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Lift Your Mood

L-tryptophan and 5-HTP are natural antidepressants that also help promote sleep and mental clarity

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L-tryptophan is an amino acid, or protein building block. Both L-tryptophan-and its closely related form 5-HTP-are precursors to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter. Low intake of tryptophan reduces serotonin production and activity in the brain. Tryptophan supplements have shown benefits in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other aspects of brain function.


Depression. Some human research on tryptophan has been done via short-term tryptophan-deficient diets, which show that a lack of tryptophan quickly leads to depression. Women may be more susceptible than men to low tryptophan levels, and people with a history of depression are particularly sensitive. Studies have found that tryptophan supplements work as well as many antidepressant drugs.

Sleep. Serotonin serves as a precursor to melatonin, a neurohormone that regulates sleep. Tryptophan has been found to help in sleep disorders, and it has the advantage of not causing morning grogginess.

Cognition. Lack of tryptophan can interfere with learning, memory, recall, and mental flexibility. And maintaining an adequate intake of tryptophan may help preserve cognitive function.

GLEANINGS: Tryptophan is found in all animal protein sources. Many people believe that the tryptophan in turkey causes drowsiness, but this isn’t the case. If you feel sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal, it’s likely because you ate too much food-most likely excessive carbohydrates.

HEADS UP: Serotonin syndrome-characterized by agitation, anxiety, confusion, and manic behavior-develops when a person takes too many serotonin-boosting drugs or supplements. If you’re taking an antidepressant drug, check with your physician before trying tryptophan or 5-HTP.

You should always take tryptophan or 5-HTP on an empty stomach-at least 15 minutes before or two hours after eating. For sleep disorders, try 1 gm (1,000 mg) of tryptophan or 100 mg of 5-HTP before bed. For depression, try either 500 mg of tryptophan or 50 mg of 5-HTP three times daily, and take the last dose just before bed.

Defeating Depression

Paul suffered from depression and sleep problems, and both conditions reduced his ability to concentrate at work. He tried antidepressant drugs-only to find that they led to weight gain and caused erectile problems. So he turned to a nutritionally oriented physician.The doctor suggested that Paul try several supplements, including 50 mg of 5-HTP three times daily, as well as 5,000 IU of vitamin D in the morning and 2,000 mg daily of a high-EPA fish oil supplement. Paul started to feel a little better after several days of this supplement regimen, and his feelings of depression completely lifted after two months.

Doctor’s Best
Best L-Tryptophan Powder
This pharmaceutical-grade powder mixes easily with juice or water. Take separately from protein-containing foods or supplements.

Nature’s Way
One enteric-coated tablet provides 50 mg of 5-HTP from a natural source. Vitamins B6 and C are included for optimal absorption. Tablets are gentle on the stomach, too.

Quality of Life Labs
Serotonin 5-HTP, Relora (plant extracts), vitamin D3, L-theanine, and Rhodiola rosea work together to boost mood, tame cravings, ease stress, and support weight loss.