If you are unfamiliar with the term tryptophan, then you probably not the only one. In a nutshell, tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is responsible for many crucial processes in the body. For instance, it manufactures niacin, which in turn produces the neurotransmitter serotonin, which manages your mood, preventing depression and anxiety as a result. More specifically, lower the concentrations of tryptophan lead to lower production of serotonin in the brain. This, in turn, increases the risk of certain mental health issues. What’s more, tryptophan, apart from synthesising serotonin, is also noted for converting vitamin B3 (niacin). Apart from creating the neurotransmitter serotonin, niacin plays a key role in the growth and development of children and adults.
What’s more, tryptophan functions as the building block for various neurotransmitters and hormones in the body. These chemicals regulate your sleep cycle, hunger and mood. The function of this amino acid is so far-reaching that is necessary to ensure that the body receives adequate amounts of tryptophan. Unfortunately, the body is unable to produce enough tryptophan on its own. This makes it all the more important to obtain the amino acid from various food sources. Let’s delve a little deeper into the benefits of these amino acids for the body.
Dietary Sources of Tryptophan
Fruits such as apricots, kiwi, mangoes, cherries are good sources of tryptophan. Including more vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, brussels sprouts, onions and leeks will go a long way in increasing your intake of tryptophan. Nuts and seeds have also proven to be high in the health beneficial amino acid. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, lotus seeds and hazelnuts are rich in tryptophan as well. Other sources of tryptophan include seafood, dairy products and cereal grains and pasta. It’s clear that there is a variety of foods that you can adopt into your diet to obtain adequate levels of tryptophan.
Benefits of Tryptophan
Reduces Anxiety, Depression and Aggression
As we have discussed before, tryptophan is critical for the production of serotonin. Studies have shown that people who have a diet rich in tryptophan experienced reduced episodes of anxiety and depression. At the same time, they were relatively less irritable compared to subjects who had a long history of anxiety and depression. Additionally, the amino acid contains properties that lower aggression, depression, ADHD. Hence, increasing your intake of tryptophan essentially elevates your mood and even works to prevent and reduce the development of mental issues such as depression and related symptoms.
Helps with Sleep Disorders
Increasing your intake of tryptophan can help to improve the overall quality of your sleep and even treat a number of sleep disorders. In fact, just consuming 2.5 mg of tryptophan during bedtime has been shown to boost the quality of sleep in people with sleep apnea. Compared to other kinds of sleep disorder medications, tryptophan does not compromise the person’s cognitive performance. Additionally, it prevents prolonged periods of a drowsy or sleepy state. Coupled with medical supervision, dietary sources of tryptophan can be used to manage sleep disorders in the early stages.
Contains Anti-inflammatory Properties
Interestingly enough, low levels of tryptophan were associated with health and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease), chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and other kinds of inflammatory diseases. Essentially, this correlation has shown that tryptophan improves the anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Moreover, the amino acid is linked to neuroprotection, blood glucose level control, kynurenine-mediated cardioprotection and memory power. It is also possible that the anti-inflammatory properties in tryptophan will be extremely beneficial for people who suffer from acne-prone skin or even cystic acne. However, it is best to consult a medical professional before making major changes to your diet.
Are There Possible Side-Effects of Taking Tryptophan?
As we have seen so far, it is clear that tryptophan plays a large role in the body. It is necessary for a wide range of functions and is involved in almost activity that the body takes part in. Hence, it is not surprising that it is needed in large amounts to sustain the system and allow it to function at its peak. It’s helpful to note that although studies have shown that meat products contain low tryptophan levels, the conversion rate to niacin and kynurenine is significantly higher.
The Bottom Line
Before changing your diet drastically, it would be helpful to approach a dietician or a medical professional to fully assess your condition and nutrient requirements. Doing this is especially important if you are already suffering from a predisposed condition. Pregnant and lactating women should adhere to the diet plans provided by their gynaecologist and/or nutritionist. Apart from that, it’s important to note that if you are suffering from a serious clinical condition, it would be better to take other measures and seek practical solutions instead of changing your diet or solely relying on increasing your intake of certain foods to alleviate symptoms.