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Tryptophan or L-tryptophan (TRIP-to-fan) is an essential amino acid needed by the body for the manufacture of many important compounds including neurotransmitters like melatonin and serotonin. The 5-HTP form of tryptophan is an intermediate form created during the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. Neurotransmitters are used for communication within the nervous system itself (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) and between the nervous system and the rest of the body. Imbalances relating to one or more neurotransmitters have been implicated in a wide range of physical and psychological problems including obesity, depression, compulsive behaviors, excessive appetite, sleep and sexual problems.
All complete proteins contain some tryptophan, but there are several reasons why many experts feel that tryptophan supplements remain essential for some people or at least worth trying in other cases. In the first place, tryptophan is the least abundant amino acid in the diet, relative to other amino acids. There is competition for available tryptophan throughout the entire body, so it can't be assumed that all or most dietary tryptophan will be used as we might wish, for neurotransmitter production. In fact, there is no way of influencing just how the body uses or prioritizes tryptophan. There may or may not be sufficient amounts of tryptophan available to fully support all of its functions at any given time. So some experts feel that tryptophan supplements are the most straightforward way to ensure there is plenty available for all its biological purposes, including sufficient amounts for optimal neurotransmitter production
Tryptophan supplements can improve mood, decrease appetite improve sleep and possibly reduce some types of craving and binging episodes. Tryptophan supplements are used to increase levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin, which have a complex relationship to mood, behavior and how we respond to changes in our external and internal environments. It is this increase which is responsible for tryptophan's benefits and not any property of tryptophan itself. Tryptophan indirectly promotes relaxation, improves sleep quality and, to a variable degree, minimizes carbohydrate cravings and the compulsion some people feel to overeat. Tryptophan may also have HGH-releasing properties when taken on an empty stomach at bedtime.
Take tryptophan on an empty stomach (3 hours after your last meal) at bedtime for best results. It may take some experimentation to find the ideal amount, which can change over time. Most people will see the best results by taking between 500-3000 mg all at once before bed. Some users may wish to take vitamin B6 and vitamin C at the same time as their tryptophan supplement, since these nutrients are needed for the conversion of tryptophan into neurotransmitters.