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Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin and melatonin, a neurohormone and powerful antioxidant. Tryptophan is a natural relaxant, it helps alleviate insomnia by inducing sleep, soothes anxiety, and reduces depression. It is used in the treatment of migraine headaches, aids in weight control by reducing appetite, and helps control hyperactivity in children. Tryptophan is formed from proteins during digestion by the action of proteolytic enzymes. Measurement of tryptophan is included in the Amino Acids, Plasma and Amino Acids, Urine tests along with 23 other amino acids.

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Tryptophan (Trp/W) is an essential amino acid necessary for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin which is of particular importance in mood regulation. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, insomnia, weight gain, and hyperactivity in children.

Serotonin levels in the body directly affect a person's mood and emotions. Normal levels promote feelings of confidence and relaxation, while low levels often lead to depressed feelings or anxiety. People with low serotonin levels may also experience increased appetite, cravings for sugar and sweets, and weight gain. Getting more tryptophan in the diet is a safe way to increase serotonin levels in the body.

Tryptophan is necessary for the production of other important substances. Vitamin B3 (niacin), a nutrient that helps regulate sugar, participates in cholesterol regulation, and prevents the effects of harmful free radicals, is produced from tryptophan. In fact, about half of your total tryptophan intake is converted to niacin. Inside the pineal gland, a gland located in the center of the brain, tryptophan is converted to melatonin. Melatonin regulates falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning. People who have trouble falling asleep or wake up frequently during the night are often advised to consume foods high in tryptophan, such as turkey or milk, before bed.

Tryptophan has been used to control hyperactivity in children, control stress, reduce appetite, and for migraine-type headaches. It may also be useful in combating bulimia, which is thought to be caused in part by disturbances in serotonin levels.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning it must be obtained from the diet. Chicken, turkey, beef, and fish are the best sources of tryptophan. Brown rice, cottage cheese, peanut, soy protein, and some grains also contain significant amounts of tryptophan.

The form of tryptophan known as 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) is marketed as a supplement. The usual dose is 300 to 400 mg per day. Make sure you get enough vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin C, folic acid, and magnesium.

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