Tryptophan is an essential amino acid with many important uses, such as nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. It is also used to produce niacin, which is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. There are two types of tryptophan: L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. The only difference between the two types is the orientation of the molecules. You can get tryptophan from certain foods or supplements in powder form.
Tryptophan is an alpha-amino acid used in protein biosynthesis. Tryptophan contains an α-amino group, an α-carboxylic acid group, and a side-chain indole, making it a polar molecule with a non-polar aromatic β-carbon substituent. It is essential for humans, which means the body cannot synthesize it and must obtain it from the diet. Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin, melatonin, and melatonin.
Tryptophan is found in some foods, especially those high in protein. Foods known to be high in tryptophan include: chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, peanuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, milk, turkey, tofu, and soybeans. However, in order to convert tryptophan to niacin, your body needs to have enough iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin B2. Tryptophan, which is naturally present in food, has many health benefits. Most of these health benefits come from potential increases in niacin and serotonin. The benefits of more serotonin include: healthier, better quality sleep, relief from depression and anxiety, increased emotional well-being, and improved pain tolerance.
Tryptophan is used to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. However, there is not enough evidence to determine whether this works. More research needs to be done to determine whether tryptophan can safely treat any of these conditions. Tryptophan has been noted to be potentially effective in helping to relieve premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Some older researchTrusted Source suggests that tryptophan may also be effective for smoking cessation.
While tryptophan supplements are available, they may have side effects in some people. Therefore, it may be safer to get tryptophan from foods that naturally contain tryptophan, such as meat, fish, and cheese. In lieu of tryptophan supplements, your doctor may recommend taking a 5-HTP supplement, which is tryptophan before it's fully converted to serotonin. If you decide to take any supplement, check with your doctor first to make sure it's safe for you.