Your body needs essential amino acids for numerous processes inside it. Some amino acids build cell membranes and produce hormones, while others act as neurotransmitters and control your mood.
The most well-known amino acid that may work as a neurotransmitter is tryptophan. Tryptophan has proven calming properties and an ability to reduce anxiety and improve mood, which is why it is commonly sold as a prescription drug.
Below, you will find a selection of the best tryptophan supplements and a comprehensive guide that covers the considerations you need to make before starting supplementation with this amino acid.
3 Best Tryptophan Supplements
Source Naturals Tryptophan Caps
If you’re looking for the best tryptophan supplement in the form of capsules, then Source Naturals might be your choice. This manufacturer offers 500 mg of pure L-tryptophan without any additives per serving.
One serving of the Source Naturals tryptophan is equal to 3 caps. That is, the whole 120-count package will last you slightly longer than a month. You can also choose 60 and 90-count packages.
The manufacturer suggests you split the daily dose into three and take one capsule in between meals. Or, if you need a sleep boost, then take all three caps together before sleep.
Bulk Supplements Tryptophan Powder
If you need a long-term supplementation with tryptophan, then you can opt for this tryptophan powder by Bulk Supplements. You can choose between 50, 100, 250, and 500 grams of powder, and the biggest package has 500 servings in it, meaning it will last you for months.
Now, the most noticeable advantage of this top-rated powder supplement is that you can use it as an additive to your meals, thereby making them more nutritious.
And here comes the drawback as well, which is the measurement. One serving is equal to 500 mg, which might be quite tricky to measure with a standard teaspoon, although the manufacturer provides you with a conversion table.
Superior Labs Tryptophan Caps
And the last candidate on the list of the best tryptophan supplements is Superior Labs capsules. Its serving size is equal to 1 capsule and packs 500 mg of pure L-tryptophan. There’s only one packaging option available — a 120-capsule bottle.
The caps are third-party certified and come under a 60-day money-back guarantee. Another great thing about this supplement is that it’s suitable for vegans because the shells are created by using plant-derived cellulose and organic rice extract.
What Is Tryptophan?
Tryptophan is one of the nine essential amino acids. The word ‘essential’ means that your body cannot produce tryptophan by itself, and you need to consume it with food.
In your body, tryptophan goes through the fermentation process and converts into 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin; it has potent mood-stabilizing and anxiety-relieving properties and may improve sleep.
Along with that, your gut can convert L-tryptophan into melatonin, our sleep hormone, thereby helping you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Where Can You Naturally Find Tryptophan?
Since tryptophan is an amino acid, which is a protein component, you may think that most of the tryptophan foods are animal-based proteins.
And you’re right.
However, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes aren’t inferior to meat and poultry when it comes to tryptophan. For example, one ounce of almonds can provide you with as many as 21% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan. And pumpkin seeds can give you even more — 162 mg or 58% of RDI!
The problem with plant sources is that plant-based proteins are generally harder to digest. Also, the plants themselves pack a lot of fiber that can cause bloating if you aren’t used to eating a lot of veggies daily.
Health Benefits of Tryptophan
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of tryptophan. They mostly affect cognition and emotional regulation. So, here’s what this amino acid does:
- Promotes deeper sleep. The use of tryptophan for sleep is the most well-researched benefit of this supplement. Since tryptophan is a melatonin booster, it may help people who have insomnia, jet lag, and other sleep disorders. Melatonin directly impacts your sleep and wake cycle, so toggling the levels of this hormone might be useful for those who travel a lot or work night shifts. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology reported that eating tryptophan-enriched cereal and exposing yourself to light during the day can improve melatonin production.
- Aids in combating depression and anxiety. Since tryptophan is an important component of serotonin synthesis, it plays an important role in mood disorders and emotional regulation as well. Serotonin is responsible for the feeling of happiness, euphoria, and calmness, so when people lack this neurotransmitter, they may begin to experience depressive episodes. In fact, a 1973 study on 50 women confirmed this statement and showed that depressive patients typically have reduced levels of tryptophan in their plasma. Thus, taking tryptophan supplements, or 5-HTP, may increase the levels of this amino acid and help your body produce more serotonin.
- Improves tolerance to pain. Some studies suggest that tryptophan supplementation can improve pain tolerance in individuals with chronic pain. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research was conducted on 30 patients with chronic pain. Subjects were divided into two groups: one took tryptophan, and the other took a placebo. After four weeks of study, the tryptophan group showed a significant difference in pain thresholds and pain tolerance compared to the placebo group at the control appointment.
- May help you quit smoking. Surprisingly, but taking tryptophan may help you quit smoking faster. Tryptophan can increase serotonin levels and alleviate the adverse effects of nicotine withdrawal. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed that taking tryptophan in doses of 50 mg/kg/day accompanied by carb-rich foods helped the participants smoke fewer cigarettes and reduced withdrawal symptoms.
Dosage, Side Effects, and Interactions
Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so there’s no exact tryptophan dosage for everyone.
However, you still have to consume certain amounts of this amino acid to function properly. Here are the guidelines provided by the International Journal of Tryptophan Research:
“The recommended daily allowance for adults is estimated to be between 250 mg/day and 425 mg/day, which translates to dietary intake of 3.5 to 6.0 mg/kg of body weight per day.”
Most supplements today provide you with 500 mg of tryptophan per serving, which is more than enough to cover your RDI.
Now, tryptophan that is consumed through food is absolutely safe because it is gradually released from the protein molecule. However, some people report unpleasant tryptophan side effects from the supplement form, including:
- appetite loss;
If you feel these symptoms, try to reduce the dosage or take the supplement with meals.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. With that being said, consuming tryptophan may have a lot of positive impact on your emotional regulation and sleep quality.
Besides, tryptophan can act as a beneficial component of complex therapy for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
There’s no right dosage of tryptophan that would work for all. So the best way to determine the right amount of this amino acid for you is to discuss the supplementation with your healthcare practitioner.