Tryptophan is one of the 20 standard amino acids, as well as an essential amino acid in the human diet. Amino acids, including tryptophan, act as building blocks in protein biosynthesis.
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|Tryptophan and proteins|
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Tryptophan is used by the brain along with magnesium, vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) to produce serotin, a neurotransmitter that carries messages between the brain and one of the body's biochemical mechanisms of sleep and relaxation. Serotonin acts as an antidepressant, reducing anxiety and tension.
Tryptophan is called an essential amino acid because we humans lack the ability to synthesize it and must obtain it from our diet.
For some time, tryptophan has been available in health food stores as a dietary supplement. Many people found tryptophan to be a safe and reasonably effective sleep aid, probably due to its ability to increase brain levels of serotonin and/or melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone secreted by the pineal gland in response to darkness or low light levels).
Our central nervous systems are mainly regulated by amino acids. Proteins contain amino acids that aid in the creation of endorphins – a family of neuropeptide neurotransmitter that influences our mood. So protein is important for people suffering from stress, anxiety or depression.
Eating enough protein is not a big problem in the western world since most foods contain them. Still, a balance between animal and vegetable protein is necessary and a good amount of these in the diet is a safe bet. Just follow the RDA's recommendation of 0.8 g/kg to 1.2-1.8 g/kg if your activity level is low, and add more according to your fitness program.
Some great sources of protein are: fish, tofu, beans, oatmeal, lentils, chicken, meat, eggs, nuts, flax seeds and cheese.
Here is a video that explains the effects of tryptophan in the nervous system:
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