Glycine is the most common of all amino acids and the simplest in structure. It is a required component in so many functions of the body that a deficiency can result in a wide and varied range of problems. But, because glycine is classified as a non-essential amino acid (meaning it occurs abundantly in our normal food supplies and our bodies can synthesize it from other materials when necessary), very little attention has been given to its full potential in therapeutic use.
Most of the basic research on glycine was performed in the early 1900s, and it was then that many doctors were starting to report the wide variety of health problems that could be improved or eliminated by increasing glycine levels. Unfortunately, it was also during this time period that pharmaceutical compounds became the accepted method for treating ailments and natural therapies were seen as old-fashioned and inferior.
Just because the body has the capacity to synthesize glycine doesn't necessarily mean proper tissue levels of glycine are always maintained.
With the constant onslaught from various chemicals in our water, food supply, and environment, I suspect our ability to synthesize glycine in adequate amounts is insufficient. And during times of increased stress, the body may not be able to keep up with demand, particularly if it's deficient in the necessary raw materials.
The body needs a supply of high quality protein to synthesize additional glycine. Inadequate protein from the diet is common in the elderly - not only due to a poor diet, but also from a decreased ability to produce the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid necessary for its proper digestion.
Pregnancy can also be a factor. During pregnancy, the fetus requires as much as two to ten times the normal amount of glycine. Not only can glycine deficiencies affect the mother, they can also be a growth-limiting factor in children.
Glycine has also been shown to calm the central nervous system and has been used to help control epilepsy and decrease the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Even so, many doctors still aren’t aware that glycine can be very useful in helping to control what are referred to as “acute panic attacks.” I’m not referring to the everyday anxiety/depression experienced by many, but rather the attacks that come on quickly—generally without notice.
Glycine works by interfering with the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. At the first sign of a panic attack, place two grams of glycine powder under the tongue and let it slowly dissolve. This process can be repeated every few minutes if necessary and, in most cases, the problem will resolve within 10 to 15 minutes. Glycine has a slightly sweet taste and is non-toxic. However, I would suggest limiting the doses during one of the episodes to about 20 grams. Some have experienced nausea and stomach ache with higher doses.
Additional Roles Glycine Plays In Our Bodies
- Increased amounts of glycine are essential following injuries. During would healing, glycine is required for the synthesis of the body's nucleotide building blocks - DNA and RNA.
- Glycine also has a role in the synthesis of the detoxifying compound glutathione, a tripeptide composed of three amino acids (glycie, glutamic acid, and cysteine). For what it is worth, I written extensively about increasing your glutathione levels and why it is so necessary.
- Glycine is required for the synthesis of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, digestive bile salts, and glucose.
- Glycine addresses the detoxification of certain compounds directly, such as benzoic acid. This acid is widely used throughout the food industry as an antimicrobial and as a preservative. Benzoic acid can be found in such common items as toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics, deodorants, and numerous food items.
There have also been reports from Japan where glycine is being used as an anti-bacterial agent in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant H. pylori infections that result in gastric ulcers. Glycine was able to eradicate the H. pylori infections on its own, but the researchers also discovered that when it was used along with the antibiotic amoxicillin, the amount of the drug needed to kill the bacteria was reduced by 90 percent. It would be interesting to see additional research into whether glycine alone, or with other components, could reduce the need for other types of antibiotics in other infections as well.
Glycine also just happens to be one of the compounds found in whey protein. It is worth noting that you wouldn’t get the high levels of glycine used for panic therapy from a typical whey protein drink. You would need to purchase a separate supplement for dosages as high as 3 grams. One of the best sources for amino acids of all types is Jo-Mar Laboratories, www.jomarlabs.com. However, smaller regular doses, such as those from a daily whey drink, could help you deal with stress and improve sleep.