Phenylketonemia or PKI is a serious genetic condition that is quite treatable using diet and herbal supplements.
It’s an inherited condition in which the brain cannot metabolize a particular amino acid known as phenylalanine, even with regular diet and exercise.
Phenylalanine is the main amino acid in the neurotransmitter protein, which is responsible for regulating energy metabolism. This regulates hunger, body temperature, and fluid balance. Without enough phenylalanine, your body doesn’t function properly and could result in symptoms of brain damage and mental retardation. But how does this happen?
Phenylalanine is naturally produced by the liver, where it is stored in the form of phenylalanine sulfate. When your kidneys are not producing enough phenylalanine, the phenylalanine sulfate crystallizes to form a hard to build up in the blood vessels. This causes an increased blood flow to the kidney, resulting in the production of phenylalanine in the urine.
In addition to the crystallized phenylalanine, the kidney also produces a substance called phenylacetone, which is responsible for removing excess phenylalanine from the blood. But if there is too much phenylacetone and too little phenylalanine in the blood, there will be an overabundance of phenylalanine in the urine, which is known as phenylketonuria.
When you have phenylknightemia, your kidneys are unable to remove a lot of the phenylalanine that accumulates in your blood. Instead, it accumulates in your muscles, the brain, and other tissues of the body. Because of this overabundance of phenylalanine, there are many symptoms that can result from this condition.
As mentioned above, PKU is caused when the brain cannot metabolize a specific amino acid. However, there are other conditions in which this condition may occur, and each condition has a different cause.
The most common cause of a condition that occurs due to excess of phenylalanine and excessive uric acid levels in the blood is known as ketoacidosis, where there is too much fluid being produced in the body because of high levels of ketone bodies, which is found in some meat products. Another cause can be kidney disease of the small intestine, where the kidney is damaged, which makes the blood vessels leak chemicals into the bloodstream.
The symptoms of phenylknightemia can also be caused by a deficiency in a substance known as creatine, a substance that breaks down the amino acids into their simpler forms. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and the body needs adequate levels of them in order for the muscles to work.
When there are too many amino acids in the blood, the muscles do not get enough energy for proper muscle growth. Because the brain can’t use all of these amino acids, the brain functions incorrectly and results in symptoms such as mental retardation, low energy, low memory, confusion, and irritability.
Another symptom of a condition that can result from too much phenylalanine is a condition called hypoglycemia, where the blood sugar levels are too low, resulting in hypoglycemia, low energy, and low blood sugar. When blood glucose levels are too low, there may be insufficient nutrition for the cells in the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Another possible cause of PKU is an infection of the kidney or ureter, in which bacteria are present in the urine. If the bacteria multiply too quickly, it can affect the blood flow and cause hypertension in the blood stream, which can cause damage to the heart valves and cause kidney failure.
If you think you have a possible cause, you should visit your doctor so that he or she can rule out all of these possibilities. The doctor may have a blood test to confirm the symptoms and find the cause.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and treat this condition. Foods such as milk thistle, green leafy vegetables, and certain fruits contain substances that break down the amino acids that cause this disorder, thus preventing them from causing damage to the kidneys or arteries.
By following a good diet and taking supplements, you can control the levels of the amino acids in the blood. It is important that if you have PKU, you consult a doctor before trying to treat the condition with drugs, as you could be putting yourself at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.