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AMINO ACID THERAPY FOR HEPATITIS C

WHAT ARE AMINO ACIDS? AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT TO THOSE WITH HEPATITIS C (HCV)?

Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein, protein is necessary to sustain life. Since the liver plays an important role in assimilating amino acids, poor liver function (as can be caused by hepatitis C) can affect overall levels negatively.

“Amino Acid Therapy” is a branch of medicine that is used for all kinds of disorders and disease. Matthew Dolan explains the overall importance of amino acids with respect to Hepatitis C patients and the idea behind a therapy that emphasizes amino acid therapy, “ ... it is founded on the belief that some individuals or sections of the population have imbalanced amino acid profiles that are associated with ill health. The aim of the therapy is the correction of these imbalances... it appears that HCV patients constitute a group with a serious pattern of deficiency.” It is thought by therapists that correcting the deficiency and maintaining the proper balance of amino acids can assist in healing Hepatitis C and improvement in health.

Here is a condensed list of facts about the functions of amino acid and their importance in the body (for a more detailed explanation of these refer to the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F Balch):

Proteins are chains of amino acids linked together by what are called peptide bonds

Each protein in the body is tailored for a specific need and they are not interchangeable

Proteins that make up the human body are not obtained directly from diet. Protein from the diet is broken down into amino acids which the body uses to build the specific proteins it needs.

Amino acids enable vitamins and minerals to perform their functions. Vitamins and minerals that are absorbed and assimilated into the body they cannot be effective unless the necessary amino acids are present.

The liver produces about 80% of the amino acids needed. The remaining 20% must be obtained by the diet.

Essential amino acids must enter the body through diet, whereas nonessential amino acids can be manufactured by the body from other amino acids obtained from dietary sources.

Nonessential amino acids does not mean they unnecessary, it means the body manufactures them.

The phrase branched-chain amino acids or BCAA is sometimes used to refer to the amino acids having aliphatic side-chains that are non-linear. These are leucine, isoleucine and valine.

If even one essential amino acid is missing, the body cannot continue proper protein synthesis

Even if you have a well balanced diet that contains enough protein, there are many factors that can contribute to deficiencies of amino acids: impaired absorption, stress, drug use, age, infection among others.

Having a high protein diet is not the answer to getting more amino acids, since excess protein puts stress on the liver.

You can get amino acids from various multivitamin formulas, protein mixtures, food supplements and amino acid formulas. The majority of amino acid supplements are derived from animal protein, yeast protein, or vegetable protein.

Some amino acids are NOT available from vegetable protein. Therefore, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you are more susceptible to amino acid deficiency because protein in plant sources doesn’t contain all the amino acids that your body needs.

Amino acid therapy is thought to be helpful in improving the health of those living with Hepatitis C and it is also used by some for reducing depression and anxiety.

Review of research shows, "Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)supplementation appears to be associated with decreased frequency of complications of cirrhosis and improved nutritional status when prescribed as maintenance therapy [for those with liver disease]".

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