L-Tryptophan is one of the 22 standard amino acids that are required for human biological processes. As one of the eight essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized within the body, it must be obtained through plant or animal dietary sources. Chemically bound L-tryptophan occurs naturally in high protein foods that many of us consume regularly, such as poultry, soybeans or dried peas. While L-tryptophan has had a somewhat checkered past, newer research shows it may have an exceptionally promising future. Prior to be being blocked by the FDA in 1989 due to some questionable additives found in imported Japanese formulas, L-tryptophan was commonly used as a sleep aid and as a natural and holistic treatment for mild to moderate depression. Restored to good graces in 2001, safe, reliable, well proven L-tryptophan practically calls out for supplementation to aid in the normalization of serotonin production. While L-tryptophan is found in the smallest concentration of all the amino acids in the body, it is the sole precursor to serotonin synthesis.
Serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, has wide ranging roles in many essential metabolic and psychological functions. It is widely believed that L-tryptophan aids the body in effectively regulating serotonin and acts as a building block to produce serotonin as needed. Serotonin, often referred to as the happiness hormone, directly and indirectly influences the majority of brain cells, affecting emotional moods and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, anxiety, stress, and sexual desire and function. According to the National Institutes of Health, the most widely held belief by neurobiologists is that an imbalance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine is a central element leading to mild or moderate depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, which affect serotonin levels, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications.
Regular exercise and foods that contain high levels of tryptophan are linked to improved mood and cognition. As dietary L-tryptophan is not found in free form and is chemically bound to protein, only a small amount may actually be absorbed by the body. Because the biochemical conversion of L- tryptophan to serotonin happens in the brain, L-tryptophan must compete with other amino acids to cross the blood brain barrier. Evidence suggests that eating carbohydrates along with protein or when taking L-tryptophan in supplement form may allow for more L-tryptophan to enter the brain. Carbohydrates necessitate insulin release, which drives some amino acids into body cells, reducing their blood levels. This increases the proportion of L-tryptophan to other amino acids in the blood and improves the chances of crossing into the brain.
L-tryptophan depletion has been demonstrated to affect a variety of cognitive processes, such as well documented learning and memory impairments, aggressive behavior, and negative mood changes. Unhealthy eating habits, overly stressful lives and the miniscule amount of L-tryptophan contained in foods may make it difficult to meet individual needs through diet alone. L-tryptophan in pure supplemental form allows a higher concentration of L-tryptophan to compete with other amino acids for the transport mechanism that carries them across the blood brain barrier. Supplementing with L-tryptophan may improve sleep quality, regulate behavior, balance moods and help manage depression, reduce anxiety and stress, decrease appetite and have positive effects on energy production. As a precursor to serotonin, L-tryptophan contributes substantially to balancing our state of mind and has noteworthy and positive effects on our sense of wellbeing.
Recommended products for L-tryptophan supplementation include:L-Tryptophan (SA501) by Thorne Research – One serving provides 1 g of L-tryptophan in support of serotonin production to benefit good mood, relaxation and sleep. Gluten, soy and dairy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. L-Tryptophan by Pure Encapsulations – This product provides L-tryptophan along with cofactors to promote serotonin synthesis and support emotional health and restful sleep. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. L-Tryptophan (200448) by Douglas Laboratories – This product provides L-tryptophan along with necessary cofactors to ensure the proper synthesis of serotonin in support of neurological function and healthy emotional wellbeing. Gluten, soy and dairy free vegetarian formula. L-Tryptophan – Capsules 500 mg by Source Naturals – Taken between meals and preferably with fruit juice, this product supports relaxation, restful sleep and positive mood. References: L-tryptophan. http://aminoacidstudies.org/l-tryptophan/ Use of neurotransmitter precursors for treatment of depression. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10696120 L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908021/ Better Brain Chemistry with Tryptophan. . http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2013/5/Better-Brain-Chemistry-with-Tryptophan/Page-01