The Benefits of Amino Acids for Gut, Brain, & Cell Health

Key Points:

  • Amino acids are the building blocks that create protein. But beyond protein synthesis, they have a powerful role in gut, brain, and cell health.
  • There are two types of amino acids: essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. The essential category cannot be made by the body, so it's necessary for us to obtain it from the diet.
  • Any food that contains protein also contains amino acids. Incomplete proteins are foods that don’t contain all nine essential amino acids, such as plant-based foods. Anyone eating a plant-based diet should pay close attention to their amino acid intake.

Protein is a non-negotiable part of a healthy diet. It’s needed for tissue repair, long-term energy, muscle building, and even plays a role in brain health.

But to truly understand protein, we need to explore the molecules that create it. In other words, amino acids. Known as the building blocks of protein, amino acids are both synthesized in the body and consumed through diet. When strung together, they create a protein.

But protein building isn’t their only role. Amino acids help with hormone production, gut health, neurotransmitter creation, and tissue repair. Their benefits are widespread — which is why it’s so important to pay attention to amino acid consumption.

Let’s explore amino acid benefits, supplements, and food sources.

Table of Contents:

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are organic compounds that the body uses to create protein. While they aren’t proteins on their own, a long chain of amino acids connected by peptide bonds creates a protein. So, consider amino acids the “building blocks” for protein synthesis.

Amino acids are most famous for their role in protein creation, but they’re essential in many other ways, too. These molecules are used to create hormones, boost neurotransmitters, and even play a role in intestinal barrier function.

Ensuring you have plenty of amino acids in your diet is an essential step toward optimal health and energy production.

The Essential Amino Acids

There are many different types of amino acids, all of which have unique functions.

However, nine of them are considered “essential amino acids”—meaning they cannot be synthesized in the body, so we must get these from our diets.

The nine essential amino acids are:

  • Histidine 
  • Isoleucine 
  • Leucine 
  • Lysine 
  • Methionine 
  • Phenylalanine 
  • Threonine 
  • Tryptophan 
  • Valine

The Non-Essential Amino Acids

To be clear, the term “non-essential” may be a bit misleading when it comes to amino acids. These AAs are needed by our bodies and are important for our everyday health.

However, this group is differentiated because our bodies are capable of producing these amino acids through various metabolic processes, meaning that it’s not “essential” that you consume them through your diet.

The eleven non-essential amino acids are:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Asparagine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Tyrosine
  • Serine

Long story short, even non-essential amino acids are still incredibly important for our overall health, especially for reaching optimal health. 

Benefits of Amino Acids

Your body uses amino acids every day. They’re constantly working behind the scenes for gut, brain, cell health, and so much more.

Gut Health

The intestinal barrier not only focuses on keeping toxins out of the body, but it’s also responsible for producing much-needed hormones and various other organic compounds. Recently, studies have found that this intestinal barrier is reliant on amino acids like glycine, proline, and glutamine for proper functioning.

Within the intestinal barrier, amino acids work to manage endocrine function, increase mucin production, and even regulate the gut microbiome composition.

Brain Health

The neurotransmitters glycine, GABA, and glutamate are also amino acids. They regulate things like mood, sleep, memory, and even play a role in boosting serotonin levels. Let’s break them down:

  • Glycine — enhances sleep, acts as a precursor for larger peptides such as creatine and collagen, and serves as a building block for glutathione, our body’s major antioxidant.
  • GABA — extremely calming, works to regulate blood pressure levels, and enhances sleep.
  • Glutamate — promotes energy, memory, and learning, as well as improving cognitive function and mood.

When it comes to brain health, we also need to talk about protein. Without adequate protein, it’s common to feel tired and groggy. This is because protein plays a critical role in neuron communication through the use of neurotransmitters.

Cell Health

Yes, amino acids even impact the cell. They’re powerful tools for cell-to-cell communication by means of cell signaling pathways.

As precursors to glutathione, they’re responsible for one of the most potent antioxidants in the human body — particularly one that helps to protect the liver against free radicals. Glutathione also helps with the detoxification of the cell. It’s often depleted due to chronic illness or times of extreme stress.

In addition, one study recently explored the role of amino acids in T-cell activation (a type of immune cell). It turns out that these vital immune system cells are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in amino acid levels in the body. So it pays to make sure you’re getting enough amino acids every day.

How to Get More Amino Acids in Your Diet

As we mentioned before, a key difference between essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids is whether or not they can be made by the body.

Either way, getting a proper dose of amino acids is essential for gut, brain, and cell functioning — at minimum. Our goal is to always encourage people to look at dietary resources first before relying on supplements.

BodyBio Tip: Any food that has protein also has amino acids. Some foods may contain amino acids, but not enough to create a full protein. These are called “incomplete proteins.” Make sure you’re getting both complete and incomplete proteins in your diet (usually a combination of plant and animal foods). If you consume more incomplete proteins (usually plant foods), you may want to look into adding an amino acid supplement to fill out your body’s amino acid requirements.

Amino Acid-Rich Foods

Try incorporating more of these foods into your diet for optimal amino acid consumption.

  • Bone broth
  • Gelatin
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Grass-fed dairy (like cottage cheese and yogurt)
  • Quinoa
  • Collagen
  • Chia seeds
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

If you’re following a plant-based diet, be aware that most plant foods are “incomplete protein foods” — meaning the food doesn’t contain all nine essential amino acids. You’ll need to do extra research into plant proteins to pair the right foods to create complete proteins.

Essential Amino Acid Supplements

Supplements can support a healthy diet and lifestyle — especially if you’re aiming for specific goals. Essential amino acid supplements are typically recommended for athletes, people with low energy, travelers with limited food options, and muscle building.

For a less expensive option, you can try powder supplements of collagen or gelatin — both natural food resources that contain amino acids. Otherwise, opt for an amino acid supplement from a trusted brand that focuses on quality control.

Amino acid supplements aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet and they shouldn’t be used long-term or in high doses. Remember to do your research to find the amino acid supplement that best suits your needs and health goals.

The Role of Amino Acids in the Nervous System

Many of the amino acids we mentioned (like glycine) are used by the central nervous system to promote relaxation, sleep, and even regulate blood pressure levels.

Due to a fast-paced lifestyle and limited access to healthy foods, most of us aren’t getting adequate amino acids to support the central nervous system. This is ringing true, especially as rates of anxiety, depression, and chronic stress are soaring.

That’s why we created BodyBio Calm — as a nutrition-forward response to the ever-increasing stress around us. It combines key amino acids like glycine with adaptogens to help calm the nervous system and promote relaxation, even on your toughest days.

Try BodyBio Calm


Beaumont, M., & Blachier, F. (2020). Amino Acids in Intestinal Physiology and Health. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 1265, 1–20.

National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on the Tenth Edition of the Recommended Dietary Allowances. (1989). Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). Protein and Amino Acids (Chapter 6). Retrieved from

Razak, M. A., Begum, P. S., Viswanath, B., & Rajagopal, S. (2017). Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 1716701.

Paudel, S., Wu, G., & Wang, X. (2021). Amino Acids in Cell Signaling: Regulation and Function. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 1332, 17–33.

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