Pregnant? Make sure you're getting this essential amino acid!

Pregnant? Make sure you're getting this essential amino acid! 

Today we are chatting protein! Or more specifically amino acids, but before we dive in let’s kick this post off with a little refresher on that 9th grade biology class: Protein, one of our dietary macronutrients, is made up of amino acids. The body breaks down dietary protein into amino acids for use as enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and hemoglobin. Of all the things amino acids do, one of their most important functions is tissue growth and repair. (1) There are 20 amino acids that the body will use, but 9 are considered essential, meaning we need to get them from our diet!

During times of illness and stress, another subcategory of amino acids appears: conditionally essential amino acids such as glycine. Conditionally essential amino acids are also indicated  appear during pregnancy and postpartum! While you’re busy growing a new person from scratch, glycine becomes conditionally essential because of its role in building connective tissue and managing stress. (2). During pregnancy glycine supports the expanding uterus and skin and also helps develop the placenta. (2) Glycine also helps with methylation, which is important for things like DNA and neurotransmitter production. (3)

 

What might be most important about glycine is the effect it can have on blood pressure during pregnancy. One way to manage blood pressure and avoid preeclampsia (a condition related to sudden spike in blood pressure after 20 weeks) is through adequate protein consumption to support hormonal shifts and expanding blood vessels. (2)

Glycine specifically is protective against two major components of preeclampsia: oxidative stress and elevated blood pressure. (2) Glycine is also responsible for the production of elastin and helps blood vessels expand and contract with the changing fluid balance during pregnancy! (2)

The best dietary sources of glycine are found in the connective tissue of animals, specifically collagen and gelatin which you can consume either in a supplement form or from bone broth and slow cooked meats. Vegetarian? Small amounts of glycine can also be obtained from beans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and pumpkin.

 

Check out our top picks for glycine rich foods:  

 

 

 

 

References:

 

 

 

  1. Amino Acids. Medlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm. Reviewed January 26, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2018.

  2. Nichols L. Real food for pregnancy: the science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. San Bernardino, CA; 2018.

  3. What is methylation and why you should care about it. Thorne.com. https://www.thorne.com/take-5-daily/article/what-is-methylation-and-why-should-you-care-about-it. Published January 12, 2018. Accessed May 11, 2018.