What Is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It contains an α-amino group, an α-carboxylic acid group, and a side chain indole, making it a non-polar aromatic amino acid. It is essential in humans, meaning that the body cannot synthesize it and it must be obtained from the diet. Tryptophan is also a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, the hormone melatonin, and vitamin B3. It is encoded by the codon UGG.

It is an essential amino acid that serves several important purposes, like nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. It’s also used to produce niacin, which is essential in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin.

These can be classified into two types they are L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. The only difference between the two types is the orientation of the molecule.

Foods Sources of  Tryptophan

It can be found in some foods, especially those high in protein. They are:

  • Chicken, Eggs.
  • Cheese, Fish.
  • Peanuts, Pumpkin, and sesame seeds.
  • Milk and turkey.

For tryptophan to be converted into niacin, however, your body needs to have enough iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin B2.

Side effects of Tryptophan

It can have plenty of health benefits, but the supplement can cause several unpleasant side effects in people. The most common are gastrointestinal side effects, which include:

  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Belching
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

Other common side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dry mouth

More serious side effects, which warrant immediately stopping consumption, include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Visual blurring
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue

Health Benefits

There are many health benefits from the naturally occurring tryptophan found in foods. Most of these health benefits come from the potential increase of niacin and thus serotonin. The benefits from more serotonin include:

  • Healthier and better quality sleep.
  • Relief from depression and anxiety.
  • Increased emotional well-being
  • strengthened pain tolerance

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