Zoe shares her life long story about comfort eating, her insecurities and self-doubt in her teens, the comfort-foods that allowed her to “escape” and how addressing low serotonin at 41 years of age led to her feeling a lot more peace around food. The effects of one chewable tryptophan were instant! Here is her story in her own words, some insights from me and possible next steps for Zoe to consider.
Historically I had comfort eaten and felt insecure and had lots of self-doubt. This led to trying alcohol and cocaine in my early 20s, plus I’m a vegetarian so I think I blew through all my natural serotonin by the time I tried tryptophan at 41!
I think [low] serotonin was huge for me and tryptophan helped calm my comfort eating.
My comfort eating started at secondary school, around 14, an escape from my feelings when I got home from school. I would eat mashed potatoes with loads of butter or a Sara Lee Chocolate gateau.
Thinking about it now, I realize I was craving carbohydrates and I would eat till I felt sick. I craved feeling really full and sadly was bulimic for a few years there as a teenager. I think my feelings of not feeling good enough/unloved drove me to comfort eating and not feeling understood. I would eat, be sick then do an exercise video before my parents even got home! It may also have been hormonal as I get PMS. I also have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
Good news is I tried tryptophan last summer and the effects were instant.
I hadn’t read the instructions properly so ate a Lidtke chewable tryptophan tablet with my meal and instantly felt the effect. I stopped eating and feeling hungry instantly. I took the chewables for a couple of months then went onto Lidtke 500mg for another few months.
I do still have a tendency to snack late at night but it’s gone from totally uncontrollable 8 or 9 out of 10 to a 3 or 4 out of 10. I don’t crave food anywhere near as much as I used to and I have a lot more peace around food now.
Thank you for being the one to introduce me to them, you are a super star.
A few thoughts from me
This is a wonderful outcome and I’m thrilled for her transformation! I also appreciate Zoe giving me permission to share here so you can be inspired and have hope!
A few thoughts from me:
- PMS/dysphoria is common with low serotonin levels and research shows that tryptophan can help ease symptoms in a few cycles
- Low levels of serotonin and endorphins can lead to alcohol consumption and experimenting with drugs as a means of self-medication. This can often be replaced with sugar addiction and cravings which are also a way to self-medicate.
- Low serotonin is a factor with bulimia, although it’s typically an under-recognized factor when it comes to eating disorders.
I share where I’d start if we were working together and possible next steps below.
How did she use tryptophan and which products did she use?
Zoe initially used the Lidtke chewable (each one is 100mg) for a few months: ”I used the Lidtke chewable as I don’t need much to feel the effects of aminos!”
Then she switched to the Lidtke 500mg: “I was taking 500mg mixed with banana on an empty stomach every day for about 6 months.”
This amount of tryptophan would be considered low for most folks. 500mg is a typical starting dose often used 1-2 mid-afternoon and 1-2 in the evening.
You may see all her low serotonin symptoms and think she has a lot going on and will likely need large doses of tryptophan for serotonin support. But you never know how much tryptophan will work until you do a trial.
Low endorphins and DPA for eliminating comfort eating
Zoe actually posted much of the above in response to a question I posted on Facebook about eliminating comfort eating and the amino acid called DPA (d-phenylalanine). DPA typically helps the kind of eating where you feel “I deserve this or this is my reward or this is my treat.” Until you address low endorphins with DPA, you may also feel eating these foods are numbing – as in numbing or blocking emotional pain.
She shared “Yes I’ve tried DPLA and it had a very nice effect.” But as you’ve read above, low serotonin was a bigger issue for Zoe and it was the tryptophan that really helped calm her comfort eating.
DLPA or DPA?
I reminded her that DPLA (dl-phenylalanine) is quite different from DPA (d-phenylalanine). DLPA works on boosting low catecholamines (improving low motivation, poor focus and fatigue and stay-in-bed kind of depression) and to a small extent also low endorphins. DPA works purely on boosting low endorphins.
But Zoe did see benefits from DLPA:
DPLA made me feel very content with my life. I felt very happy where I was all of a sudden, instead of feeling the need to chase something better all the time. I’ve never had just straight DPA, I’ve found it hard to find.
It’s not uncommon to see low serotonin and low endorphins in situations like this.
Tryptophan is no longer helping: my feedback and other ideas
Zoe did also share this about the 500mg tryptophan no longer helping like it used to:
The tryptophan doesn’t seem to have the same effect on me anymore sadly but that maybe because I’m ‘topped up’ but I did wonder if I had ruined the quality of my tryptophan by storing it on top of my microwave (so they were heating up).
I’ll try the [Lidtke] Tryptophan Complete this time and hope they work as I do still get a bit of PMS which seemed to go away for a while.
I did hear about mixing it with inositol being a possible solution too?
Here is my feedback on some of this, where I’d start if we were working together and possible next steps:
- My favorite DPA product is also made by Lidtke and it’s called Endorphigen. It may help with the last remaining snacking
- However, timing wise late-night snacks for carbs tends to be low serotonin. I would try again with Lidtke 500mg (the microwave heat may have been an issue), considering a trial of 1000mg, trialing the Lidtke Tryptophan Complete (as she may be missing the cofactors to make serotonin) and even consider going back to the chewable Lidtke tryptophan which worked so well initially.
- I would also look at other factors that may be lowering serotonin levels: has gluten snuck back in or is there any accidental exposure? Has she started consuming collagen and/or gelatin which can lower serotonin in susceptible folks?
- I would consider trialing inositol if there is an obsessive tendency to the snacking. It does help with PCOS too.
- She had said “I thought GABA would be amazing for me but it wasn’t.” Since GABA helps with PCOS and PMS, I would revisit GABA trials using different forms, higher doses and making sure trials are sublingual. Progesterone or herbs that support progesterone is another option.
- I agree with Zoe’s comments about being a vegetarian. Low levels of neurotransmitters are common and we cover the benefits of grass-fed red meat for women in my interview with Dr. Felice Jacka on the first Anxiety Summit. I’d encourage adding some quality animal protein if she’s open to it.
- For vegetarians, we often also add a free form amino acid blend with tryptophan, especially if adding animal protein is a no-no.
- I would also consider pyroluria (the social anxiety condition) too as PMS is common, pyrolurics are often vegetarians, and the pyroluria protocol provides necessary cofactors for making serotonin. Zinc is often low in vegetarians too.
- I would also assess for low iron and low B12 (also often low in vegetarians) and needed for serotonin production; and look into the BCP (birth control pill) or other meds that may be lowering serotonin.
- I would have her doctor check thyroid health as low thyroid can reduce the effectiveness of the amino acids
As with everyone, a full functional workup looking at diet, nutritional deficiencies, digestion, all hormones, toxins and infections (and so on) is key to address all possible root causes.
Have you found that tryptophan calmed your comfort eating, reduced your self-doubt and late night carb snacking and led to feelings of peace around food? Did it also reduce PMS and other low serotonin symptoms?
If you’re a practitioner working with women who comfort-eat and have typical low serotonin symptoms, have you found tryptophan to help?
Feel free to post your questions and feedback in the comments below.