Neurotransmitters are very important for it helps our cells to relay messages from one cell to another; neurotransmitters are responsible in the passing of signals to different cells in the body. Serotonin is one of these neurotransmitters; it is a chemical found in the brain which allows the communication of the brain cells and the nervous system. Serotonin is also the one responsible in giving the feeling of tranquility, confidence and stability. Lack of serotonin leads to anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance. In addition, as people age, the level of serotonin as well decreases. This is where L-Tryptophan comes in; we need L-Tryptophan to have enough serotonin.
What is L-Tryptophan?
L- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, this means that it could not be produced by the body and should be taken via supplementation or by eating foods rich with this amino acid. L-Tryptophan is very important in the development and functioning of the different parts of the body and it also aids in the manufacturing of proteins and in some chemicals in the brain like Serotonin; with low levels of Serotonin, a person may feel depressed and may have the possibility to over eat.
When L-Tryptophan is taken in the body, it is converted into 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) and then to serotonin. As I have mentioned, Serotonin is very important in sending different signals to the body and even in the one responsible in giving the feeling of stability and tranquility. Nowadays, Serotonin is being used for insomnia, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, to improve athletic performance and other medical conditions.
What are the uses of L-Tryptophan Supplements?
1. L-Tryptophan aids in the protein synthesis, which means that it could help in the manufacturing of muscles.
2. L-Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a chemical that controls moods; serotonin is used in the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety as well as sleeping disorders like insomnia and premenstrual syndrome. These conditions take place due to low level of serotonin, the increase of levels of L-Tryptophan may aid in normalizing sleeping patterns.
3. L-Tryptophan is also proven to be effective in helping people successfully quit smoking.
4. In other accounts, it is said that increasing the intake of L-Tryptophan aids in decreasing appetite so it may aid in losing weight.
As I have mentioned the levels of serotonin decreases as we age, therefore taking L-Tryptophan may aid in having better moods and positive view of life especially to people who are already old and are experiencing mood swings or depression.
Food Sources of L-Tryptophan
Turkey and chicken meats including foods such as banana, cheese, chocolate, eggs, milk, egg, oats, pumpkin seeds, soy, tofu, peanuts are good source of tryptophan however, the amount of L-Tryptophan found in foods is lower compared to the amount when take as a supplement.
The general recommended dosage for adults is 8-12 grams taken 3-4 times in separated doses. However, people with special conditions and under medication should ask their physician before taking this supplement to ensure safety.
Side Effects of L-Tryptophan
In 1989, L-Tryptophan was recalled because the people who used it developed a life-threatening condition called EMS (Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome) a neurological condition characterized by fatigue, intense muscle and nerve pain, swelling affecting the lungs, heart and the liver. EMS claimed lives and some say they were not able to fully recover from the syndrome. Nowadays, L-Tryptophan is back in the market sold as a dietary supplement however, some side effects are also listed such as heart burn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, muscle weakness and sexual problems.
L-Tryptophan supplementation must be under the supervision of a doctor for people with allergies, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with complicated diseases.