What is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids that our body needs for normal metabolism and growth. Since our human body is unable to synthesize it, tryptophan can only be obtained from food sources and supplements.

FDA has currently banned commercial production of tryptophan supplements because of alleged links to series of deaths in 1989. But, the drug is still available in countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

How Tryptophan Works Inside the Body?

In human body, tryptophan performs two major functions. Firstly, the tryptophan we get from our diet gets converted to vitamin B3 (niacin). The conversion can alleviate symptoms arising out of niacin deficiency. Niacin is essential for metabolism of energy, nervous system and proper digestion.

Secondly, because of its ability in elevating the level of serotonin (the neurotransmittor), tryptophan can help in mood elevation, regulate sleep patterns and appetite. This can help in treating anxiety, depression and insomnia.

What are the Food Sources of Tryptophan?

Some of the common tryptophan-enriched food sources are:

  • Turkey
  • Flax seed
  • Salami
  • Nuts
  • Brown rice
  • Roasted chicken breast
  • Steamed or boiled shrimp
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Since tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids, it is suggested that eating a high carbohydrate diet can help in releasing extra     insulin. This can help in wiping out other competing amino acids and increasing the level of tryptophan.

What are the Effects of Tryptophan Deficiency?

Tryptophan deficiency can cause alcoholism, anxiety, insomnia, compulsive gambling, PMS, etc. When tryptophan deficiency is linked with niacin deficiency, this can cause pellagra.