Are You Dangerously Deficient in Taurine?
While most people have never heard of taurine, a deficiency in taurine can contribute to a wide range of symptoms you have certainly heard of. Low taurine levels have been found in patients with anxiety, depression, hypertension, hypothyroidism, gout, infertility, obesity and kidney failure among other conditions.
Taurine is an amino acid that can be made in your body from two other amino acids: cysteine and methionine.
Adequate amounts of taurine can usually be obtained from animal and fish protein, eggs and brewer’s yeast (NOTE: if you have a viral or fungal infection, eating brewer’s yeast can cause allergic reactions).
Since taurine can be made in our bodies, it was thought to be a non-essential amino acid … however in certain circumstances, it is actually considered essential.
Taurine – What It Does For Your Body
Here are some of the key benefits of taurine in relation to your health. Taurine is:
- Important in the visual pathways, the brain and nervous system, cardiac function and prevention of irregular heartbeats.
- A conjugator of bile acids – helps increase cholesterol elimination in the bile, helps with fat absorption and elimination of toxins.
- Important for it’s role in renal development and protection of the kidneys from free radical damage.
- A facilitator for the passage of sodium, potassium and possibly calcium and magnesium ions into and out of cells.
- Protection for the heart from irregular rhythms and damage during shock.
- An antioxidant.
- Involved in the balance and control of white blood cell production of free radicals to fight microbial infections.
- A calming or stabilizing effect on the brain and has been shown to be useful in treating seizure disorders.
- An enhancer of performance for athletes.
If you or someone you love has anxiety, depression, candida or bacterial imbalances, be sure to check out one of our most helpful tools in our gut health toolbox, The Body Ecology Diet Cookbook.
Taurine Deficiency – Possible Causes
There are many reasons your body could be low in taurine – and if you are an expecting mother, it’s important to know how this could affect your baby.
Low taurine can occur if:
- Your body does not make enough taurine due to a deficiency in one or more of the following:
– Cysteine and methionine (amino acids that make taurine in your body).
– Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (the active form of vitamin B6).
– Zinc (deficiency in zinc is common with elevated mercury levels).
– Vitamin A.
- You are deficient in the enzyme needed to make taurine
– Many humans may not regularly produce a high level of the enzyme needed to make taurine (cysteine sulfinic acid decarboxylase) and are therefore, dependent on dietary sources.
– If you don’t regularly consume meat, fish, eggs or brewer’s yeast, you could be low in taurine.
- You have candida
– If you have this systemic fungal infection, it produces an amino acid, beta-alanine, which competes with taurine for reabsorption in the kidney.
– This causes you to lose taurine through your urine.
– An increase of taurine in urine actually masks a test for low taurine in your body.
- You are infected with disease-producing anaerobic bacteria
– These pathogenic bacteria interfere with the proper functioning of bile acid and degrade taurine, thereby effecting taurine levels.
- You are eating foods with MSG, which degrades taurine
– MSG, or Monosodium glutamate, is a food additive that is used to enhance the flavor of processed foods.
– Food labeling regulations do not require MSG to be labeled as such, which means it can be hidden in foods that you eat.
Additionally, the following vitamins and amino acids may interfere with taurine’s functions:
– The B-vitamin pantothenic acid (B5).
– The amino acids beta-alanine and beta-hypotaurine.
Candida and bacterial imbalances may block taurine — learn how to prevent and heal them with The Body Ecology Diet.
What Expecting Mothers Should Know
Taurine is an essential amino acid for a developing fetus and newborn babies because they cannot make it themselves – and yet the development of their brain depends on it.
In fact, taurine is the highest concentrated amino acid in the brain of the fetus and newborn. The fetus must obtain it through the placenta and newborns can obtain it from breast milk or formula fortified with taurine.
If a pregnant mother has chronic (even low grade) candida, bacterial imbalances or elevated levels of mercury, lead and cadmium (which create zinc deficiency), it could lead to taurine deficiency in the mother and baby.
Placental absorption of maternal taurine can also be blocked if the fetus is under stress from both mercury and microbial challenges. This can set up a condition where your baby’s detoxification pathways are inhibited, which may lead to neurological problems.
There are situations in which supplementing with taurine is important. Clinically, taurine has been used in the treatment of a wide variety of conditions, including: cardiovascular diseases, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatic disorders, and cystic fibrosis. The taurine analogue acamprosate has been used as a treatment for alcoholism.
Taurine has also been used for migraines, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, irritability, obsessions and depression.
But how do you know for sure if you are deficient in taurine and whether supplementation is right for you? In Part 2 of this article, we cover how to accurately determine taurine levels, how much to take and other supplements that can enhance taurine production.
Medical Advisor: Leonard Smith, M.D.
Dr. Leonard Smith is a board-certified general, gastrointestinal and vascular surgeon on the cutting edge of foundational health care and preventative medicine. During his 25 years in private practice in Gainesville, FL, not only did he maintain an active surgery practice, but he also incorporated lifestyle, diet, supplementation, exercise, detoxification, and stress management into his practice. Currently, Dr. Smith is on the volunteer faculty at the University of Miami Department of Surgery and Department of Integrative Medicine.