Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning that the body cannot manufacture it without obtaining it from the food that we eat. Unfortunately, tryptophan is the least abundant amino acid found in foods. The richest dietary sources include fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and wheat germ, however, tryptophan appears to be deficient in most dietary proteins.

Tryptophan is used by the brain to produce serotonin, a chemical (neurotransmitter) in the brain that regulates mood and stress. Neurotransmitters send signals from one neuron in the brain to another, and an imbalance in the amount of a neurotransmitter can result in varied mood and disorders of the nervous system. 5-Hydroxtryptophan is involved in the formation of the chemical serotonin and has been shown to help alleviate depression, insomnia, stress, migraines and help to stabilise mood and appetitie.

* Studies have shown that 5-Hyroxtryptophan, at a dosage of 200mg daily, can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide inhaled during a panic attack, which will mean that a person will be less likely to hyperventilate.

* Studies have shown that 5-Hyroxtyrptophan, at a dosage of 300mg daily, resulted in people suffering less migraine and chronic tension headaches, and a significant decrease in the use of analgesics (pain relief medication) if a migraine did occur.

* Studies have shown that obese individuals (Body Mass Index over 30/high percentage body fat) have low levels of seotonin. Low serotonin in obese patients can lead to carbohydrate craving and binge eating. Elevating serotonin levels in obese patients has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating and carbohydrate craving.

* Studies have shown 5-hydroxtryptophan, at a dosage of 1gm, 30-45 minutes before bed, can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep at night.

5-Hydroxtryptophan is contraindicated with a number of medications. For this reason, you must speak to a qualified health care practitioner prior to commencing therapy using 5-Hydroxtryptophan.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for this interesting and informative post Mark. Why is it that people with larger BMI’s have low levels of serotonin? I’m also interested in your comment that dietary protein is low in tryptophan, does that include those food sources “fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and wheat germ” you mentioned?

    • Hello Carolyn,

      Good question. It appears that individuals who carry excess percentage body fat have fewer dopamine receptors. As you may be aware dopamine is another neurotransmitter or brain chemical, considered the feel good brain chemical. How this relates to serotonin is as follows: serotonin helps to regulate how much you eat, whereas appetite is stimulated by dopamine. As we eat, serotonin is released to inhibit the release of dopamine so that we will cease eating, given that we should feel full. Low levels of serotonin can weaken this process and result in overeating and weight gain. If you are interested you can follow the link to the International Journal of Obesity and read the articles titled ‘The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic risk markers’ and ‘The effect of the triple monoamine reuptake inhibitor tesofensine on energy metabolism and appetite in overweight and obese men’ http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v35/n5/full/ijo2010171a.html

      • Although chicken, fish, eggs and wheat germ are considered the highest food sources of tryptophan, the amount of tryptophan in these foods is often insufficient for individuals who experience depression, anxiety, binge eating and insomnia. Hence, supplementary sources, of a therapeutic dose provide the greatest resolution in the short term. The reason for this is that L-tryptophan, found in food, is not as effective as 5-hydroxtryptophan in converting to serotonin.

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