Okay, so first thing’s first.
I’M NOT A DOCTOR.
I am not the most intelligent, infallible human in the world or even anywhere close.
I don’t know the legitimacy of Tryptophan.
I’m aware that the sources I have found my information from have advertisements on the page trying to sell nutritional supplements.
I’m aware of all the different articles that have found Tryptophan to be dangerous, or ineffective.
I’m aware that it isn’t supposed to be taken without your doctor’s advise.
I’m aware that you can receive Tryptophan through diet and that most people receive much more Tryptophan daily than I would since I’m on a plant based diet.
I’m aware that it shouldn’t be taken with other forms of medication.
I’m aware of the side affects of Tryptophan and of serotonin syndrome.
Bottom line: I do not really know about Tryptophan on a professional level at all, and you definitely should do your own research before blindly following what some random human online says they think is a good idea for them.
I haven’t even been diagnosed with any mental health problems.
Seriously guys, take what I say with a pinch of salt.
Okay, so I think I literally can’t express the illegitimacy of my post more than this, so let’s move on to some more more positive statements about my opinions on Tryptophan 😀
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed to synthesise serotonin, a neurotransmitter known as the “happy molecule”.
You cannot increase your serotonin directly as serotonin molecules themselves are too large to enter the brain, apparently, so smaller molecules must first enter the brain and THEN be converted into serotonin.
One of those smaller molecules that you can take is Tryptohan!
Now for a lot of people, low levels of Tryptophan intake isn’t a problem – and don’t try to fix what isn’t causing you issues!
Depression, anxiety and many other mental health issues HAVE BEEN CORRELATED TO LOW LEVELS OF TRYPTOPHAN.
Studies have shown Tryptophan to be as effective for depression as antidepressant drugs, but is a completely natural molecule found in food.
It has also been found useful for reducing anxiety, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, ADHD, PMS, Bipolar Disorder, OCD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, eating disorders and Insomnia, mood, sleep, appetite control and memory.
So, if this molecule is so awesome and the benefits of it over using SSRIs is that it can be received through diet, then why not just eat the right foods rather than taking supplements for it?
Firstly, the best sources of Tryptophan are animal products – which makes it an especially difficult amino acid for people on plant-based diets to come across naturally.
Secondly, as the main source of Tryptophan is from animal products – those foods will also tend to be very high in protein and unfortunately serotonin and Tryptophan levels DROP after eating meals containing protein because protein blocks the synthesis of Tryptophan into serotonin.
Some foods that contain high levels of Tryptophan – such as dairy products, poultry, tuna, oatmeal, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, soybeans, asparagus, cauliflower, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, DO actually result in the synthesis of serotonin when consumed.
Tryptophan is the least common of all amino acids in your body, yet it is one of the most necessary to be a healthily functioning human.
Things such as stress, insulin resistance, magnesium deficiency, artificial sweeteners and becoming older affect your brain’s ability to turn Tryptophan into serotonin.
Main point to remember:
Even if you eat a LOT of Tryptophan rich foods, LESS THAN 1% is available for serotonin synthesis in the brain. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why – read my disclaimer above. This is just all taken from a source that I’ll link at the bottom of this post.
For these reasons, taking a Tryptophan supplement often works much better than trying to obtain Tryptophan from food alone.
There is no official dosage and recommendations on dosage vary WIDELY, but as little as 250mg was found to increase quality of sleep.
Mayo Clinic however recommends 8 to 12 grams PER DAY for depression.
Tryptophan comes in the form of capsules (500mg capsules are what I use) or in powder form (which is recommended if one is taking large dosages of Tryptophan.)
Most supplement manufacturers recommend 1,000 – 1,500 mg per day.
If you’re not sure where to begin, the source I’m getting this information from recommends starting from 500mg per day and then working up to a higher dosage.
Although once upon a time Tryptophan supplements were deemed unsafe, Tryptophan is now not considered unsafe at all in and of itself.
There are potential SIDE EFFECTS of taking such supplements – perhaps for some reason your brain already has plenty of Tryptophan and taking supplements will mean essentially “overdosing” on the amino acid.
Maybe somebody doesn’t take the supplement correctly, safely or doesn’t increase their dosage gradually, and also end up with essentially a Tryptophan “overdose”.
Maybe there’s just some other reason why taking the supplement doesn’t agree with you.
Possible side effects include digestive upset, loss of appetite, headache and drowsiness.
The safety of taking Tryptophan while nursing has also not been established.
One of the biggest problems with taking the supplement that I’ve read is when people already are taking SSRIs or have recently stopped taking SSRIs and then begin taking Tryptophan.
SSRIs stay in your system for a bit of time, and the effects of these pharmaceuticals won’t just be entirely depleted from one’s system as soon as one stops taking them.
Now SSRI’s also increase your serotonin levels in the brain, so essentially, by taking Tryptophan (or another precursor to serotonin potentially, such as 5-HTP or even highly increasing your levels of B vitamins also involved in the synthesis of serotonin etc), you could very well end up having an overdose of serotonin.
THIS CAN BE VERY,, VERY BAD, and can lead to serotonin syndrome (something unpleasant that I personally experienced a while ago.)
This can cause the shakes, feeling nauseous and I even read somewhere that in super serious cases IT CAN CAUSE YOU TO GO INTO A COMA!!!
DO NOT TAKE TRYPTOPHAN ALONGSIDE SSRIs – PLEASE.
Now, why should you take Tryptophan instead of the more well-known 5-HTP – also a precursor to serotonin?
Tryptophan more readily enters the brain directly than 5-HTP, and once in the brain it can then be turned into 5-HTP, and then serotonin.
Also, for some reason, 5-HTP has not been conclusively proven to help depression, and further, 5-HTP is not recommended for long term use, because it as it increases serotonin in the brain, it simultaneously depletes other neurotransmitters.
(I’m aware that Tryptophan gets converted into 5-HTP so this point needs expanding on but again, I’m just getting this from the source I’m using – if you want more detail then it shouldn’t be too difficult to do a quick search and find the information you need.)
This is why 5-HTP works for some people and then suddenly stops working – and why some people even end up feeling worse after taking 5-HTP for a while.
How this is relevant to me personally:
Well, I’m struggling guys.
I mean I’m really struggling, and if what is the most fundamental, physical and mental cause of the feeling of happiness is a chemical called serotonin, and a natural, safe way to gain more serotonin is to take Tryptophan supplements… Well, I’m all over that.
The thing about depression and mental health problems – or even how the brain works in general, is it’s all down to how our brain is perceiving things. Yes, sometimes really bad things actually do happen and the natural response to those things is to feel despair, but even then, there are many people who experience a host of negative experiences and never become depressed or feel anywhere near as terrible as those of us suffering from mental health issues.
It’s all down to how our brain is working.
I’d never want to be, like, unhealthily happy… I just don’t want to be finding things abnormally difficult in proportion to what the problems in my life are.
I want to be able to handle things that life throws at me well, and for little things that occur daily that are currently massive struggles for me, to not even cross my mind – like how they don’t cross most healthy people’s minds.
I just want to be happy, y’know?
I just want to be normal, happy and healthy – and to perceive everything in my life through THAT lens, rather than the lens my brain is currently seeing through.
I think how your brain perceives things is literally the most important thing in life. It dictates whether you live, thrive, are successful and happy, or whether you die… Problems with how the brain is perceiving things is the reason why people commit suicide – and suicide is a massive problem.
Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death in under 45 year olds?
Did you know that over 80% of those suicides are caused by males, and that that percentage is growing?
I’m a woman by the way – just thought that this was an important factoid to throw in there.
Anyways, to literally go against the fundamental purpose of life itself, and to commit suicide – and for the cause of that to be mental health problems – and for the brain chemical that causes happiness and mental stability (serotonin) to have a 100% necessary precursor called Tryptophan that is VERY difficult to obtain through diet, and for a deficiency in this amino acid to be directly linked to a massive array of mental health problems and where studies have shown it to improve such problems…
I mean, this is really important stuff.
Like, life changing stuff.
I’m not saying taking Tryptophan supplements will make somebody who is suicidal suddenly not suicidal. I’m not even saying that Tryptophan will definitely help because again, read my disclaimer above. I don’t really know enough about this stuff to outright tell anybody that.
What I am saying is that this is just really, really important and valuable stuff to look into.
It’s really important, people.
So, I started taking Tryptophan supplements around a year ago and stopped for one reason or another. I probably just got lazy, which was very stupid of me.
I’ve been really struggling recently and did some research on different foods you should consume more of / less of to help anxiety, and bam, there it was, Tryptophan – my old friend.
I still have a ton of leftover supplements – in the form of 500mg capsules, and am going to start taking them again. I don’t know when but probably soon, and probably starting with how they recommend – just taking one 500mg pill a day at first, and then upping that to 2, 3, 4 etc, until I start to feel SLIGHT negative side effects (drowsiness was one I noticed when I took them a year ago), and then I can decrease my dosage, etc, until I find my sweet spot.
Anyway, my source is: bebrainfit.com/tryptophan-serotonin-mental-health/
It just has pretty much the exact same information on that page as what I’ve posted here but maybe you’d like to investigate the site more or something.
It was last updated yesterday (13th December 2018), and was written by a woman called Deane Alban who holds a bachelor degree in Biology, and there’s more information on her on the site aswell.
Again, I don’t really know anything – I’m definitely not a legitimate source.
I’m just trying to be the healthiest me that I can be.