Tryptophan serotonin supplement benefit, side effects, dosage, use for depression, anxiety and sleep, review of research studies - how to increase serotonin levels naturally, capsules of 500 mg, best taken on an empty stomach, discussion of other supplements used for sleep and mood enhancement, effect on dopamine levels
April 2 2014

L Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in foods that contain protein such as turkey, fish, and meat. It is able to convert into 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan), and then to serotonin. Serotonin is involved in mood, appetite, sleep and impulse control.
   Several tryptophan depletion studies have been conducted in the past few years but hardly any recent studies have been done regarding the role of tryptophan supplements in mood, sleep, weight loss pill, and for stress reduction / anxiety treatment. Many users of this natural amino acid report mood improvement and better sleep. There have not been any major reported side effects with the use of this amino acid since the year 2000.

Metabolism of tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin
L-tryptophan converts into 5-HTP, which then readily converts into serotonin chemical. Once serotonin neurotransmitter is made, the pineal gland in the brain is able to convert it at night into melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.

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Suggested use: Take one l tryptophan capsule in the evening, preferably on an empty stomach, or as recommended by your health care provider.
We know people who have used a l tryptophan supplement every night for many years without side effects or problems, but we prefer people take at least two days off a week. 

5HTP as an alternative
L tryptophan converts into 5HTP which converts into serotonin. Many people prefer to take 5HTP supplement instead of a tryptophan supplement. 5HTP is also available over the counter. 5HTP converts readily into serotonin. You may also consider the amino acid theanine to help you sleep.

Tryptophan supplement benefit
These supplements may be of benefit to those who have low mood or depression, sleep problems, or anxiety. The use of a tryptophan supplement can reduce aggressiveness and irritability.

Social behavior and mood in everyday life: the effects of tryptophan in quarrelsome individuals.
J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2006.
We hypothesized that increasing brain serotonin in healthy individuals with high scores on 2 self-report measures of trait quarrelsomeness would reduce quarrelsome behavior and enhance agreeable behavior when measured ecologically using an event-contingent recording method. We conducted a double-blind crossover study, in which participants took tryptophan (3 grams a day) and placebo for 15 days each and recorded how they behaved, felt and perceived others during everyday social interactions. Tryptophan significantly decreased quarrelsome behavior and increased agreeable behavior and perceptions of agreeableness. Men also behaved less dominantly, whereas both men and women perceived others as more dominant. The effect of Tryptophan on behavior and perceptions, while more marked in the men, were generally positive and accompanied by improved mood. Increasing serotonin in quarrelsome people may not only reduce behavior associated with a predisposition to various mental and physical disorders but also enhance socially constructive behavior and improve social perceptions.

Depression
Tryptophan supplements may be helpful in some people with depression if the depression is due to low serotonin levels and is associated with anxiety. Other people with depression may respond better to 5-HTP, St. John's wort herb or SAM-e. B vitamins, rhodiola are other options to consider.

Which is better for depression, L tryptophan or 5HTP?
   It is a matter of preference. Some people like the former, others get a better response from the latter. They both convert into serotonin, l tryptophan converts slower since 5-HTP is the direct precursor to serotonin. Another product to consider is SAM-e, which works within hours. SAM-e supplement is not recommended to those who have bipolar disorder or a tendency for mania.

Can a tryptophan supplement cause some depression if you have seasonal affective disorder? I tried melatonin and it has that effect on me even in small doses. I seemed to be having some of the same effect when I have started tryptophan. I am not taking the FTH brand but run across your tryptophan serotonin web sight so I thought you might have some idea. I had talked to others who had the same affect with melatonin.
    We have had reports of melatonin to increase seasonal affective disorder symptoms. It is possible that in the winter time, when there is less light, more melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland and it may not be a good option to take more melatonin. Perhaps this is true also of tryptophan since it converts also to serotonin which converts into melatonin.

Anxiety relief, how well does it work?
Tryptophan supplements may be helpful in some people with anxiety if the anxiety is due to low serotonin levels. Other people with anxiety may respond better to kava, 5-HTP, passion flower herb or ashwagandha. Some people get benefit from GABA pills or theanine.

What is the right tryptophan dose for anxiety?
   The dose can range from 250 mg to 1000 mg once or twice a day.

Sleep problems, treatment of insomnia
A tryptophan supplement may benefit some people with sleep problems. Other people with insomnia may respond better to melatonin, hops, valerian, or passion flower. Good Night Rx is an excellent choice for many people with occasional sleep problems. Interestingly, the herb graviola can also help with sleep issues.

Is it ok to take tryptophan and melatonin together for sleep?
   Yes, if the dosages are low. We suggest no more than 0. 3 mg of melatonin when combined with 500 mg of a tryptophan pill.

Tryptophan and 5-HTP
Is a 5 hydroxy tryptophan pill the same as tryptophan pill itself?
   They are similar but not the same. 5 hydroxy l tryptophan is long for 5HTP.

Dosage, dose and amount
What is the right tryptophan dosage for sleep or depression treatment?
   Tryptophan dosage for sleep can range from 250 to 1000 mg an hour to three hours before bed. The dosage of for depression ranges from 500 mg to 3,000 mg a day.

L Tryptophan side effects, safety, caution, danger, adverse events
A common l tryptophan side effect from high dose use is drowsiness. It may be a good idea to take this amino acid supplement in the evening and not while driving or operating heavy machinery. Dry mouth is a less common tryptophan side effect. Other less common l-tryptophan side effects include nausea, dizziness, and loss of appetite.
   A beneficial l-tryptophan side effect is drowsiness since that is the desired effect of many tryptophan users who take this supplement for sleep. It is rare for a tryptophan side effect to lead to confusion or disorientation.

Does taking 4000 mg of l-tryptophan per day ( overdosing) for a long period of time harmful? A doctor told me that it would cause stiffness in the tissues and even bleeding internally. I was wondering would it be harmful to take 500 mg of l-tryptophan per day for a period of 1 year?
   Tryptophan converts to 5-HTP which converts to serotonin. Long term human studies with high dose l-tryptophan supplements are not available to know the safety and danger or long term tryptophan side effects. It is a good idea, until we learn more, to limit the use of l-tryptophan supplements to 5 days a week with a week off each month. This is just a rough guideline.

Tryptophan diet and food source
All protein foods have tryptophan amino acid in them. Therefore, to increase this amino acid level in your body, increase your intake of protein foods. However, if you want to increase the level of tryptophan in your bloodstream quickly, consume carbohydrates.

Tryptophan and carbohydrates - tryptophan blood levels are raised after a carbohydrate drink or meal
Biol Psychol. 2007; Effects of carbohydrates on brain tryptophan availability and stress performance. Markus CR. Department of Biological Psycholoy & Psychopharmacology, University Maastricht, MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. Markus CR.
Brain serotonin may be involved as a postprandial mechanism initiated by increases in plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids Tryptophan / LNAA ratio. We tested whether carbohydrate drinks compared to placebo drinks increase the plasma Tryptophan / LNAA ratio and improve stress performance and mood. Thirty-seven healthy subjects were monitored in a double-blind placebo-controlled study for performance when continuously exposed to cold pressor stress; 2h after carbohydrate- or placebo-intake. Cold pressor stress significantly increased cortisol and reduced mood and cognitive performance, whereas carbohydrates significantly increased plasma Tryptophan / LNAA ratio and positively influenced performance and mood under stress.

Tryptophan converts into serotonin and melatonin
In the body and brain, it gets converted into 5-hydroxy tryptophan (5-HTP) which then converts into serotonin, a crucial brain chemical involved in mood, appetite, impulse control and sleep.
   To confirm this understanding, tryptophan was given to a group of rats at 8 am in the morning, and to another group of rats at 8 PM at night. Four hours after administration, researchers measured the blood and brain fluid levels of serotonin and melatonin. During daytime administration, tryptophan raised the levels of serotonin. Interestingly, when tryptophan was given at night, serotonin levels did not increase, but melatonin levels increased significantly. Therefore, the serotonin that was generated by tryptophan administration was being converted into melatonin. T
his study confirms again that levels of 5-HTP, serotonin, and melatonin can be influenced by tryptophan supplements. Second, it shows that the timing of a supplement can make a difference on how it is metabolized. Since tryptophan, 5-HTP, and melatonin are available as supplements, the question becomes: which one is best to take for depression, sleep, anxiety, or appetite control? This is difficult to answer since each person has a different biochemistry. The most reliable way to find out is through trial and error. There's really no practical blood study that can be done to determine which supplement someone will respond to, and in what dosage. As a rule, melatonin is most helpful for sleep and does not have a strong influence on mood or appetite. 5-HTP has a strong influence on mood, appetite and anxiety. Tryptophan is mostly used for depression and sleep.

Serotonin drugs and appetite suppression
The serotonin system can be manipulated for weight control.

Q. How much of tryptophan gets converted to serotonin comparing to 5-htp?
   A. Much less 5-HTP is needed to convert to serotonin than tryptophan. The exact percentage of conversion of tryptophan to serotonin varies among individuals and it can vary depending on time of day and whether there is food in the stomach or not. There are many variables that influence the conversion of tryptophan to 5htp to serotonin so there is no simple answer. Plus, different tissues and organs of the body may have a different conversion rate.

Tryptophan level and interferon drug use
Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) treatment is often associated with psychiatric side effects and has been found to lower the amount of tryptophan available to the brain. But depression from the use of interferon does not seem to be dependent on tryptophan changes.

Migraine headache
Tryptophan depletion increases nausea, headache and photophobia in migraine sufferers.
Cephalalgia. 2006. School of Psychology, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
Sensitivity to light was investigated 5 and 8 h after consumption of an amino acid drink which contained L-tryptophan (balanced amino acid condition: 19 controls and 22 migraine sufferers) or which produced a short-term reduction in brain serotonin synthesis by omitting L-tryptophan ( tryptophan depletion condition: 16 controls and 16 migraine sufferers). Migraine sufferers reported more intense nausea, headache, glare- and light-induced pain than controls. In addition, glare- and light-induced pain were greater in the tryptophan depletion condition than in the balanced amino acid condition, in both migraine sufferers and controls. Eight hours after the amino acid drink, after participants had completed tests of pain sensitivity and motion sickness provocation, tryptophan depletion augmented headache in migraine sufferers and aggravated nausea in migraine sufferers and controls. These findings suggest that a reduction in brain synthesis of serotonin intensifies photophobia and other migrainous symptoms and thus might contribute to the pathogenesis of migraine.

Questions
Q. Does one need to take a B-complex with L-Tryptophan supplement?
   A. It is not necessary.

How do I know if I have low tryptophan blood levels or a low level in my brain?
    Blood tests can be done to determine if you have low tryptophan levels in the blood. As to checking for low tryptophan level in the brain, this can be done by spinal tap and checking spinal fluid. This is not routinely done and these tests are of little practical significance except in rare, rare cases. The easiest thing to do is to take a l tryptophan supplement to see if it helps you.

Is l tryptophan a vitamin?
    Tryptophan is an amino acid, not a vitamin.

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