidays, so I’ve had to turn to 5-HTP
before my period because I realized how many sugar cravings I get before then. And, miraculously, just with a few hundred
milligrams of 5-HTP, I’ve noticed a giant change in the foods that I was craving and
in my ability to hold off on having sugar and alcohol. So, pretty powerful. So, in order to make serotonin, 5-HTP also
needs some B vitamins and magnesium. So, people that are deficient in things like
B6 and B12 and folate, so I’m looking at vegetarians who often have B12 deficiencies, or vegans. And, actually I see a lot of B12 deficiency
or suboptimal B12 in people that eat meat as well, so this isn’t necessarily something
is only applicable to vegetarians. But it’s important for a lot of people to
supplement then with these other cofactors that help make serotonin, especially if they’re
on an SSRI already. And I don’t advise just doing this on your
own, it’s better to do this with a professional who can figure out what’s the underlying cause
of a neurotransmitter imbalance and then help prescribe a comprehensive treatment plan that
will get you to better neurotransmitter synthesis and treat your symptoms, or the underlying
condition. Something else that I find really helpful,
and this is one of my favourite nutrients in psychiatry and in women’s health and something
I take is something called N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, “NAC”. And NAC is from the amino acid cysteine and
it produces something called glutathione. So glutathione is the primary antioxidant
in the body. This is what our body uses to neutralize all
of the free radicals, that is kind of a buzzword—people will tell you to drink green tea, eat blueberries,
to get antioxidants, well, the main antioxidant our body uses is something called glutathione,
and NAC helps produce glutathione. It helps our liver detoxify and, in hospitals
medical professionals will give people intravenous NAC to treat Tylenol overdose, which we know
is liver toxic, so it’s widely recognized that NAC can treat toxicity of the liver. It’s also a powerful antioxidant for the lungs
so I prescribe it to patients who are smokers or recovering from smoking or aren’t really
ready to quit smoking yet but are experiencing some of the bronchitis, the emphysema, or
the increased phlegm or lung issues that go along with a chronic habit of smoking. So, it’s a powerful antioxidant and it has
an affinity for the lungs and for excess mucus production. It also helps balance estrogen because of
the liver detoxification, so it helps us detoxify estrogen through the liver, and is really
helpful for a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is when the ovaries
are producing testosterone and not responding to other hormones properly, so this is really
helpful. It also helps with blood sugar balance. NAC’s the best. And so, there’s lots of research for NAC in
things like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and psychosis and OCD. So these more serious psychiatric conditions,
NAC can really help balance. And we’re not sure exactly why but one of
the hypothesis is that, because it creates glutathione, it helps lower inflammation,
and we know that inflammation is implicated in mental health conditions and so that’s
why NAC might be so useful. It doesn’t interact with psychiatric medications
and so it’s a really big part of my practice. New research has shown that NAC can help with
addictions and cravings for things like nicotine, cannabis, food, so binge eating, cocaine and
gambling, interestingly enough. And then there’s a new study that NAC can
help treat porn addiction. So, it’s involved in helping lower that desire
for, not necessarily substances, or food, but behavioural addictions as well, which
is useful. And there’s studies in trichotillomania, so
that’s like, compulsive hair plucking—so people will pluck their eyelashes or pluck
their hair—or skin picking, and NAC can work pretty rapidly in bringing down those
desires and stopping those behaviours. GABA is something you also might have heard
of. So, GABA was a neurotransmitter that I cited
before, that calms the nervous system down. GABA, there’s debate about whether it crosses
the blood brain barrier. So, our brain has this really tight wall that
it prevents certain substances from crossing. That’s to protect our brain tissue from toxins
and foreign objects, or foreign substances. So we’re not sure, necessarily, if GABA’s
acting on the brain unless there’s a leaky brain situation happening, so kind of like
leaky gut, we can also have that with our blood brain barrier. But there’s herbal combinations that help
stimulate GABA, that I implement in my practice sometimes to help people that are experiencing
panic attacks or anxiety, to get them to a level where they can then make the changes
that are going to sustain them. So, things like valerian and hops, and passionflower
and something that I prescribe a lot, kava, another herb called lemon balm. So, sometimes combinations of these, or just
one of these things can help, especially before bed. And so, one of the indications for GABA deficiency
is a craving for wine, especially at the end of the day, and particularly white wine. I guess it has more GABA-stimulating properties. I have a lot of patients, many of them female
patients, that just really crave a glass of wine at the end of the day. And a few other patients that will have an
after-work beer. So, just doing some GABA, or some GABA herbs,
on the way home from work might be enough to decrease that need to reward and balance
that nervous system, because the alcohol does have a GABA-stimulating effect and calms people
down. It’s us looking for a way to self-medicate
and trying to balance our neurotransmitters through the actions that we’re familiar with
that don’t necessarily set us up for powerful health because they perpetuate further addictions,
like turning to alcohol to calm ourselves back down, or as a reward and stress relief. And the last neurotransmitter I’m going to
talk about is something called l-glutamine. So, glutamine is a fuel for brain cells and
for gut cells, as well as kidney cells. It’s another amino acid, it’s involved in
creating the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is excitatory. So, this is something that increases our nervous
system tone. So, glutamine we prescribe as naturopaths
a lot for leaky gut because it helps feed our enterocytes, or our gut cells, it can
help repair them. So, somebody with celiac disease who’s experienced
a lot of intestinal damage and has now taken out gluten, might need some glutamine, some
l-glutamine to repair the gut cells that were damaged or increase that cell turnover so
that they’re no longer experiencing symptoms. L-glutamine has kind of got a sugary taste,
but it doesn’t stimulate us like sugar does, and so one thing that people do when they’re
experiencing sugar and alcohol cravings is to take some glutamine powder or open up a
capsule of l-glutamine and let it dissolve under their tongue. And they experience a remarkable decrease
in their sugar and alcohol cravings, those physiological cravings—the emotional cravings
are another piece, obviously—but the physical cravings where our body is really asking for
these foods, the l-glutamine can really help calm that down powerfully. So this is something that I’m going to experiment
with myself and with some patients that I know could really benefit from this. So I wanted to give this talk, just to give
you guys some easy things to try over the holidays, especially when you’re experiencing
some of those sugar or alcohol cravings or getting into a situation where your vices
are playing out in excess. I know that this is going to be helpful for
me, because of my commitment to no sugar or alcohol this holiday season, which is actually
easier than it sounds. And one thing to note too, is that with amino
acids, because we’re pushing pathways, they don’t work necessarily like drugs that can
take, like an SSRI can take 4 to 6 weeks before it’s effect comes on. These work within days. So, when I was experiencing sugar cravings
before my period last month, and I started to take 5-HTP, which remember stimulates serotonin,
or helps us produce serotonin, and can help with sugar cravings, and carb cravings. When I started to take 5-HTP, I noticed this
sense of well-being and uplifted mood within a few days and it was a noticeable effect,
as well as deepened sleep. My sugar cravings immediately dissipated when
I started taking it. So it took a few doses to eliminate my sugar
cravings and then a few days to increase my mood, which I didn’t even realize was kind
of falling, based on that serotonin deficiency before my period. So, these are really powerful therapies that
you can try. I don’t advise doing it on your own, but seeking
the help of a professional, but these are things that can really help balance brain
chemistry during the holiday season and set you up for better mental health. So, next talk I’m going to talk about leaky
gut and leaky brain and how avoiding gluten can help with mental health conditions. So, have a great holiday, everyone and I’ll
see you next time. My name is Dr. Talia Marcheggiani, and I’m
a naturopathic doctor who practices in Toronto. If you have any questions give me a shout
on my email at [email protected] Happy Holidays.

76 thoughts on “Amino Acid Therapy for Mental Health + Addictions

  1. Great video! Earned a sub. I have bipolar disorder and panic disorder myself and am on medication for panic attacks. I talk about mental health on my channel.

  2. I just learned more in this video than I did in the first two semesters of my nutrition program. Are you a teacher or professor? I love your videos. I'm so grateful. Please continue to upload! 💜

  3. I don't have problems sleeping but always have a terrible memory and can never remember my dreams at all unless I have to wake up to pee. I heard this can be low b6 but I've been supplementing with one or both forms (active and inactive) and still not remembering my dreams. Not sure what else I could be low in.
    I can read and not remember much of what I read. Any suggestions? I'm thinking either gpc or cdp choline but not sure which one is better or if there's anything else that can help memory and dream recall but I'm missing something besides b6.

    I have a horrible stomach. I think the N-AC has been increasing my bowel movements from once a day to two and seem to have more stuff coming out my nose and brain feels better so that's good. Always good to detox more often.

    My stomach gets irritated quite often. Maybe I'll try L-Glutamine. Also have low stomach acid. Just got taurine to help with heart arthymias (along with mag) and bile production (had my gall bladder removed couple years ago wish I still had it)

    My other issue is eating enough. Is there anything you know of to increase appetite? I suppose that's a symptom of depression. But if I could eat more then I would have more energy. I used to run 30 miles or more a week at a nine minute pace and 5-20 miles at a time but now my body is so tired. I can't seem to run more then a mile and a half at a fifteen minutes pace. I appreciate any suggestions and will try at own risk. I'm not in Canada otherwise I'd come see you for help. I'm definitely a believer in eating healthy and trying vitamins minerals amino acids fatty acids and herbs if diet alone is not working. I would probably get more help from diet if I could increase stomach function and appetite.

    Oh and any tips on hair. My hair is very thin. Also forgot to mention that I have anxiety and social anxiety. I have hard time with stress. Basically I'm a giant mess.

    . Appreciate this video.

  4. How do you feel about trace minerals and using platinum as a homeopathic treatment for mental health. Everything that you mentioned makes me more hyper and "crazy". I also cant take NAC due to my mercury tooth fillings.

  5. Im looking for NATURAL options for depression and anxiety B3 and NIACIN are often mentioned as well as lifestyle and healthy diet

  6. Hey guys, can you check my video Food For Thought out

    I'm trying to explain how mental health is a vital issue that needs to be resolved and accommodated to immediately otherwise it will progressively become worse. My belief is that this issue will continue to rise whilst individuals continue to consume unhealthy food, at the level that is occurring currently.

    Foods that can provide your body with the materials required to increase GABA levels within your body could be used to combat this. However, in my video I must highlight that I am not solely explaining that it is just GABA, but that GABA is one of many neurotransmitters that is involved as well as it's synergistic workings with glutamate.

  7. You seem like a very nice doctor who cares ! Keep up good work ! My drug of choice is coffee… with..sugar, and milk… You got me pegged…why does coffee make me happy ? 🙂

  8. u said to talk to a professional before getting any supplement.well i live in austria .No doctor will no about these things here!

  9. Doctor Talia, I have been on Sertraline for about three months, will it be ok to mix it with 5-HTP, l-dopa, and l-tyrosone all together?

  10. Ive been using dextromethorphan for almost 12 years.. what does that mean, besides being stupid? Oh yeah..i have little self esteem.. because im stupid because I use Dextromethorphan and when I don't use it I get crazy and so when I get crazy I use dextromethophan, which makes me stupid, which makes me wanna stop..but when I stop I get crazy..alwayyys chasing rainbowwwwsssss… Looks like I need some dextromethorphan. But seriously – everything I just told you is real. what do you think?(not talking to trolls) talking to Dr.Talia. Thnax… I'll be in subspace, astrally projecting if ya need me.

  11. Hello doc. have you heard of Lithium Orotate as a supplement for depression, anxiety, etc. And if someone is taking 5 H T P, can they also take Lithium Orotate? can they be taken at the same time, what is the best dosage for ea. one and for how long (how many months)? thank you

  12. Hey Dr! I’d love to speak to you about the supplements you mentioned. I have bipolar 2 with an anxiety disorder and would like to know what you think of my routine

  13. Great vid. I take anafranil and lexapro since 16 years. When I take aminos before workout, I feel my brain is better. What would you advise as supplements? Thks

  14. This is such important information and im grateful for it.
    But pleeeeeeze! Your voice is so low and articulation so rushed that I can only understand every other word.
    Will you please get a good microphone and speak more articulately….
    You're providing a wonderful service for many people but the time and efforts are partially wasted
    Thankyou !

  15. This is dropping the hammer on big pharma! Well done! I’m definitely going to try this method out! I hate taking pharmaceuticals

  16. Hi. I've heard that NAC should not be taken on its own as it will confuse the neural pathways. What should it be combined with, the other anino acids you mentioned; l-glutamine etc?

  17. I really want to become a Naturopathic Doctor, but I am very ambivalent as there are some articles and a blog out there that really scare me. Your videos are really inspiring to me—this is the type of doctor that I want to be, but the fear and doubt is still there.

  18. Hi I am on olanzapine and I get sugar cravings all the time :< So thank you I will try 5-htp! keep the videos coming, you go!

  19. What are your thoughts on pairing DL-Phenylalanine and NAC to help behavioral addiction and anxiety in a male?

  20. There is no treatment and no cure for depression, something we just have to suffer and live with in this cruel world. I’ve lost all hope. Depression and anxiety is a multi billion dollar industry they give us all these drugs that make us worse and slowly kills us why do you think suicide rates are going up? There is no natural way to treat depression so all this bull crap supplements like 5htp, St. John’s wort, sam-e and all others people talk about is bogus. I suffer from severe depression I’ve tried every supplement, natural herbs, teas, anti depressants and haven’t found relief. I prefer to go to sleep and not wake up to this suffering daily. But that’s just life. Tired of the bull crap gimmicks people try to sell others. Why make money off of someone else’s suffering? If I had the answer or the cure I’d help everyone I wouldn’t charge because I know what it’s like to live with depression, depression basically robs you of your joy of life. I wish these fake people that make these videos talking about they overcame depression naturally to really suffer from severe depression.

  21. does a naturopathic doctor qualfy as a primary care physician for insurance purposes? I hate that I have to pay monthly insurance and I never go to the doctor because alll they want to do is push medications. I want to cure from the inside out and have already gotten off of anxiety meds, BP meds, cholesterol meds, and blood sugar meds. But it has all been hit or miss, a few of these and some of those etc, I dont know what actually is working, or at what dose.

  22. Alot of cats in the comments are asking if its ok to take certain Aminos along with other Aminos. Heres just my thoughts. Lots O' Aminos are found in all kinds of dif foods, since you probly wont get a bad reaction from eating diff foods with diff aminos together, Id imagine its no diff with Amino supps. Thats just my thoughts, howvr Ive been known to be called a thoughtless pig by my Ex, so take it for what it is, just a thoughtless pig's thoughts.

  23. Take a heroin addict. Theyre body has stopped producing Neuros like Dopamine, Seratonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins due to the overloading of these chemicals via Heroin. Plus addicts tend to have horrible eating habits which creates nutrition loss. Therefor like a double whammy for addicts. Would consuming tons of Aminos help kickstart ur body to naturaly start creating those Neuros that ur body had stopped creating?

  24. All – try taking black seed oil 1/2 to 1 tea spoon with honey on empty stomach see the result for yourself!

  25. Dr. Marcheggianni… May I ask where you earned your doctorate from and who that institution is accredited by? I am an MD in the US (really, I am) and am not familiar with naturopathy. Can you provide links to the studies you spoke of? I don't dispute that they are real but I simply would like to read more about them. I actually agree with a few of your claims, but some of them seemed rather outlandish so I'm just trying to understand better. Hope to hear from you.

  26. When I took at sublingual b12 supplement I had a panic attack virtually immediately after. also my blood test had high levels of b12

  27. I'm of premenopausal age, having anxiety and trouble sleeping, would you recommend 5 http with NAC?

  28. Summary: Watch this advertisement, go pay her $2000 for a placebo treatment that's not approved by real doctors.

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