Adventures in Holistic Adult and Child Psychiatry Follow @JudyTsafrirMD
"One only sees what one looks for, one only looks for what one knows." - Goethe
"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." - Maya Angelou
Gelatin for Anxiety, Sleep and Appetite Suppression
In this post I would like to share my surprising experience since recently introducing gelatin powder as a supplement into my diet. Supplementation with gelatin became of interest to me, as I was no longer able to eat the nutritious long simmered gelatin rich bone broths and stews that are so healing to the digestive tract, and which are a mainstay of the GAPS Healing Protocol. The long simmering of meat and bones that produces gelatin, also creates histamine, which can result in a variety of adverse symptoms in those individuals who are sensitive to histamine. Please see my previous posts about Histamine Intolerance.
Meat and bone broths were a staple of traditional diets, as were foods like oxtails, head cheese, pig’s feet, all foods high in gelatin content. Our ancestors ate every bit of the animal, including organ meats and the gelatin rich bony and cartilaginous parts. These days the average American prefers to eat only the muscle meat, such as a boneless skinless chicken breast, or a beef steak, and thus most of the highly nutritious gelatin has disappeared from our diet.
I have to confess, that even before I suspected that I was histamine intolerant, it was a struggle to get myself to eat more than one meal of soup or stew a day. Thus the introduction of gelatin powder into my diet has meant that I have begun to consume much more gelatin than ever before.
I have been drinking 1 tablespoon of high quality powdered gelatin mixed into a hot beverage three times a day. The brand I recommend is Great Lakes Unflavored Beef Gelatin, which is very neutral in flavor. It is made from cattle which are humanely raised and grass fed. Proper technique for making a hot drink with gelatin powder is important, otherwise it will not dissolve and the texture will be unpalatable. I put 1 tablespoon into a large mug, add a few tablespoons of room temperature water to the powder, and stir to create a soft gel. Then I pour hot coffee or tea on top of the gel and mix it well. The gelatin is barely noticeable, with the exception of perhaps slightly more body to the drink.
The first thing I noticed after doing this for only a couple days, was that I felt calmer, my sleep quality was markedly improved and I was not hungry. I was surprised to learn that gelatin contains a high percentage of glycine, a non-essential amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter, which is known to decrease anxiety and to promote restorative sleep. I also found reports linking gelatin with appetite suppression, but not to glycine per se. Glycine is, however, reported to curb cravings for sugar.
Japanese scientists have been on the forefront of glycine research, and have discovered that glycine is very useful for those individuals who have trouble staying asleep. They have developed a lemon flavored glycine supplement Glysom which is prescribed for maintaining sleep.
“Glysom does not induce sleep like Ambien or benzodiazepines, nor does it induce daytime sleepiness as does melatonin. Rather it reduces core body temperature, which reduces fragmentation of sleep architecture, and promotes longer periods spent in deep slow-wave sleep during the early parts of the sleep curve.
When someone is hot, he or she tends to run through sleep cycles more rapidly and more frequently than when someone is cool (There’s wisdom in the old folklore that it’s wise to sleep with the windows open!). Glycine reliably produces this core temperature change in a way that promotes better sleep quality. It won’t necessarily get someone to sleep faster, but it will enable him to enter into and stay in the restorative deep sleep phases for longer periods.
Ajinomoto’s Dr. Bannai, who has been involved in several glycine studies, said that this amino acid has an affinity for the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is the brain’s master circadian switchboard. “By maintaining the low core body temperature during sleep, glycine increases sleep stability, and improves sleep quality. The sleep-restorative effects appear as a tertiary benefit.”
Glycine is also well known to have anti-anxiety properties.
“Glycine is a nonessential (or neutral) amino acid that has profound anti-anxiety properties. Receptors for glycine are found in the vertebrate CNS, spinal cord and brain stem areas, and are equally distributed throughout mammalian tissues. The most unique aspect of glycine’s mechanism of action has to do with its presumed antagonism of norepinephrine (NE). When an individual experiences anxiety or panic, NE 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.”
There are numerous five star reviews of Great Lakes Gelatin on Amazon, with most raving about the reduction in joint pain, which is not one of my issues. One person reported that their chronic plantar fascitis resolved within days.
Gelatin has many other healing properties and I plan to write more about it. So stay tuned.
I would be very interested and grateful to learn about the experiences of my readers who try this supplement.
I originally wrote this post in May of 2013. Some posts like this one, continue to generate interest long after they are published. It is now January 2015. There is a very long and fascinating comments section with a wealth of information from readers who have had a wide range of experiences with gelatin. For some, it has been nothing short of miraculous. For others, it caused untoward side effects and needed to be discontinued.
For myself, over time the dose that I recommended in the post seemed much too high for me. It made me tired and caused headaches. I no longer take it as a supplement, but continue to cook with it. I add it to soups and make gummies with it.
One reader commented that she uses 1 teaspoon a day as a supplement. That may be a good recommendation. But each of us needs to find our own way through trial and error on ourselves. What works for one person, may not work for you. It seems that the body’s response to gelatin is highly individualized, so observe yourself carefully in order to figure out what is right for you.