L-tryptophan is an important amino acid used by the body to make serotonin, among other things. The brain chemical serotonin has been shown to influence emotional states.
It is unclear whether or whether L-tryptophan supplements are helpful for illnesses including anxiety and sleep difficulties, but further research is needed to confirm this.
In this article, we take a look at how well L-tryptophan supplements work and whether or not they pose any health risks.
What is L-tryptophan?
The amino acid L-tryptophan, or simply tryptophan, is necessary for the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. One place you’ll find serotonin is in your brain, however it’s not the only place it’s produced. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in maintaining a person’s equilibrium in terms of their disposition, anxiety, and happiness.
Tryptophan, or L-tryptophan, is a supplement that can be taken.
L-role tryptophan’s in serotonin production in the brain has led some experts to believe it can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and sleep problems. Some evidence exists to back up its application in certain contexts.
Mood was improved in a short study involving 25 young adults when their diets were altered to include more L-tryptophan, according to a reputable source. Stress and despair were alleviated as a result.
Low L-tryptophan levels have been linked to depression and anxiety in rodents, according to a review published in 2016 (Trusted Source).
As far as humans go, the authors pointed out that individuals who are most at risk are those who already have a predisposition toward depression. Potential beneficiaries of elevated tryptophan levels include those who are at risk.
Detoxing young people from drugs in 2016 revealed that the participants’ mental problems improved very little, if at all.
They did, however, find that L-tryptophan was helpful in getting people to sleep during detox. The study authors acknowledged the need for further research to determine the treatment’s efficacy.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
An previous study (which should be treated with caution due to its age) found that L-tryptophan helped reduce PMDD-related pain. According to the results of the study, premenstrual syndrome symptoms were more severe in participants whose diets lacked the amino acid (PMS).
The impact of L-tryptophan on pain tolerance was investigated in a 2017 study (Reliable Source). Researchers observed that when this amino acid was present in larger concentrations, pain was less severe.
When included in a healthy diet, L-tryptophan has no health risks. Minor adverse effects have been reported in people taking it as a supplement.
Some research suggests that According to a Reliable Source, a few of the Mild Side Effects include:
- drowsiness (in those not taking it for sleep issues) (in those not taking it for sleep disorders)
Although serotonin syndrome is uncommon, it is possible for someone using numerous antidepressant or antianxiety drugs to develop adverse side effects.
The combination of an L-tryptophan supplement and drugs that affect serotonin levels, including antidepressants, increases the risk of a serious condition known as serotonin syndrome.
Among the possible serotonin syndrome symptoms are:
- convulsions that don’t allow the person to control their muscles
For a short time, eosinophilia myalgia syndrome was thought to be associated with tryptophan supplements in 1989 (Reliable Source) (EMS). Muscle soreness so severe that limits a person’s daily activities is one indication of EMS, along with an elevated number of eosinophils in the blood. It was determined that a defective batch of the supplement was to blame for the EMS outbreak, rather than the supplement itself.
It’s also worthwhile to remember that dietary supplements are not presently governed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The purity and efficacy of supplements, however, are examined by a number of separate testing organizations. To lessen the likelihood that they will purchase a subpar product or one that won’t do the job, consumers should seek for dietary supplements that have been vetted and certified as beneficial by impartial bodies.
Several common meals include L-tryptophan as an ingredient. Examples of foodstuffs include:
- foodstuffs made from milk and cheese
- Meat of a reddish color
- soybeans and their by-products
The amount of the nutrient in meals probably won’t have any effect on a person’s sleep or mood, and that’s true both ways.
Alternatives to L-tryptophan
Supplemental melatonin is another option for those seeking relief from sleeplessness. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the brain that helps regulate sleep and wakefulness.
Other than taking a supplement, there are other things a person might attempt to help them sleep. These measures may help you get a more restful night’s sleep:
- consume hot milk
- Isolating and darkening the bedroom to sleep comfortably
- Regular daytime exercise
If you have any additional health concerns and are thinking about taking L-tryptophan for treatment, you should discuss this with your doctor first.
When to see a doctor
Before using any supplement, people should see their doctor. Antidepressant patients in particular should consult a medical professional before beginning L-tryptophan supplementation.
If any adverse effects are experienced, the supplement should be discontinued and a medical professional consulted.
In addition to its potential role as a sleep aid, L-tryptophan has been shown to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, sadness, and even premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
But the supplement might not work for everyone, and it might not assist every problem. Before beginning a new supplement regimen, it is recommended that patients consult with their physician, and those experiencing adverse reactions should discontinue use.
To learn whether L-tryptophan is safe and effective for treating any of these disorders, more study is required.
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