Methionine is a protein-based amino acid and lipotropic compound that helps with metabolism and breaks down fat. It can also help with chelation, which is the removal of heavy metals from the body to ensure that the liver, kidneys, and bladder remain healthy. This amino acid preserves artery function and maintains healthy nails, hair, and skin. Additionally, it is essential for muscle growth and energy.
The human body does not naturally produce methionine, so humans can only get it by ingesting it. Sources include protein-rich foods like eggs, fish, and Brazil nuts, as well as cereal grains. People can also get it through a supplement or through intravenous (IV) therapy administered by a health care provider.
Maintaining a sufficient level of methionine in the body helps ensure overall good health. Some common but significant side effects of deficiency include liver damage, edema, and brittle hair. Low levels can slow normal growth and development in children, and in pregnant women may result in neural tube defects in infants, such as myelomeningocele or spina bifida. Deficiencies can also lead to severe mental disorders.
The most common medical use of this amino acid is as a preventative treatment for liver damage caused by acetaminophen poisoning. Acetaminophen is typically found in prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers. Taking too much can cause serious liver damage. Medical care staff usually administer methionine orally or intravenously within 10 hours of an overdose in order to help prevent liver damage.
This compound is also prescribed by alternative medical practitioners to boost protein levels for vegetarians and vegans who may not ingest enough in their normal diets. It is beneficial for those who metabolize large quantities of proteins, such as athletes, and is often recommended as a protein replacement for people who are considered heavy drinkers. Patients suffering from adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may consider taking this supplement for chelation; and those with fibromyalgia might take it to help their muscles work properly.
In addition, this substance works to reduce histamine levels in the body to allow the nerves to work properly and to assist with memory. Histamines act as neurotransmitters, so problems with histamine levels can affect how the nerves work throughout the body. They can cause allergic reactions and dilate blood vessels, affecting the way the brain sends and receives messages. As a result, methionine supplements are sometimes given to those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Side Effects and Precautions
Methionine can cause allergic reactions and other side effects, regardless of the form its taken in. The most common side effects are nausea and vomiting. Some people feel drowsy after taking it. Emergency medical attention may be necessary if a person shows signs of a several allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and swelling.
Pregnant women or nursing mothers should not take methionine supplements without first consulting their healthcare provider, because it's not clear how they affect a postpartum body. Those who take oral contraceptives should also inform a medical professional before taking it, since it increases estrogen production. This amino acid can worsen existing conditions such as liver disease, acidosis, and schizophrenia. While it has no known negative interactions with other drugs, patients should tell their medical care provider about any other medications or supplements they are using prior to starting methionine.