Why are we Sometimes Deficient in Amino Acids

The answer is not a simple one but requires that we examine a number of factors which can interact to produce deficiency in the midst of plenty.

Possible Reasons for Amino Acid Deficiency

Whatever the reasons for the inadequate digestion of protein, it is obvious that there can be an actual deficiency in certain amino acids due to one of the following factors:

  • incomplete breakdown of proteins in the digestive system
  • inherited abnormalities in the biochemical mechanisms of the body
  • a poor diet
  • stress
  • infection
  • environment
  • toxins

Causes of Amino Acid Deficiency

Eating sufficient protein is not in itself a guarantee that the necessary amino acids will be supplied. Even though amino acids are the substances of which proteins are made, no matter how much protein we consume, the biological availability cannot be assured. This is extremely important to understand. Protein, be it sourced from food or cellular body protein, must be completely broken down into its constituent parts, amino acids, for absorption.

Let us explore some of the major factors behind poor amino acid absorption or protein synthesis:

•    Digestive Factors
•    Allergic Factor
•    Diet Choices
•    Biochemical Individuality
•    Insufficient Support Nutrients
•    Aging
•    Disease Weakened Metabolic Systems

Digestive Factors
One of the reasons for this is the often inadequate quantity or efficiency of the digestive juices produced in the stomach and pancreas, when pancreas fails to produce essential protein digesting enzymes . Excessive demands upon any organ in the body can in time lead to its abilities becoming exhausted.

The pancreas produces the so called proteolytic enzymes, such as trypsin, chymotrypsin etc, for protein digestion. It also has the major task of producing insulin with which the body attempts to control sugar levels in the bloodstream. When this particular function breaks down diabetes occurs. Diabetes is all too common in modern society, and is related directly to over-consumption of fats and sugars. If proteolytic enzyme production by the pancreas is inadequate then amino acid breakdown is faulty, and as a result the body will have a serious lack of the raw materials from which to make more enzymes, and so the cycle repeats itself and worsens with time. Poor digestion leads to poor amino acid breakdown, which leads to worse digestion.

Other substances which harm the pancreas, apart from sugar and fats, are alcohol, coffee, cigarettes and a number of drugs. Apart from aberrant insulin production, other symptoms which might become apparent when pancreatic function is impaired are recurrent gastritis and frequent allergic type reactions, related to incompletely digested substances being absorbed into the bloodstream.

If at the same time protein intake is high, there are even greater demands being made on a compromised digestive system with the pancreas laboring even harder, in vain, to produce substances it is unable to produce.

Other digestive imbalances, including the all to common inadequacy of the gastric secretions of hydrochloic acid or pepsin, can result in similar incomplete digestion of proteins, and therefore in poor free amino acid presence in the ‘pool’ of amino acids from which the body draws the raw materials with which to reconstruct and constantly renew itself.

Allergic Factors
The whole process of incomplete digestion is key to understanding many allergic problems. The results of poor digestion (i.e., the incomplete breakdown of food protein) in turn causes the dangerous formation of partial protein molecules called “free peptides.” These peptides are generally unusable substances that are treated as invaders by our body’s Immune System. These unwanted free peptides are eventually absorbed through the intestinal wall, causing inflammatory responses to specific organs and tissues.

The body utilizes amino acids, not whole proteins, and whole proteins are viewed by the system as antigenic. The presence of protein instead of amino acids may lead to food allergies, to a shock reaction called anaphylaxis, to other symptoms typical of an allergy, such as sneezing, breathing difficulties, skin rashes, headaches, nausea, or even, in severe cases, death. And these problems result from just a very small amount of the food protein, which is recognized as foreign.

Diet Choices
Amino acids are not stored for any appreciable time in the body. The essential amino acids must be eaten pretty much at the same time as the others. The synthesizable ones are not stored, waiting around for one of the missing “essentials” to show up later. Food proteins lacking one or more of the essential amino acids can maintain life, but cannot support growth. These foods are known as incomplete proteins, or inadequate proteins. Some examples of food containing incomplete proteins are gelatin, corn, and most flours.

Diets that are deficient in the non-synthesizable amino acids lead to the break down of protein structures in the body, such as muscle. Since skeletal muscles contain the necessary proteins, the body will break down those proteins and take them in order to provide what is necessary for other protein functions. If it continues, eventually this will lead to a serious loss of muscle and this presents as a grave malnutrition symptom.

The good news is that a diet of mixed animal protein ensures the ingestion of an adequate mixture of the essential amino acids. Unfortunately, a diet that is exclusively vegetable usually does not. Vegetarians need to learn exactly how to get all the essential amino acids by the precise mixing of appropriate vegetables, such as eating corn with certain kinds of beans.

Biochemical Individuality
This term refers to our own particular idiosyncratic needs for certain nutrients. Thus one person may require five to seven times as much calcium or vitamin C as another in order to remain in good health, while another person may require three or four times as much vitamin A and/or zinc. We are told that we require certain levels of nutrient intake to maintain health. Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) relate to averages and, thus far, in extensive testing, very few people have been found who fit the average for ALL nutrients.

We all have unique biochemical requirements, which relate both to acquired and to inherited factors.

This means that for each of us, the quantity of each nutrient in our diet is different. Indeed, from the range of almost 50 substances which should be present in our diet (vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, essential fatty acids etc.) and which are essential for life, there are requirements which are different for each of us. And so we each need different amounts of amino acids, just as we need different amounts of vitamins, mineral, essential fatty acids or trace elements.

Insufficient Support Nutrients
Amino acids do not work in isolation, but are dependent upon vitamins and minerals in order to form body tissues such as bone and muscle, hormones and enzymes. For example, the amino acid tyrosine needs to combine with iodine for the thyroid hormone thyroxin to be created: thyroxin cannot be manufactured without both these substances.

In-take of nutritional supplements such as vitamins and minerals must be accompanied by amino acids in order to be a simulated and absorbed by the body. Even though vitamins and minerals may be absorbed by the body they lose their effectiveness in the absence of amino acids. Likewise, without adequate support nutrition, many of the amino acid pathways become blocked.

In good health, the body is constantly breaking down many of its own constituent cells for recycling, as well as ingested protein from food. Both of these tasks require the presence of specific enzymes in order to uncouple the amino acids from the chains into which they are linked as proteins. If a particular enzyme is deficient, then this uncoupling task is to properly accomplished and free amino acid deficiency will occur, causing in turn further enzyme deficiency, and even poorer subsequent protein breakdown.

As we age, our metabolism becomes altered. The orchestrated balance is disturbed. Although a healthy body is normally breaking down proteins into separate amino acids and then reassembling them into other needed protein structures, eventually this homeostasis is disrupted. The older we become, the more accelerated the process of breaking down cellular protein begins to exceed the constructive process of building up. Biochemical pathways become sluggish and un-tuned, not responding in harmony.

Free form amino acids then become more scarce with increasing years. When in short supply, any free form amino acids present within the body’s environment are quickly produced into other proteins, too quickly to be used by other pathways for the creation of other amino acids.

As we become older, normal protein synthesis and metabolism is inhibited by a number of things, including poor diet, erratic patterns of sleep, unresolved stress, lack of exercise, developed food allergies, even environmental pollution. All of these problems can, and usually do, disturb digestive and metabolic processes. When the uncoupling of amino acids is inhibited, then the life-preserving free form amino acid, the fundamental ingredient of health, will not be found.

Disease Weakened Metabolic Systems

The study of amino acids is particularly relevant to all disease, because the body normally uses amino acids to promote health and fight disease. When we are suffering from a moderate to severe chronic illness, we lose the ability to manufacture enough non-essential amino acids, and thus require supplementation. Problems with digestion will also necessitate supplementation of “non-essential” amino acids. Most people have been told that if you eat a balanced diet, you’ll get all the amino acids you need. That simply is not true if you are significantly out of balance. For example, if your amino acid testing reveals a significantly low Tryptophan, you will have to eat several turkeys a day… or gallons of milk to get enough Tryptophan from a natural source.