Feeling anxious, moody, or having trouble sleeping or with your digestion? You may be sensitive to an amino acid found in many seemingly healthy foods, including grains.
While whole grains can be a good source of fiber, B vitamins, Iron and Magnesium, they also have an amino acid that can make them a poor choice for some people. This amino acid is called Glutamic Acid, or Glutamate. It is considered a non-essential amino acid, meaning that our bodies are able to generate glutamic acid even without ingesting it through food sources. Glutamic is so important for our bodies that we cannot risk being without it, so we produce it ourselves.
Glutamate activates, or excites, cells in the brain in order to communicate messages, and is particularly important in the growth and development of the brain, learning, and memory. Because of the way glutamate sends these messages – by exciting the cells – it is called an excitatory neurotransmitter. In other words, you can think of glutamate as a stimulant. As you know, if you’ve ever had too much caffeine, too much of a stimulant is not always a good thing.
Some people have genetic variants which means they may not convert glutamate (an excitable neurotransmitter) to GABA (a calming neurotransmitter) very well. Those with this genetic sensitivity may experience:
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Brain Inflammation
- Leaky Gut
Note that it is also associated with Autism and ADHD in children.
As you can see, glutamate can cause some real issues; however, when it comes to glutamate and glutamic acid sensitivities, it is impacted by both the type of glutamate and the amount of that type consumed. Bound glutamate refers to glutamate in a whole, unmodified protein source. Therefore, it is generally slowly digested and absorbed slowly. This is not usually an issue. Free glutamate is no longer bound to other amino acids and may be absorbed much more rapidly causing spikes in the concentration of glutamate in the blood. This can cause anxiety, insomnia, depression, and digestive symptoms in those sensitive. Having glutamate in our bodies isn’t the issue (we produce it naturally!). The problem lies in eating too many foods that contain glutamic acid. In other words, it’s an overall load issue.
I’m sure you’re wondering what contains free glutamate. Some of those sources are:
- Baked goods, bread, cereals
- Anything “hydrolyzed”
- Soy protein
- Whey protein
- Carrageenan and bouillon
- Textured protein
- “Flavors” or “Flavoring” (e.g., natural vanilla flavor)
- Corn starch
- Corn syrup
You might also be wondering how to know if you might be predisposed to a glutamic acid sensitivity. In DNA Made Simple, you can look at the specific genes that relate to grain, or glutamic acid sensitivity. When approaching your health, it’s important to consider all of the factors: underlying inflammation or infection, diet, lifestyle habits, gut health, hormone imbalances, and the list goes on. Your genetics – your personal DNA code – holds many of the keys to optimizing your health and dialing in the best protocols for you.
Optimizing your health might include limiting grains and some of the foods above – or you might find grains to be a healthy and satisfying part of your diet, and not have any genetic need to limit those foods. It’s important to be mindful and pay attention to how your body responds to food and supplements. With DNA Made Simple, you’ll learn which epigenetic recommendations are right for YOUR body.