How To Take Amino Acids While On Antidepressants

One of the most common questions I am asked is if you can take amino acids while on antidepressants or while weaning off of them.

The answer is, yes, but with caution.

Amino acids can be used to either enhance the performance of an antidepressant or to help you get off antidepressants without going through extreme withdrawals.

If you don’t know how to take amino acids while on antidepressants, you could experience some dramatic side effects.

Before we begin, you might be wondering why I’m asked about this so often.

Antidepressants Don’t Always Solve The Problem

How To Take Amino Acids While On AntidepressantsIf you’re reading this, you are probably like most people who went to the doctor, complained about depression, and was given a prescription for a medication to fix your problems at one point.

Most people that find my site search in Google to learn about how to deal with the negative effects they are experiencing taking an antidepressant.  Antidepressants can be hard to withdraw from, and a lot of times people still feel depressed or anxious while on them.

Interestingly enough, while SSRI’s and antidepressants are powerful, they usually never completely fix the problem for people or they only help people for a short duration of time.

Antidepressants Don’t Produce More Neurotransmitters

The most common type of antidepressant, SSRIs, prevent serotonin from going into reuptake mode.  This means that you don’t actually have more serotonin, you are just using the small amount more.

The problem with this is that that small amount of serotonin can no longer be converted into melatonin or 5-HIAA.

According to the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, 5-HIAA may be just as important as serotonin for your well-being!  Studies have been done that have shown that reduced levels of 5-HIAA have resulted in destructive moods, violent crime, suicide, insomnia, and addiction.

Most people that struggle with mood problems have both low serotonin and 5-HIAA.  Antidepressants often act as a band-aid, and don’t fix the problem.

Not only that, according to physicians writing for the New England Journal of Medicine, “51% of approved drugs have serious side effects not detected prior to approval.”

I believe that antidepressants should be a last resort, rather than the first option, for these reasons.

However, if you are taking an antidepressant, you can either take amino acids while continuing your antidepressant, or you can use amino acids to wean off of your antidepressant (which is more common).

How To Take Amino Acids While On Antidepressants

How To Take Amino Acids While On Antidepressants

Most people are looking to wean off their antidepressant.  However, many people use amino acids to enhance their current medication’s effects.

In a British study that looked at severely depressed patients on an SSRI called Serzone, when people took tryptophan with Serzone their depressive symptoms dropped more than 50 percent.

5-htp and l-tryptophan are amino acids that aid in the production of serotonin.  If you are taking an SSRI (see table below for common antidepressants and their function) then these two amino acids can help you actually produce more serotonin and have it work better.

L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps produce more catecholamines.  Some people that take SSRIs complain of side effects such as being tired, low sex drive, low motivation, etc.  This is because SSRIs can deplete the levels of catecholamines.   L-tyrosine can help eliminate some of those side effects.

If you decide to take amino acids while on antidepressants, make sure that you take the smallest dose possible to see if there are any negative effects first before increasing the dosage.  That way you can catch any bad interactions early and not suffer from negative side effects.

When you take amino acids and antidepressants at the same time, aim to take them 6 hours apart so they can work individually.  When you take amino acids, also make sure that you take them on an empty stomach, otherwise they won’t work because they will be competing with all the other amino acids you take into your body when you eat protein.

Taking Amino Acids To Wean Off An Antidepressant

Before you begin the process of weaning off an antidepressant, make sure that now is the right time for you.

In my popular post, How To Get Off Antidepressants Without Going Insane, I talk about how I waited until I didn’t have as much stress and responsibility in my daily life to start weaning off just in case I experienced bad side effects.  This way my life wasn’t negatively impacted and I didn’t have to worry about performing in too many roles.

Take The Smallest Dose Possible FIRST Before Continuing

Always take the smallest dose possible while you are experimenting with amino acids while on antidepressants to make sure you don’t experience any negative effects.

Buy the smallest dosage of the amino acid you can find.  For example, 5-htp has many different dosages, but you can find it in a 50mg dosage.  Then you can take that capsule and only take half.

Once you’ve done that successfully and everything went well, then you can take the full 50mg capsule.  If that is OK, you can increase your dosage until you find that it is working well for you and stop there.

Take the Right Amino Acid(s) That You Need

How To Take Amino Acids While On AntidepressantsSSRIs affect serotonin levels.  If you take an SSRI, you will want to take either 5-HTP or tryptophan.

If you take atypical antidepressants or SNRIs, you will want to take either tyrosine, DLPA, or l-phenylalanine along with 5-HTP or Tryptophan if needed.  SNRIs and some atypical antidepressants (like Wellbutrin) affect the brain’s norepinephrine levels.  Tyrosine or DLPA with 5-HTP or Tryptophan can help restore these neurotransmitters back to healthy levels.

Common SSRIs include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly, Sarafem)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva)
  • Srtraline (Zoloft)

Common SNRIs include:

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Atypical Antidepressants include:

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL)
  • Trazodone (Oleptro) – if you use this for sleep, take Tryptophan or Melatonin at night
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron, Remeron SolTab) – for sleep try Tryptophan or Melatonin
  • Nefazodone

For example, if you were trying to get off Celexa, you could first try a low dose of 5-htp and see how it affects you.  If you get positive results, you can increase your dosage to the desired amount. If you take 5-htp and it doesn’t work very well, you can try l-tryptophan at a low dosage and see how that works.

Ideally take one of those twice per day, such as around 5:00 P.M. and before bed.  If everything is going smoothly, begin to slowly taper off your antidepressant.  While tapering off, you may find you need to take more of the amino acid to reduce the withdrawal symptoms, always being careful about how much you are taking and asking yourself if there are any negative effects.

Then once you’re off the antidepressant, you can keep taking the amino acid for a few months until you no longer need it, and use the foundation of beating depression naturally with food and nutrition to keep your moods stable and happy.

If you are taking an SNRI, you can use an amino acid to boost serotonin and an amino acid to boost catecholamines.  Again, 5-htp and l-tryptophan boost serotonin while amino acids like l-tyrosine, DLPA, and l-phenylalanine boost catecholamines.

What If I Am Taking A Benzodiazepine Or Anxiety Medications?

If you are trying to wean off of benzodiazepine or anxiety drugs like Klonopin, you can use specific nutrients for extra support such as GABA, taurine, inositol, and glycine to help your body naturally produce more of the calming neurotransmitters.

Conclusion

The most important part of the process is to go slow and use the smallest dose possible.  Gauge the effects, and either switch strategies or increase your dosage if everything is going well.

Getting off an antidepressant can be a hard process, and I personally wouldn’t have been able to do it without using amino acids and nutrition to help me.

Comment below if you have any questions or want to share your journey.

 

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  • Laurie

    Thanks for all the info, TJ. =) How long do you recommend staying on any given dose of amino in order to determine either 1) it’s not doing much, and you need to increase it, or 2) it’s causing problems that your body isn’t adjusting to, and you need to decrease it?

    • TJ Nelson

      Most people are going to feel the effects within a few days, maybe a week.

      You increase it until you find that the dose is just right.

      You know it is causing problems and need to adjust it by the symptoms you experience. If taking tyrosine makes you irritable and angry, decrease it or stop taking it.

      • Laurie

        Thanks very much. That’s exactly what I wanted to know! =)

        • TJ Nelson

          Keep us posted.

      • Laurie

        I’ve done antidepressant withdrawal twice before. Once when I got divorced and lost health insurance, and one other time. Worst thing I’ve ever experienced, so this time I’m microtapering (explained below). I’m on Effexor (venlafaxine) 150mg (an SNRI), which is a capsule with tiny beads inside of it. I counted the beads found within one week’s worth of pills, and came up with an average of about 147 beads per pill. My first taper was 1 week ago on Friday… down to 145 beads.

        The idea behind microtapering, for those who don’t know, is to reduce your meds by tiny amounts every week or two. It’s obviously easier to make a bigger jump early on, when you’re still on a higher dose, but I just felt like being conservative last week. I’ve had no side effects so far and will probably go down at least two
        more beads tomorrow (Friday).

        However! I should be receiving my supplement shipment today. =D Based on your and Julia Ross’s recommendations, I will be starting with the following supplements (I bought what I could find and afford, bearing in mind that if I don’t have beneficial results, I will consider switching brands as well as dosages). Taking the aminos may allow me to taper faster, since they’ll be helping to replace the neurotransmitters I’m losing out on while reducing my meds.

        ► 5-HTP OR L-Tryptophan (I chose to start with Nature’s Way 5-HTP 50mg, lowest dose possible taken at mid-afternoon and bedtime since these aminos are more relaxing and also can help ease evening carb cravings.)

        ► L-Tyrosine OR L-Phenylalanine OR DLPA (I chose to start with NOW Foods L-Tyrosine powder @ 400mg per 1/4 tsp., lowest dose possible taken upon waking and at mid-morning, since it’s more energizing. You mix the dose w/ fluids and drink it.)

        (► I’ll be taking my Effexor at bedtime like I usually do. No one I contacted was able to answer my question about how to fit my antidepressant dose in between all the amino acid doses while still maintaining the recommended 6-hour gap between them. I lost my mind trying to work this out. It’s just not possible in a 24-hour day! So I decided to just continue with it at bedtime since it tends to make me tired anyway.)

        ► B-Complex (Thorne Research Stress-B Complex, 1 capsule w/ both breakfast and lunch. B vitamins, in general, absorb better w/ food.)

        ► Additional B12 (Source Naturals 1mg methylcobalamin cherry flavored sublingual tablets… I take two of them upon waking and two more at mid-morning… B12 actually absorbs better on an empty stomach)

        ► Vitamin C w/ Bioflavonoids (Puritan’s Pride 1000mg, 1 pill w/ breakfast, lunch, and dinner)

        ► Vitamins D3 and K2 in one pill (NOW Foods 1000 IU of D and 45mcg of K; 1 or 2 pills w/ breakfast. Since they are fat-soluble, they need to be taken with fatty foods)

        ► Fish Oil (Puritan’s Pride Omega-3 Fish Oil 1000mg, 2 capsules w/ breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fish oil is also fat-soluble, so don’t take it with a big ole salad with fat-free dressing and fat-free cheese!)

        ► Magnesium (I already had a bottle of Spring Valley Magnesium Citrate 100mg. Julia Ross recommends 200-400mg/day. I’m going to take 2 pills [200mg] at bedtime. When this bottle runs out, I will be switching to chelate, glycinate, or threonate form, since those are more absorbable, and I’ll probably get a better brand as well.)

        ► Probiotics (NOW Foods Probiotic Defense; I chose this one because it has 13 different strains of bacteria, and the number of strains is more important than actual number of organisms. I’ll be taking it at waking, mid-morning, and mid-afternoon without food, since the bacteria don’t hold up well under acidic conditions–like during a meal when your hungry tummy is churning out acid like there’s no tomorrow!)

        ► Digestive Enzymes (Source Naturals Essential Enzymes, 1 pill right before eating)

        If anyone is interested, I’ll try to remember to post in this thread periodically about how things are going. My memory is for shit anymore, but I’ll stick a Post-It note in front of my desk… maybe that’ll help. LOL

        I wanted to mention another web site that has been very helpful for me, and has a lot of knowledgeable and supportive folks. SurvivingAntidepressants.com. I have combined what I’ve learned from TJ, from Julia Ross, and from that web site to formulate my Get-the-hell-off-antidepressants Plan.

        Good luck to us all. Stay sane!

        =)
        Laurie

        • Shannon Davison

          Hi Laurie,

          I posted right above you about wanting to go off 40mg of Prozac because I’m happy now (it worked) but it also greatly decreased my motivation (think zombie, anti social, but happy). Would you suggest DLPA with P5P B6 in the a.m. on an empty stomach (for motivation/increase dopamine) and L-Tryptophan and Magnesium Glycinate at night (for replacing Prozac/leveling serotonin)?

          How are your supplements listed above working for you?

          • Laurie

            Hi Shannon. I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer your question, but I’ll give you my opinion. =) Let me start by saying that my implementation of my supplement ritual has been sporadic at best. Life, finances, and other things have gotten in the way. What I HAVE kept up with is continuing to microtaper my Effexor. I have reduce my dose by 5 beads (approx. 5 mg) each week since the end of January, with no negative effects. I’m now at approximately 125 mg/day from an original dose of 150. I doubt that info helps you at all, but I wanted throw it out there so others can read that microtapering can absolutely work! On to your specific questions…

            I have no experience with DLPA, so I really couldn’t comment on that specifically. Effexor was the antidepressant I found that worked the best for me. It is an SNRI (i.e. selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor). I tried several SSRIs (which only affect serotonin), but they didn’t help me, so I deduced that I had norepinephrine issues in addition to serotonin issues. With that in mind–and after reading Dominate Depression and Julia Ross’s book–I decided on 5HTP for serotonin, and tyrosine for norepinephrine.

            Prozac is just an SSRI (i.e. there’s no norepinephrine action, just serotonin). If you originally found Prozac quite helpful–you know, until it wasn’t, lol–then it’s possible that you don’t have any problems with norepinephrine, and wouldn’t need to take L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylalanine, or DLPA. However, if you felt Prozac helped, but not completely, then perhaps you WOULD benefit from them. It’s a conundrum only you can solve.

            That said, I found that tyrosine (when I remember to take it!) boosts my energy a bit. The tyrosine I have is NOW Foods L-Tyrosine Pure Powder (400mg per 1/4 tsp.). I found that 400mg made me jittery, so I dropped it to about an eighth of a teaspoon (approximately 200 mg). It’s kind of imprecise ’cause the powder clumps like flour rather than flowing like sugar, but it’s workable. I haven’t tried any other norepinephrine-affecting supplements.

            As for the P5P B6, I know that its main claim to fame is that it helps with B12 absorption, so if you’re only taking B6 (without taking B12 or B complex as well), I don’t know precisely what it would do for you. I doubt it would affect you negatively, though. I also don’t know what the benefit would be of taking it with DLPA.

            When deciding which amino acids to take, I opted to start with the ones that work for more people (i.e. 5-HTP for serotonin and tyrosine for norepinephrine). If I found either of them didn’t particularly work for me, THEN I was going to check into tryptophan for serotonin, and phenylalanine or DLPA for norepinephrine.

            Because I haven’t fully established my supplement routine yet, I haven’t yet reached the point of looking further into the other aminos, and I may never have to. I also think there’s still a ton of both serotonin and norepinephrine in my system because my Effexor dose is still quite high. I figure I will more fully implement the aminos as I reach lower doses of my antidepressant.

            Although TJ’s recommendations draw heavily from The Mood Cure book, I do recommend picking up a copy of it, even though it’s a bit dated (2003).

            This was a bit rambling, so if I can clarify any of my points, please let me know, and good luck!

        • Shannon Davison

          Hi Laurie,

          Thank you for the well thought out and informative email. I very much appreciate you taking the time to pass on your experience and help answer my questions!

          • Laurie

            Hi Shannon. You’re so welcome. We need all the help we can get, don’t we? LOL I’ve learned so much from reading other people’s experiences and what worked for them.

            Did you receive my reply in some sort of personal email? I meant to post it here so it could help others, but I don’t see it…. If you still have it, please consider posting it as a response to your question. Not sure why it’s not showing up…

          • Shannon Davison

            I did receive your reply in an email. Thank you so much!

  • Shannon Davison

    I’d like to go off 40mg of Prozac because I’m happy now (it worked) but it also greatly decreased my motivation (think zombie, anti social, but happy). Would you suggest DLPA with P5P B6 in the a.m. on an empty stomach (for motivation/increase dopamine) and L-Tryptophan and Magnesium Glycinate at night (for replacing Prozac/leveling serotonin)?

    • TJ Nelson

      That would be a good start to see how it affects you.