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What Is Ammonia In The Body

by Kristin Beck
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WHAT IS AMMONIA IN THE BODY

What Is Ammonia In The Body

“Ammonia, also known as NH3, is a waste product made by your body during the digestion of protein. Normally, ammonia is processed in the liver, where it is changed into another waste product called urea. Urea is passed through the body in urine and eventually excreted from the kidneys. However, if you have an excess amount of ammonia in your system, the process will not work properly. This can lead to some serious health problems for your brain, heart, and other organs.
The human body produces about 1 milliliter (ML) of ammonia per day. It is produced when amino acids are broken down by enzymes after being digested, or when proteins are metabolized within cells. When the products of amino acid metabolism combine with oxygen inside mitochondria, ammonium ions are formed. These then pass out of the cell via ATP-dependent transporters as ammonia.
Ammonia is one of several organic compounds that are classified as “”excitotoxins.”” Excitotoxicity occurs when neurons become overstimulated by a toxic substance such as glutamate. As the neuron becomes more and more damaged, its ability to remove toxins declines. Eventually, too much damage occurs, resulting in neuronal death. Glutamate is normally removed quickly enough by the glutamine synthetase enzyme. However, if there is too much free glutamate floating around in the bloodstream, this enzyme may be overwhelmed. That’s why excess levels of glutamate cause excessive amounts of ammonia production.
In addition, the body needs nitrogen-containing molecules like DNA/RNA, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. To help break these complex chemical chains down into smaller components, the body uses two types of enzymes – peptidases and aminopeptidases. Peptides are composed of small chains of amino acids linked together by covalent bonds. Amino acids themselves consist of carbon atoms, hydrogen atoms, and side groups. A side group is any functional molecule attached to an atom along with three other non-functional molecules. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids. Some of them contain nitrogen. Proteins are chains of amino acids joined together by peptide linkages. They are essential building blocks of all living organisms. And they play crucial roles in almost every biological function.
Proteins are composed of linear polypeptide chains consisting of long strings of amino acids. Each amino acid contains a carboxyl group (-COOH), which serves as the end cap on each chain. The N-terminal amino acid has a hydrophilic (-OH) group at the center. The C terminal amino acid also has a hydrophilic group. Together, the carboxyl and hydroxyl groups make up most of the solubility of amino acids. The rest of the amino acid side groups form part of the structure of the protein itself. Other important features include whether the amino acids in question are charged (+NH2) or uncharged (-NH). Side groups are important because they affect how easily the protein folds into its unique three dimensional shape. For example, tryglycine (-CH(NH)-CO-) is very soluble and does not fold well. Alanine (-CH(NH)-CO-) is less soluble than glycine and folds better. Glycine (-CH(NH)-CO-) is the smallest folded amino acid.
An interesting property of many amino acids is their tendency to bind water. Water binds strongly to both sides of the amino acid backbone. The binding between water and the backbone makes the backbone rigid and inflexible, so the overall conformation of the protein changes. Since each amino acid plays a particular role in the protein chain, the exact composition of the protein affects its function. Therefore, proteins must maintain a certain degree of flexibility to perform their job correctly. If the protein were too rigid, it would no longer be able to interact with other related proteins. The opposite problem could occur if the protein became too flexible. It might lose its normal functions.
When ammonia builds up in our systems, we start to experience symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, memory loss, fatigue, weakness, irritability, depression, and even coma or death. Our bodies need a way to deal with large quantities of ammonia. One strategy is to convert it into urea. Urea is a colorless compound that is odorless, tasteless, and insoluble in water. It is used by animals to protect against insects and parasites. Humans use it mainly to rid their blood stream of waste.
Urea is created by removing the -NH group from ammonia using enzymes. Two main enzymes do this conversion; carbamoyl phosphate synthase I and ornithine transcarbamylase. Carbamoyl phosphate synthase catalyzes the formation of 3-phosphohydronorrhexanamide from phosphoribosylaminoimidazole. Ornithine transcarbamylase then converts 3-phosphohydronorrhexanamide to carbamyldihydornithine. After this step, the remaining portion of the molecule is referred to as urea. Because urea cannot be further cleaved by either of these enzymes, it is considered a dead-end product. Once it is made, however, it is released back into the blood stream.
Another pathway that removes ammonia from the body is through hydrolysis. Hydrolysis means breaking ester bonds, including those found in proteins. Enzymes are needed to carry out this reaction. Proteolytic enzymes breakdown proteins into smaller pieces. Some proteolytic enzymes can produce free ammonia directly from amino acids. Others create free ammonia indirectly by converting amino acids into pyruvic acid (a four-carbon molecule containing -COOH and -CHO functional groups.) Pyruvic acid reacts with water to create succinic semialdehyde, which spontaneously splits off ammonia. Sulfhydryl reagents, such as sulfites (sodium or potassium metabisulite, sodium bisulfate, etc.), react with free ammonia to form mercaptans, such as methylmercaptan, ethylmercaptan, and propylmercaptan. Methylmercaptan smells like garlic, while ethylmercaptan smells like onions. Propylmercaptan smells like cabbage. Mercaptans are volatile sulfur compounds that smell strong and pungently sweet. Their presence in breath samples was recently associated with lung cancer risk.
Allergic reactions to foodstuffs often involve histamine release. Histamine causes itching and inflammation of mucous membranes. It is stored in granules in basophils, mast cells, and other tissues. Its release results in allergic response. Ingesting foods rich in histamine releases huge quantities of histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates nerve endings. It triggers the secretion of fluid and mucus from salivary glands and tears from eye ducts. Histamine is involved in various physiological processes, including regulation of sleep patterns, mood, appetite, muscle tone, immune responses, inflammatory processes, and sensory perception. It is also thought to regulate hormone production.
Histamine is manufactured by splitting off the imidazole ring from guanidine. Guanidine is a derivative of creatine. Creatine is a component of skeletal muscles. The imidazole ring acts as an intermediate in the biosynthesis of histamine. Histamine is destroyed by the enzyme diamine oxidase. Diamine oxidase is located in the walls of the stomach and intestines. Symptoms of poisoning by ingestion of high doses of histamine include sneezing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and convulsions. Death usually occurs due to respiratory arrest.
If ammonia build up continues unabated, our livers stop functioning effectively. Lactic acidosis develops first. This leads to hypoxic states and ultimately, death. Liver failure may result if ammonia remains elevated for hours or days. Treatment depends upon the severity of the case. Patients should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Artificial respiration may be necessary. Dialysis may be required to reduce ammonia levels. Most patients respond best to treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy bacteria that feed on ammonia. Bacterial infections are commonly treated with tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones, and third generation cephalosporins.
For severe cases, plasma exchange therapy may prove effective. Plasma exchange removes harmful substances from the patient’s blood stream. It is performed by connecting the patient to a machine that continuously pumps blood outside the body. Blood is pumped out of the body through plastic tubing inserted into a vein. Then it flows past special filters that separate blood into components. Filtration separates the blood into red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, clotting factors, and plasma. During filtration, the plasma passes through filters lined with porous synthetic polymer beads. The beads act as tiny sponges that trap large molecular weight agents, such as antibodies. By removing the antibody from the blood stream, plasma exchange prevents it from attacking its intended target. This technique is especially useful in treating autoimmune diseases, infectious disease, and organ transplant rejection.
Other methods for reducing ammonia concentrations include diet control and”

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