Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taurine: Important for Vegans

I recently learned about the importance of taurine supplementation for vegans. There's not much of this amino acid in the vegan diet (1), and the longer you've been vegan the more likely you are to be depleted!

According to Leonard Smith, M.D., "Low taurine levels have been found in patients with anxiety, depression, hypertension, hypothyroidism, gout, infertility, obesity, kidney failure and autism, among other conditions."(2) He also reports that taurine supplementation has been used for "migraines, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, irritability, obsessions and depression."(2)

From these two lists, here's my own list of symptoms: anxiety, depression, hypothyroidism, insomnia, irritability, restlessness. I also have occasional cardiac arrythmia, muscular weakness, and a low tolerance for exercise. I strongly recommend you read Dr. Smith's article, which explains more about this important nutrient. I won't try to reinvent the wheel here, and I've quoted him enough already. So I'll talk about my own experience.

I have been vegan since 2000, and lacto-ovo vegetarian since 1986. I'm now 60 years old. I'm an extreme introvert, by which I mean I have a very low tolerance for stimulation. Introverts are crankier than extraverts when sleep-deprived, and since I am both introvert and often getting inadequate sleep, I can be very short-tempered. Even with adequate sleep (and little to no sleep debt) I can get irritable fairly quickly. Two minutes of energetic hold music will do it to me. My mother (who lives with me) can do it with just a few words. 'Nuff said.

This wonder nutrient may help people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, epilepsy, liver disease, macular degeneration, and tinnitis.(3) Adequate levels help muscles work better and longer, with less damage. That's true for the cardiac muscle tissue of the heart and for the skeletal muscles athletes exercise. It's also used in smooth muscle (blood vessels, lymph system, urinary bladder, gastrointestinal tract, ciliary muscle, etc.) Considering the many functions of taurine, it's a wonder we haven't heard more about it!

So, particularly since I have problems with insomnia and irritability, and having learned how depleted of taurine vegans can become, I ordered an 8 oz. bottle of Taurine Powder by NOW from AllStarHealth. I received it about 2 weeks ago and started using it right away. I take 1/4 teaspoon (the recommended dose, which provides 1 gram of taurine) in water while I fix my breakfast.

I started noticing a difference almost immediately, particularly with irritability. On several occasions, when challenged, I have kept my cool where I normally would have been quite perturbed (often marked by angry verbal outbursts, the slamming of doors, and/or threats to run away and join the circus... life with a passive-agressive mother who also has vascular dementia is no picnic.)

Taurine has also helped with my insomnia, particularly with trouble I have falling asleep, which is partly from my brain not wanting to shut up. And partly from interstitial cystitis, a painful and annoying bladder malady which is a whole other story, except that any nervous excitement - being startled or getting angry - sets off a flare that can last for days. During a flare it can take me several hours to get to sleep. Taurine has helped by keeping my nerves from getting set off so easily and by reducing anxiety; generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is another aspect of my so called life. Just call me a basket case, but don't call before noon. ;)

Oh, and by the way, I'm also less depressed and overwhelmed. My life definitely still has its challenges, but taurine is helping. Challenges are often noticibly easier to deal with, and for the first time in a long, long time I feel there is hope.

Now that I've meandered about, perhaps giving you TMI, or perhaps not enough, I'm gonna close with the recommendation that you consider whether or not you might need supplementation with taurine, and that you read references #2 and #3 below, or any other reliable and thorough info you can find about it.

I hope you have found this information helpful for your life or the life of someone close to you.

-Randi Kuhne

P.S. I highly recommend AllStarHealth as an online supplement source. They have lots of products by well-known and respected companies, their prices are very competetive, and their service is prompt. (Note: Delivery is by UPS ground from California, so if you live anywhere that will travel through hot weather, protect your investment and get 2-day delivery, unless your order only contains items that are known not to be heat-sensitive. - Update: they now also have a warehouse/shipping center on the East Coast!)

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission for items purchased through many of my product/company links, including those from AllStarHealth. That said, I only recommend products and companies I do or would use myself. (See more sources for purchasing taurine below the references.)



References:

1.
Plasma and urine taurine levels in vegans.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Apr;47(4):660-3.
Laidlaw SA, Shultz TD, Cecchino JT, Kopple JD.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3354491

2.
Are You Dangerously Deficient in Taurine?
Posted November 16, 2006
http://bodyecology.com/articles/deficient_in_taurine.php#.Uff-HYXXbyw

3.
The Forgotten Longevity Benefits of Taurine
By Ian Macleavy
http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/jun2013_The-Forgotten-Longevity-Benefits-of-Taurine_01.htm