I like taurine because it has amazing affects in the body, but it’s incredibly under-rated.
Taurine is an amino acid-like compound that is made in your body from cysteine, (most commonly known as the sulfur containing amino acid that helps to make glutathione), that’s very very important for heart, muscle, brain, and eye health. I’m mostly going to talk about heart and brain health in this post.
If you want to keep your heart healthy, have a history of head trauma and/or concussions and haven’t been the same since, are experiencing some anxiety OR are concerned about the health of your nervous system — this nutrient is for you!
Let’s get a little nerdy.
Why taurine is important for the heart:
- Stimulates the mitochondria in heart tissue, so that the heart can create energy better!
- Reduces arrhythmias like PACs (premature atrial contractions) and PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) because it acts as an antioxidant and decreases lipid peroxidation, which are two things that contribute to heart damage from heart attacks and heart failure.
The heart isn’t the only place where taurine is a superstar – it’s super important for your nervous system too – because high levels of taurine in your nervous system helps to balance excitation and inhibition of neurons. Ideally you want a nice balance between neurons acting excited and neurons acting calm or becoming inhibited. Because of the role of taurine in protecting the nervous system, it is hugely useful for keeping the brain healthy.
Why taurine is important for your brain:
- Taurine can even help repair damaged synapses – something that happens in Alzheimer’s disease.
- It crosses the blood brain barrier and exerts antioxidant functions in the brain tissue.
- Taurine helps keep your brain calm because it:
- helps prevent age-related loss of GABA receptors, and
- counteracts the excitation caused by glutamate.
- GABA is a inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms down neuro-excitation. Taurine also plays a role in forming the dopamine receptors in your brain. And you want to have appropriate dopamine levels – dopamine is what makes us feel good and seek pleasure!
Just like having leaky gut – you can also have leaky brain.
When your brain is inflamed, the excitatory amino acid glutamate tends to leak out of cells. This creates a very excitatory environment. When neurons are overly excited, they become damaged. Taurine helps to reduce brain inflammation— it forms an anti-inflammatory compound in the brain which inhibits nitric oxide and TNF-alpha, and having too much of both of those compounds is very inflammatory!
Overall, taurine is an extraordinary brain protector. Another mechanism WHY taurine is so awesome, is because it helps decrease microglial activation, which can happen after head injuries or other insults. Microglial activation is very inflammatory in the brain because, when activated, they release a variety of destructive compounds like various cytokines, prostaglandins and excitotoxins. Brain cells are very sensitive, and taurine helps to protect them against injury by making sure the nervous system does not get too excited.
Interestingly, taurine supplementation has been show to improve insulin sensitivity within tissues, and also positively affects the glucose transport in the brain – so your brain can get it’s fuel (glucose!) more effectively!
I use injectable taurine with my patients, because it can have direct action on the blood brain barrier with this route of administration, and we can by-pass absorption and/or breakdown in the gut.