Today I’m sharing a success story on how the amino acid tryptophan, taken as a supplement, ends TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain and headaches in a woman in my community. She had the added benefits of an improved mood and less worrying and her sleep improved too.
There is evidence to support the low serotonin connection to TMJ and pain like fibromyalgia and I share that research below.
Before I share the success story, in case you’re new to neurotransmitter imbalances, the other symptoms we see with low serotonin are the worrying-type of anxiety, panic attacks and phobias, lack of confidence, depression, negativity, imposter syndrome, PMS, irritability, anger issues, insomnia and afternoon/evening cravings. Tryptophan can be used to boost serotonin levels and improve these symptoms as you’ll see below.
Right after speaking on the recent Trauma and Mind-Body Super Conference, Renee shared her wonderful success story on Facebook:
Out of all the interviews I felt yours gave the most actionable steps. I was taking amitriptyline for TMJ and didn’t like the side effects, however what other options did I have? Not many according to my GP [general practitioner]. Luckily I found your suggestion of tryptophan. And I can’t explain how much of a change it made! I weaned off the medicine and took tryptophan instead and not only did it help the TMJ but also helped me feel more even emotionally.
I am being referred for trauma therapy and I am optimistic that I will be discomfort free soon.
So huge thanks for sharing your knowledge. It helped me at a time when I was really starting to think there were no ‘natural’ options and conventional meds were all I could take.
I checked in with her, thanking her and acknowledging her wonderful feedback. I also asked how much tryptophan made this difference and how quickly she saw an improvement. And what side-effects she was seeing with the medication. She shared this:
I am a week into taking tryptophan, and I’m taking 500mg. I saw improvements with the TMJ within an hour of taking it. My jaw felt loose and I had no headaches, I also felt more ‘even’ mood wise. Like an underlying worry had gone. [worry is a classic symptom of low serotonin – more on that here]
I also had some stress yesterday that usually would have made me crumble, but instead I was able to stand up for myself and see subjectively the extent of the issue and resolve it. I am amazed!
My original medication (amitriptyline) had given me extreme dry mouth, which I found hard to manage, the headaches were also not relieved as much as I had hoped, plus I was having sessions of palpitations.
I haven’t had any palpitations from the day I started tryptophan whereas the dry mouth took some time to subside.
These really are wonderful results and typical that we’d see results this quickly with tryptophan if the root cause of the TMJ and headaches is low serotonin. It can sometimes take a few weeks to find the ideal dose but Renee found it with the initial trial amount of 500mg.
The tryptophan also improved her sleep (and the palpitations and dry mouth side-effects from the medication stopped):
I was struggling to get to sleep and stay asleep, suffering bouts of insomnia, prior to any medication. I still am sleeping well taking tryptophan which I am pleased about.
She did however share that the timing of the tryptophan was making her too sleepy too early in the evening and she was planning to shift the timing:
I am finding tryptophan is making me feel drowsy in the evening, so I am trying different times during the day to take it. Hopefully I can push back the tiredness to perhaps 8/9 at night to coincide with bedtime.
My advice to her was that I have my clients use tryptophan MA (mid-afternoon) and evening and if MA makes them too sleepy they just do an evening dose. That can be enough for TMJ the next day. Sometimes more than 1 x 500mg in the evening is needed for easing TMJ and headache pain that night and the next day too.
I did check with her about weaning off the medication as cold-turkey quitting of psychiatric medications are dangerous and not advised. She shared this:
I weaned off over 1 week, but I was only in it for 8 weeks in total before I found tryptophan.
A slow taper under the guidance of the prescribing doctor is always recommended (more on this for amitriptyline/Elavil withdrawal here).
Here is some research supporting this serotonin/TMJ connection:
- Plasma tryptophan and kynurenine in females with temporomandibular disorders and fibromyalgia – An exploratory pilot study
…both temporomandibular disorders myalgia (TMDM) and fibromyalgia (FM) have been linked to central and peripheral changes in serotonin availability.” (tryptophan is not used in this study which also makes the serotonin/anxiety connection)
Over the 4 weeks of the study, there was a greater reduction in reported clinical pain and a greater increase in pain tolerance threshold in the tryptophan group than in the placebo group. The tryptophan group was given “three grams of tryptophan in conjunction with a high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein diet.”
If you suspect low serotonin symptoms and are new to using the amino acids and do not have my book I highly recommend getting it and reading it before jumping in to taking supplements: The Antianxiety Food Solution – How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings.
There is a complete chapter on the amino acids and one for pyroluria, plus information on real whole food, sugar and blood sugar, gluten, digestion and much more. If you’re not a reader there is now also an audible version.
Here is the Amino Acids Mood Questionnaire from The Antianxiety Food Solution and additional information on Anxiety and targeted individual amino acid supplements: a summary
Please also read and follow these Amino Acid Precautions.
This lists The Antianxiety Food Solution Amino Acid and Pyroluria Supplements that I use with my individual clients and those in my group programs.
We appreciate Renee sharing her success story. Please share your TMJ/headache tryptophan success story if you have one. And feel free to post your questions here too.