I started my amino acid journey by desperately scanning the ‘depression’ section of the supplement shelves of Montana Harvest in Billings, Montana. (I was having some major stress in my life at the time). With a wiggling toddler on my hip, I grabbed a bottle of True Calm and a few different herbal remedies and made my way up to the cash register. I tried all three supplements on different days, and True Calm, which is primarily made of the amino acid GABA, was the one that worked, and it’s what I stuck with.
How Amino Acid Supplementation works
Amino acids work by correcting a deficiency. In my case, I had been stressed for quite a while, and most likely the amount of stress was depleting the amount of GABA in my body faster than my body could produce it. Aminos pictured above are ones that your body should be making from the amino acids found in meat, dairy, legumes, and other protein rich food, but occasionally it may not be making enough. This can happen because you’re not eating high enough quality proteins, are using more aminos to stabilize your mood than a typical person (if you’re under a lot of pressure or stress), or your digestion is poor so you’re not actually getting everything out of your food that you should.
Taking GABA didn’t solve all my problems, but it did make me much more calm, and allowed me to stop feeling like I was on edge all the time.
The day after I started taking True Calm, I watched my daughter (she had autism at the time) pitch one of her regularly scheduled every-30 to 90-minute temper tantrums as she came down the stairs in our small two bedroom apartment. As she was thrashing on the floor, over something that nobody was going to be able to change,I realized that she was acting how I felt prior to amino acid therapy (keep in mind I never did have a physical temper tantrum- but the thought process was surely all there up in my head!).
So as soon as she was down for her nap, I headed back up those stairs to research amino acids for autism on the computer. And lucky me, I found a double blind placebo controlled study on them! Beautiful! That is my favorite kind!
After my daughter’s nap, I bundled both kids up, stuck them in the car, and made it down to Montana Harvest again, where we purchased a $33 bottle of L-Carnosine. It didn’t cure autism, but as it says in the study, it did make a noticeable difference in the severity of symptoms and frequency of the tantrums.
The goal with amino acid therapy is to correct a deficiency, so after a few months I didn’t need True Calm any more, and it took a little over a year for her to not need L-Carnosine (which was welcome, as it’s expensive!). We still have it in our cupboard and use them if we’re going through stress (moving, starting a new school year, etc) and transitions.
Other Amio Acids and Their Uses
We’ve used other amino acids too, after seeing the results that we got with those two.
DLPA to quit coffee (which I’ve started again, but have the ability to quit if I want to).
L- Carnitine for muscle tone is a common treatment in the mitochondrial disease community, and we’re about to start it back up again because Hannah has low tone.
The book The Mood Cure talks about many more amino acids. I really liked the information in her book, but we didn’t follow her protocol exactly- I don’t like to start more than one new supplement every 2 weeks, and she called for multiple at once. But it may work for you, it just didn’t work for me.
Dosage and administering to toddlers
I started with just one cap for my toddler, and increased it by one every day until I felt like she wasn’t getting any more benefit. After we had been using the aminos for a couple weeks, I could see it kind of ‘wear off’ (more accurately would be ‘be used up’) and then I’d give her more when needed. I tried giving her True Calm (GABA) and it didn’t affect her at all, which I took to mean that she really was deficient in L-Carnosine, and I was in GABA, so these were correcting a deficiency.
For her this ended up being 3 capsules twice a day. I would open the capsules and put them in her sippy cup with homemade juice since we were on the GAPS diet. I could also stir them into soft foods like apple sauce and pureed squash. They do have a taste, but it isn’t bad.
I feel that amio acid therapy is a good therapy for many families with mood or behavioral challenges to try, it’s relatively inexpensive, low risk, they’re easy to administer, and there are studies on some of the amino acids.
As always, I’m just a mom, and not in any way am I considered a medical professional. Always check with a qualified practitioner before starting or changing any nutritional or supplemental protocol.
This is great I want to look into some of the ones you mentioned. I thought of you today. My 21 month old is a very chill little guy but recently bit off the top of his last bottle nipple and had tpo wean off of them. Oh my the temper tantrums have been intense. I thought of you and all the single parents dealing with autism you all are amazing!
I just started my little guy on Taurine, because it says “supports a calm mood” on the NOW bottle. It’s only been two days, so we’ll see what happens. When we run out I might try the L-carnosine.
My son takes 1,000 mg of taurine every day and it makes a big difference in his anger and irritability. I hope it helps yours!
Thanks so much Cara, we definitely struggle with moodiness and sometimes total loss of self control as well. Plus, depression runs in my family so these supplements may certainly help and the idea of studying them is just what we needed!
How long was it before you noticed a difference in your daughter?
Just a couple hours. It wasn’t a black-and-white difference, but the intensity and frequency of tantrums went way down.
So how do you know which one your child needs? Is it just trial and error?
The book The Mood Cure can help, but I used a little trial and error and googling :)
Cara, were you comfortable taking these amino acids while nursing your little one?
I was, GABA and DLPA at least, I haven’t really looked into the others much. My nursling was also a super sturdy big healthy baby, if I had a medically fragile child I might have come to a different conclusion.
This is what I needed for my daughter. Although she isn’t autistic…she has horrible temper tantrums. She tries really hard to control her temper, sometimes she just can’t. So I am hopeful that this will help. Thanks for the post, it came at a time when we really needed to read it!! I was going to get the True Calm, however in reading the ingredients and googling what they were it looked like one of the ingredients would cause drowsiness…not something I needed for my daughter so I opted for the Now brand of GABA.
Try DMG. I left a comment at the bottom about it.
I love Now products. But Now, unfortunately does not state their ingredients are non-GMO. Which then defeats the purpose of improving digestion, which is a major factor in Autism. I only looked at their “Amino Complete” , which uses Soy. I only post this so others can make informed choices.
Have you found a non-gmo brand Kittian?
I found that DMG (now brand) really helped control my sons
Temper even tho my Son isn’t autistic, the reviews on amazon
Say It’s for autistic kids. He has been on GABA about 2 years
And it seems to not have any effect on him anymore.
It was such a blessing tho. It helped him focus in
School and it stopped the teachers from silently
Pushing me to put him on meds. I think I might try
I was on anti anxiety/depression meds (ssris) last year. My husband and I decided we were ready to try for another baby after a miscarriage, so my doc helped me wean off the meds. I’ve had a very successful pregnancy this time around, but my anxiety and depression have been right here with me. My counselor has given me great tools that do help, but I still struggle quite a bit. I’m nervous about postpartum depression as I had it after my first two babies. I’ve been reading some on amino acids, but haven’t really read much on taking them while pregnant or nursing. Do you think they would be safe while nursing? I’m two weeks from my due date and would love to find something.
Hi Cheyenne. Would you like to try Google, & research MSM. An Amino Acid product. All Natural, my daughter swears by, and has tried herself for moods etc….
I believe it’s something that contains all the Amino Acids.
It’s a neutral-tasting white powder….
Hope you get this….
I am a big believer in Amino Acid supplementation. They’re critical for building Neurotransmitters. So many people are on synthetic antidepressants that simply cannot help them because they haven’t got enough neurotransmitters to begin with. My question is however, when there is a common MTHFR gene mutation
( a1298c) that makes it hard to absorb B vitamins, we need methylated B’s like Methylfolate, MethylB-12 and Methyl B6. Can these amino acids be absorbed easily or must they somehow be methylated for absorption too? I hope someone out there knows!
Fascinating. I noticed when you first referenced your daughter, you stated she had autism at the time. Is she completely off the spectrum now? If so, do you attribute that to the gaps diet and the amino acids?
I went to Julia Ross’ (author of The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure) weekend class on amino acid therapy in June. It was eye opening. Here are a few tips: The effects of amino acids only last for about 4 hours and then you need to take them again. To get the full effect, take 1/2 hour before or 1.5 hours after eating protein. If you open the capsule you can take it five minutes before eating protein. If you feel jittery or yucky, you’ve taken too much or you just don’t need it. If this happens you can flush it out with 1 or 2 packets of Emergen-C in water or you can wait 4 hours for it to naturally flush out. You can go to either of her websites (www.moodcure.com or http://www.dietcure.com) and take her quiz to find out what you’re deficient in. There are also some really good articles in the research/articles section which is different on each page. They shouldn’t be given to people with kidney problems as it can tax them a bit and there hasn’t been research on breastfeeding and during pregnancy so she doesn’t recommend it. Start at the lowest recommended dose and work your way up. You have to be careful with GABA since I haven’t been able to find it lower than 750mg in the store and she says that’s always too high and to start at 100 and only go to 500mg if needed. Cara, did you try tryptophan (500-2000mg) for the tantrums? It is indicated for low serotonin where a person has irritability/rage. Haven’t learned much about l-carnosine; will have to check it out. Did learn a lot about tryptophan, 5HTP, melatonin, tyrosine, DPA, DLPA, GABA, and Glutamine. Kid’s Natural Clam vitamins seem to help my kids. I have yet to figure out how to get tots to take aminos that taste really bad. Wish they had meltaways. I’ve only seen them in melatonin and GABA. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’d love to chat Cara; great article.
I SEE THE DISCLAIM NOTE BELOW AND I thought to myself…. Hah if doctors knew and apply half of what you have shared here. .. Then many of us would be better off. :)
Cara, I wanted to leave this comment as many foster/adoptive parents may not have this info. In foster classes we learn that children who are drug/substance exposed in utero have damaged or misfiring neurotransmitters. These children are 25% more likely to go on psychotropic drugs due to behaviors, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. We have been on GAPS over 2 years, but still have some of these issues, so our doctor is going to test their levels to see what their dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, etc. so we can administer these amino acids with a little bit of numbers to go by. It is just a urine test and we actually have to pay for it, but hopefully it will be a start. It is very frustrating that we are on our own to do this. Doctors only want to treat with Ritalin or Adderall. I even found a drug recovery website that suggested drug addicts may also be very low in aminos and that is why they turn to these substances: to feel better.
I did get “The Mood Book” and it is very good. I still feel like it is a shot in the dark. We could work on 1 area, but if there are multiple problems, we may see limited results. I hope this helps those adoptive parents look in other areas as I have recently heard that with Adderall, after a year you need sleeping pills and then in time antidepressants. I have seen this first hand and these kids are going to have a rough future.
I can’t swallow pills and was looking to see if I could mix them with food instead, so I’ m glad you mentioned mixing it with stuff. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m waiting on a copy of The Mood Cure to arrive.
Now,almost ten years,what do You have to say about?
Do you regret? Or think people should do the same?
We still use them! We switched to a high meat diet, but I still supplement with individual amino acids occasionally.