Tryptophan Supplements Treat Depression

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 by: Elizabeth Walling
Tags: tryptophan, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Anti-depressant medications are widely used to treat depression and anxiety, but the side effects which often arise from the use of such medications cause many people to search for more natural methods of treating their depression. One of the most promising natural treatments for depression is tryptophan supplements.

Abnormalities in serotonin function can result in depression, as noted in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 1992. The study also states tryptophan can stimulate the proper function of serotonin in the brain. Since tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid, it is unlikely to produce toxicity or negative side effects. It can be a successful agent in treating disorders such as depression.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which must be obtained through a person's diet (as opposed to non-essential amino acids which the body can manufacture on its own). Once in the body, tryptophan is converted into niacin, serotonin and melatonin. Most anti-depressant drugs work to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, usually by preventing the serotonin from being depleted. Tryptophan actually increases serotonin levels, and has the advantage of doing it naturally without the extreme side effects associated with traditional anti-depressant drugs.

Tryptophan occurs naturally in many foods such as turkey, beef, cottage cheese, almonds and peanuts. However, since it occurs in much lower levels than other amino acids, tryptophan often has trouble absorbing properly. So, even the foods that contain the highest levels of tryptophan may not provide any benefit for someone seeking to increase their tryptophan intake.

The tryptophan in supplements is at a high enough dose to be efficiently absorbed by the brain. A tryptophan supplement can be very effective for boosting serotonin levels, and is especially effective in individuals who have a serotonin deficiency.

Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, but it if taken improperly a tryptophan supplement can be ineffective. Tryptophan should be taken on an empty stomach so it doesn't have to compete with other amino acids for absorption. Vitamin C and a B-complex supplement should be taken along with tryptophan to support its process of becoming serotonin. The niacin in the B-complex will prevent the tryptophan from being used up as niacin.

Tryptophan received negative press in 1989 when people became seriously ill after taking tryptophan supplements. The FDA banned tryptophan from the market, although further investigation showed the cause of the illness was linked to a contaminant in the supplement, not the tryptophan itself. First, the ban was lifted only on prescription tryptophan, but today you can find tryptophan at a number of supplement retailers.

Since the ban was only recently lifted, limited human studies have been done about using tryptophan supplements to treat depression, but so far the results are very promising. There is sure to be a bright future for tryptophan as a natural treatment for depression.

Sandyk, Reuven. (1992) International Journal of Neuroscience, Volume 67

Strand, Erik. (2003) Psychology Today Magazine

About the author

Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more:

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