Tyrosine: Nutritional Support for Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders

Tyrosine is an amino acid (a protein building block) found in chicken, turkey, fish, milk, yogurt, cheeses, peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds, soy, bananas, and avocados. Tyrosine supplements, say a 500 mg capsule, offer a much more highly concentrated source of tyrosine beyond what you would typically find in food, unless you eat pounds and pounds of the above-mentioned protein sources.  

Before we learn more about tyrosine, let’s touch on the concept of the “benefits” of any particular nutritional supplement. Benefits are often touted much in the same way as claims about drugs are made. That is, often incorrect. What is correct, is that most people have either multiple nutritional deficiencies at any given point in time, or “suboptimal levels” of a variety of essential nutrients. This is true no matter how well, or how organically we eat. A deficiency in an essential nutrient results in one or more physiological processes being impaired or negatively impacted. Therefore supplementing a deficient nutrient can often bring about significant positive results. That said, if no deficit or deficiency exists, supplementing may accomplish little, but once again, most people have essential nutrient deficits that they are unaware of.

In the case of tyrosine, numerous studies on human neurochemistry show that tyrosine is an essential precursor (building block) to key neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that help neurons (nerve cells) to communicate with each other. When a neuropathway is used to an extreme degree or is stressed, the neurotransmitter production may not be able to “keep up” due to a lack of the precursors necessary to create those particular neurotransmitters.

Such is often the case with tyrosine. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter L-dopa and an enzyme which is rate-limiting in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which in turn can be converted to norepinephrine and epinephrine. Rate limiting means that any deficiency of tyrosine means that production will not be able to meet demand, resulting in a lack of, or an imbalance of neurotransmitters––the same neurotransmitters involved in regulating depression, anxiety, mood, and focus.

Stress results in the release of stress hormones which increase L-dopa demand and use up tyrosine at accelerated rates. This often leads to a tyrosine deficit in the brain, potentially leading to increased anxiety, depression, and mood irregularity especially the longer that deficit exists. It’s no surprise that chronic stress is associated with increased rates of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Anti-depressant drugs influence neurotransmitter pathways, serotonin for instance, but do not add any nutrients or amino acid precursors such as tyrosine.

Tyrosine use has been studied in people dealing with anxiety and/or depression and mood disorders with very positive results, as the key neurochemical pathways have been “replenished” with the key amino acids needed to re-establish the balance between neurotransmitters. B complex vitamins in combination with 500 mg of tyrosine per day has been shown to have positive effects in a significant number of cases.

Supplements are not drugs, but rather offer nutrients that may be lacking in key biochemical processes, thereby disrupting the balance the body, or in this case, the brain needs to maintain.

WARNING: While tyrosine is a naturally found amino acid in the foods listed above, tyrosine supplements are much more concentrated. As such, for people taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Selegiline, Isocarboxazid (Marplan), Phenelzine (Nardil) or Tranylcypromine (Parnate), thyroid medication, or Levodopa (L-dopa) should not use tyrosine supplements without first consulting their doctors, as potentially dangerous or negative drug interactions may occur. 

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.