Tryptophan is an amino acid I use with clients all the time. If you have the low serotonin symptoms of anxiety, worry, depression, insomnia, PMS, TMJ, anger issues, winter blues and afternoon/evening cravings, tryptophan can provide relief very quickly, provided you use a quality tryptophan product and find the right amount for your unique needs. I do a trial of each amino acid with my clients.
Dr. Peter Bongiorno, ND, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, also uses tryptophan with his patients. Here is an excerpt on tryptophan from his newest book Put Anxiety Behind You: The Complete Drug-Free Program:
Tryptophan (sometimes referred to as L-tryptophan) is a naturally derived amino acid that serves as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is needed to help you stay asleep. Low levels of tryptophan contribute to generalized anxiety and panic attacks. Back in the early 1990s, a laboratory I was associated with at Yale University performed “tryptophan depletion studies” and which volunteers who were already prone to anxiety were put on a tryptophan-free diet. Within days, these people were extremely anxious, panicky and unstable – and they had lots of trouble staying asleep.
I usually give people 500 – 1,000 mg of tryptophan at bedtime, but I may dose up to 2,500 mg. Take tryptophan at bedtime with a slice of simple carbohydrate (like an apple slice) – the carbohydrate will increase insulin levels and insulin will promote tryptophan absorption in the brain. In my clinic I use a supplement called Tryptophan Calmplete, which includes B vitamins.
Although most conventional psychiatrists are afraid to mix natural medicines like tryptophan with conventional medications studies suggest that they can be safely combined. One eight-week randomized controlled trial of thirty patients with major depression combined 20 mg of Prozac (an SSRI medication) with 2,000 mg of tryptophan as daily treatment for major depressive disorder. This study demonstrated that combining tryptophan and an SSRI improved mood and helped patients stay asleep.
If you look up tryptophan on websites like WebMD, they are going to tell you that tryptophan is unsafe. The reason for this is because in the early 1990s there was an incident of Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome, a condition contracted by thirty people who most unfortunately got sick (and some died) after ingesting tryptophan supplements. This tragic event occurred because the company making the supplement had no quality controls, and allowed the introduction of bacteria. These deaths had nothing to do with tryptophan itself. My sense is that the folks behind conventional websites WebMD, who should be doing their homework, let these ideas persist on purpose. The drug companies who advertise with these websites then benefit from continuing the misinformation. I have taken tryptophan myself, have used it with family members and countless patients with absolutely no problem save for the side benefit of better sleep and mood.
This book is an excellent resource for anxiety, where addressing nutritional imbalances with a supplement such as tryptophan is part of the bigger picture of addressing sleep, doing thought work and mind-body work, balancing hormones and blood sugar, exercising, adopting a healthy real foods diet, and making sure you have a healthy digestive system.
He uses the analogy of a stool – when one of the legs or supports is weak, your health suffers.
I’m a research-geek and love to be able to look at the studies so my only negative comment about the book is that all the studies mentioned in the text are not listed in the references and studies that are listed in the references are not numbered so they can be easily found in the text.
His other book Holistic Solutions for Anxiety and Depression: Combining Natural Remedies with Conventional Care is also excellent and is geared to therapists and other practitioners. You can read my review of that book here.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Bongiorno on The Anxiety Summit (season 3) – our topic: Serotonin and Anxiety, Happiness, Digestion and our Hormones. And I’m excited to share that he’ll be speaking on Season 4 of the Anxiety Summit. We’ll be taking a deeper dive into serotonin and tryptophan.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bongiorno in person and hearing him present at the New York City Integrative Healthcare Symposium earlier this year.
Dr. Bongiorno is co-director of Inner Source Natural Health and Acupuncture in New York City. President of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians, he is a contributor to numerous blogs and online magazines, including DrOz.com and Sharecare.com, and is regularly interviewed as a natural medicine expert on national television and radio.
Dr. Bongiorno has been kind enough to offer a copy of Put Anxiety Behind You: The Complete Drug-Free Program as a giveaway. We’ll do a drawing and select one lucky reader and announce the winner next Friday. If you’d like to be entered in to the drawing simply comment below and share: why you’d like to win the book if you’ve used tryptophan and what results you saw/see which section you’re most excited about reading and why (just go to the Amazon preview via this link and check out the table of contents and sections of the book) which holistic approaches you already use personally or if you’re a practitioner, what you have used with your anxious patients/clients
5/12/16 UPDATE: Thanks for participating and commenting – the winner is Liz. We’ll contact you to get a mailing address and get a copy of the book to you! Enjoy it!
If you missed out I encourage you to still check out the table of contents (with the look inside Amazon feature) and get the book if it feels like a fit for you. Check out the comments below to be inspired further.
Please share your feedback (and questions you may have) in the comments section below.