3 Must-Know Facts About Tryptophan: A Quick Guide for Toronto Functional Medicine Patients

Did you know that functional medicine in Toronto could help patients relieve stress and insomnia in their everyday lives?

It’s actually not uncommon for naturopathic functional medicine practitioners to prescribe tryptophan for uplifting mood and sleep in a personalized medicine plan.

As an amino acid, tryptophan has essential mechanisms in the body, such as producing niacin (vitamin B3) and participating in metabolic functions. Not to mention, tryptophan is accountable for making proteins and the neurotransmitter serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone.

However, “In humans, tryptophan has relatively low tissue storage and the overall tryptophan concentration in the body is the lowest among all amino acids, although only small amounts are necessary for general healthy nutrition,” explains an article in the International Journal of Tryptophan Research.

With that, we should consider consuming tryptophan to help incite optimal health and a healthy diet. Our center for functional medicine and integrative care has featured questions and answers for those wanting to learn about the benefits of tryptophan, including the management of sleep disturbances and ongoing nervousness:

1. What’s tryptophan a precursor to? 

Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin; in other words, it provokes the production of serotonin in the body. First, tryptophan converts into a different molecule 5-HTP (L-5 hydroxytryptophan), and then transforms into serotonin. Additional serotonin use may help with improving mood and cognition.

Tryptophan is also a precursor to melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep-wake cycles. After serotonin has been created, it synthesizes into melatonin under dark settings (i.e. night time). So it’s logical to assume that tryptophan may encourage further melatonin production for sleep. Adequate sleep helps lower overall inflammation, which may aid in preventing some chronic disease symptoms. 

2. Are tryptophan and 5-HTP the same thing?

No, but tryptophan and the molecule 5-HTP are commonly mistaken for one another. Both tryptophan and 5-HTP produce serotonin and impact mood and sleep, but the main thing to know is that tryptophan converts into 5-HTP; however, 5-HTP cannot be obtained from food. This is why an adequate intake of tryptophan is crucial for producing 5-HTP in the body, especially for managing the chronic symptoms of gastrointestinal disorder.

3. Where can you get tryptophan?

Although the amino acid is essential, the human body cannot produce tryptophan on its own. But an integrative medicine practitioner may tell you to source tryptophan from food, such as:

Type of Food
How much tryptophan it contain
Pumpkin Seeds

110mg per ¼ cup

Milk

100mg per 1 cup

Oatmeal
147mg per 1 cup
Fish (cod, salmon)

400mg per 250mg

Reach us to learn about tryptophan and integrative medicine

How can tryptophan upgrade your quality of life? Should you add it to your personalized medicine plan? If you want to know how tryptophan and other nutrients can transform your wellness, clinical care from the TFMC is here to help. 

Prior to adding tryptophan to your wellness, speak to a functional medicine practitioner about using it (especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding). This is to ensure that tryptophan supplements are suitable for you and to determine any possible medication interactions.

Our private practice consists of naturopathic functional medicine, with an integrative approach to patient care. Our treatments may include medically-supervised IV therapy, traditional Chinese medicine, eastern medicine, allopathic/western medicine, functional medicine testing, cold laser therapy, acupuncture, client education on eating a healthy diet, and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.

Our integrative approach and attentive care for patients can be applied to both in-person and virtual appointments. Naturopathic medicine and evidence-based functional medicine practices may help with some conditions, such as: chronic conditions (i.e. chronic diseases and chronic disease management), pain management, nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances, infertility, and thyroid support.

Let’s talk about your health! Call (416) 968-6961 to learn about our private practice and functional medicine in Toronto.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. Consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.

References:

Abad, V.C., Guilleminault, C. Insomnia in Elderly Patients: Recommendations for Pharmacological Management. Drugs Aging 35, 791–817 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40266-018-0569-8

Ali T, Choe J, Awab A, Wagener TL, Orr WC. Sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders. World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(48):9231-9239. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i48.9231

Asako M. Kikuchi, Aya Tanabe & Yoshihiro Iwahori (2021) A systematic review of the effect of L-tryptophan supplementation on mood and emotional functioning, Journal of Dietary Supplements, 18:3, 316-333, DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1746725

Bowen, D.J., Spring, B. & Fox, E. Tryptophan and high-carbohydrate diets as adjuncts to smoking cessation therapy. J Behav Med 14, 97–110 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00846173

Bravo, R., Matito, S., Cubero, J. et al. Tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in elderly humans. AGE 35, 1277–1285 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-012-9419-5

Darakhshan Jabeen Haleem, Improving therapeutics in anorexia nervosa with tryptophan, Life Sciences, Volume 178, 2017, Pages 87-93, ISSN 0024-3205, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2017.04.015.

David B. Menkes, Diane C. Coates, J.Paul Fawcett, Acute tryptophan depletion aggravates premenstrual syndrome, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 32, Issue 1, 1994, Pages 37-44, ISSN 0165-0327, https://doi.org/10.1016/0165-0327(94)90059-0.

Gibson, E. (2018). Tryptophan supplementation and serotonin function: Genetic variations in behavioural effects. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 77(2), 174-188. doi:10.1017/S0029665117004451

Lindseth G, Helland B, Caspers J. The effects of dietary tryptophan on affective disorders. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2015;29(2):102-107. doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2014.11.008

Joanna Kałużna-Czaplińska, Paulina Gątarek, Salvatore Chirumbolo, Max Stanley Chartrand & Geir Bjørklund (2019) How important is tryptophan in human health?, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 59:1, 72-88, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1357534

Mishra S, Elliott H, Marwaha R. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. [Updated 2021 Sep 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532307/

Richard DM, Dawes MA, Mathias CW, Acheson A, Hill-Kapturczak N, Dougherty DM. L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009;2:45-60. doi:10.4137/ijtr.s2129

Zamoscik, V., Schmidt, S.N.L., Bravo, R. et al. Tryptophan-enriched diet or 5-hydroxytryptophan supplementation given in a randomized controlled trial impacts social cognition on a neural and behavioral level. Sci Rep 11, 21637 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01164-y