What is Glycine?
In the body and brain, glycine is that hard-working little engine that could. Glycine is actually the simplest, and therefore smallest, amino acid. Yet it’s everywhere, helping out with a lot of things. Actually, all of the glycine’s hard work in the body is towards the same end. Glycine is essentially the body’s peacekeeper. When an individual experiences anxiety or panic, NE (norepinephrine) is released and creates feelings of anxiety and panic. Glycine antagonizes the release of NE, thus mitigating anxiety and panic and feelings of over-arousal. From improving detoxification to managing methylation, to combating inflammation, to speeding up digestion, to boosting energy, to preventing achy joints and unwanted wrinkles… glycine is everywhere. Glycine works hard, day in and day out, to keep the body and brain healthy and functional.
There are many other purposes that glycine serves such as digestion, energy, detoxification, immune support, blood pressure, and more.
Glycine plays an essential role in fat digestion. It participates in the digestion of fats – one of the three main macronutrients in our diets. Glycine is needed to create bile salts. Specifically, it ‘conjugates’ with bile acids in order to form bile salts. These bile salts work like soap does on dirty hands. They help water mix together with dietary fat, thus breaking fat down into much smaller particles that can then be absorbed into the body.
Glycine is one of the three amino acids needed to manufacture creatine. In contributing to creatine production, glycine also supports the energy supply of cells – including brain cells. Creatine provides a helpful, short-term, as-needed energy source for neurons. Energy needs to be manufactured from glucose and oxygen. Those two ingredients are always being pumped into the brain. But, when the brain is working hard, the supply lines of glucose and oxygen run short. When we’re using our brains heavily, the body’s ability to supply glucose and oxygen can’t quite meet the brain’s needs.
What’s more, the antioxidant effect of glutathione also helps to keep inflammation down. Inflammation is a natural response to some sort of cellular or tissue damage in the body. If a cell dies, or some infection is present, then inflammation is the body’s natural response to neutralize the threat – dead cell or infectious agent. Inflammation swoops in to clean up the mess. But, inflammation also sometimes leaves a mess. With more glycine helping to make more glutathione, less inflammation is triggered in the first place.
Glycine helps relax blood vessels. When blood vessels relax, they open wider, which reduces blood pressure. Relaxed blood vessels equal a relaxed mind. Further, glycine can help the body detoxify from a toxic amino acid called homocysteine. Excess levels of homocysteine have been shown to damage blood vessels. Glycine can be used to create trimethylglycine, which can transform excess homocysteine into a safer amino acid, methionine.
How to get more glycine in your diet
Just as glycine travels to our joints, skin, gut lining, and other connective tissues, the best sources of glycine are the connective tissues from animals.
Unfortunately, we tend not to get enough from our diet. Glycine is a major constituent of collagen – in both humans and animals. To get enough, we would have to eat connective tissue… like chicken skins, gristle, tripe, and a whole bunch of other uncommonly eaten parts of animals. Not really part of our typical American cuisine.
Luckily, there are a couple of easy solutions.
Powdered collagen peptides or gelatin supplements can be really easy to add to the diet. You can add the powder to your coffee, smoothies, or to your oatmeal. The added bonus is that your joints will thank you later.
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