Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They constitute around 16% of our total body weight. There are 20 amino acids which make up the proteins found in the human body. Proteins are necessary for various functions in our body. They provide the basic structural components for our muscles, brain, nervous system, blood, skin and hair. In addition to providing structure, proteins are needed for building and repairing body’s tissues, facilitating metabolic reactions and immune functions, and coordinating bodily functions.
Classification of Amino Acids
Out of the 20 amino acids that we require, our body can produce 11 of them. The other 9 must be obtained through diet. These nine amino acids are called Essential Amino Acids: Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine and Histidine.
The 11 amino acids that are produced by the body are called Non-essential Amino Acids. These are Alanine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine.
Among the non-essential amino acids, there are few amino acids that are considered as Conditionally Essential Amino Acids. These amino acids become essential during certain conditions (such as pregnancy, illnesses, ageing, etc.)when our body is not able to produce required quantities. For example, L-Glutamine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid during pregnancy.
Amino Acids and Wound Healing
Collagen is a structural protein in the human body and is the primary component of the connective tissue that rebuilds the wound. Collagen comprises of approximately 90% nonessential amino acids. During wound healing process, the body needs an increased supply of these amino acids for faster collagen formation. The body also needs essential amino acids to decrease the number of inflammatory cells during wound healing process and to help in the faster formation of collagen fibers.
Important roles of some of the Amino acids in wound healing process:
Arginine is the producer of nitric oxide, which is essential for wound healing because nitric oxide increases oxygen and blood flow to the wound, increases collagen formation, and reduces inflammation.
Glutamine acts as an energy source for fibroblasts and epithelial cells which are needed for healing.
Cystine is required to synthesize glutathione (GSH), an important antioxidant that plays a key role during tissue repair and collagen synthesis.
One of the major concerns with any significant wound is that the body is in a catabolic state which leads to decrease in the lean body mass. Supplementation of mixture of amino acids can significantly increase the overall lean mass and hasten the wound healing process by increasing protein synthesis.