Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that’s a precursor to serotonin.Serotonin plays a large role in mood, sleep, learning, and appetite control.A low serotonin level is widely believed to be a major cause of depression.
The most popular antidepressant medications like Prozac and Zoloft are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are believed to work by making more serotonin available in the brain.
You can increase serotonin levels naturally by providing more of its building block in the form of tryptophan.By increasing serotonin levels, tryptophan can improve the quality of life for those with a wide variety of brain-related and mental health issues.
Studies have found tryptophan to be as effective for depression as antidepressant drugs. Tryptophan has been found useful for reducing general anxiety, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
Low levels of tryptophan are associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).Children with ADHD have 50% lower than average blood levels of tryptophan.Low tryptophan can cause both long-term and short-term memory loss and impair other cognitive functions.
There is no official recommended dosage for tryptophan and suggested doses vary widely.As little as 250 mg was found to increase the quality of sleep.
On the other hand, up to 12 grams per day has been suggested for depression. Most supplement manufacturers suggest a daily dose of 1,000 to 1,500 mg. We suggest starting with 500 mg a day and then working up to a higher dose.
Tryptophan Side Effects and Interactions
The most common tryptophan side effects are digestive upset, loss of appetite, headache, and drowsiness.
Tryptophan should not be taken with SSRI antidepressants.When taken together, they can cause a potentially serious condition known as serotonin syndrome.
Tryptophan should also not be taken with drugs with a sedating effect including Ambien, Ativan, Valium, and Ultram.