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Tryptophan Dosage and Benefits

SerotoninTryptophan (molecular formula is C 11 H 12 N 2 O 2) is one of the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. Was discovered by Dr. Frederick Hopkins in 1901. L-tryptophan plays an critical role in the production of serotonin and melatonin. These chemical messengers carry nerve impulses from one cell to other. The first phase in synthesis of serotonin is the transformation of tryptophan to 5-HTP by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase. The body uses tryptophan to create 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan), which is then changed to serotonin. Serotonin is necessary for sleep and mood regulation and transmits nerve impulses from the brain. Researches show that individuals who suffer with depression have low levels of the tryptophan. Body cannot produce tryptophan on its own. Therefore, can be obtained through supplements or through food. Also, body uses the tryptophan to create vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 promotes healthy nervous system function.

Food Sources

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found naturally in foods like turkey, red meat, chicken, cheese, milk, eggs, bananas, chocolate, soy products, nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, peanut butter, brown rice, wheat germ, oatmeal, and shrimp.

Tryptophan Benefits

Tryptophan is used for low mood, sleeplessness, sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, facial pain, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder). Was also used as an complement in the therapy of alcohol, cocaine, amphetamine, and other medication misuse.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are a class of compounds typically used as antidepressants in the therapy of depression, anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, work by boost the level of serotonin  by blocking its reuptake by adjoining neurons. Commonly used SSRIs are citalopram (Cipramil), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and paroxetine (Paxil).

The amino acid tryptophan, serves as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate sleep and mood. When amount of serotonin are high, in a better mood, sleep better, and have a higher pain tolerance. In order for tryptophan to carry out its bodily functions efficiently, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, magnesium and vitamin C is required.

Serotonin is the important brain chemical that generates feelings of relaxation and optimism. Also, critical a role in certain brain functions such as the ability to focus, motor coordination and reflexes. The symptoms associated with serotonin deficiency include depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, anger and chronic pain. Researches of cerebrospinal fluid, whole blood, and plasma have shown that serotonin levels are decreased in depression patients. Autopsies have demonstrated that a very low  brain level of serotonin is one biological marker to suicide.

Serotonin is involved in mood, sleep, depression, anxiety, appetite and impulse control. In a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study, 30 participant with major depressive disorder were treated for over 8 weeks with 20 mg of Fluoxetine per day and either tryptophan (daily dose 2 -  4 g ) or a placebo. The findings were  a pronounced greater reduce in depression scores in the tryptophan/fluoxetine group than in the placebo/fluoxetine group. A Dutch researcher showed that the combination of vitamin B6 (125 mg 3 times daily) and tryptophan (2 g used at night)  could restore participants with anxiety-type depression to normal in 4 weeks. The findings demonstrate that tryptophan in doses of 1 grams or more produces an improve in rated subjective sleepiness and a reduce in sleep latency. In an study, eight severe chronic insomniacs took 2 g for four nights. All participants developed significantly and no adverse effects were seen.

In a study, reported in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology in September 2007 edition, tryptophan caused a decrease in social anxiety disorder. Double-blind a study has demonstrated that tryptophan can improve tolerance to acute pain when taken in dosage of at least 2 grams per day. Article in the December 2011 edition of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, the scientists say further studies are needed to definitively determine whether l-tryptophan supplement is an useful treatment for mood disorders.

Tryptophan Dosage

A  review article reported in “Psychopharmacology” found that amino acid tryptophan is useful for the therapy of insomnia in doses ranging from 1 to 15 grams. Some researches have confirmed tryptophan to be effective in the therapy of chronic insomnia at doses of between 1 to 4 g at bedtime. Some uncontrolled studies report that 3 to 6 grams per day of tryptophan helps develop mood in patients with depression. For the treatment of depression, tryptophan should be given in at least 2 divided doses per day, in order to reduce fluctuations in plasma L-tryptophan concentrations. In a clinical trial at St. Mary’s Hospital, scientists gave 6,000 mg of tryptophan to PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) participants. After seventeen days of therapy, starting at ovulation till the third day of menstruation, it was found that tryptophan developed mood symptoms. 100 mg of 5 HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is equivalent to 500mg L-tryptophan.

Side Effects

Do not take l-tryptophan together with full doses of serotonin-enhancing drugs. This therapy should be undertaken only with a physician supervision. In addition; do not use tryptophan if taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).


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