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Tryptophan and Serotonin and Relax

I had a really nice Thanksgiving dinner last night.  It was lovely to have our blended, eclectic family together for dinner.    I love the way a nice meal can really elevate a mood.  I am fascinated by the effects that eating turkey can have on our moods.  I love that sedative effect that eating turkey can have on me.  It got me to thinking about tryptophan and serotonin and melatonin and in keeping with my resonance theories: are we attracted to people with not only similar waves but even deeper – similar biochemistry.  If, after all, these hormones such as dopamine and serotonin literally affect our nervous system, perhaps we are attracted to people with similar hormone levels and responses?  

Before we go any further into that theory.  Let’s examine the turkey effect!  What is tryptophan?  Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (meaning that your body doesn’t make it – you must eat it).  Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.  Therefore, many foods that are good sources of proteins are also good sources of tryptophan.  It is a common misconception that tryptophan is unusually high in turkey.  It is in fact, equally high in chicken.  The three highest sources of tryptophan are: eggs (whites), spirulina, and cod.  Some cheeses, nuts, seeds, and milk are also high in tryptophan.  

What is so “essential” about this amino acid?  It is the building block for hormones such as serotonin and melatonin.  These are very important neurotransmitters and neurohormones respectively.  Serotonin is the neurotransmitter which is found to be low in some people with depression.  Melatonin is an important neurohormone produced in the pineal gland and essentially produced at night.  It is an important hormone for regulating our sleep cycles and immunity.  So, that really does give tryptophan an important status.  

Why do we sometimes get sleepy after foods high in tryptophan?  As it turns out, this effect likely has less to do with tryptophan and more to do with an insulin release from eating a carbohydrate-rich meal.  As mentioned, there is less tryptophan in turkey compared with many other proteins.  So the sleep effect is somewhat related to serotonin being converted to melatonin but most of the effect is an insulin rush from the potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie!

 Serotonin is clearly important to mental health.  Many antidepressant meds work by keeping serotonin in the blood stream.  While there is limited evidence to support the effects of diet on increasing serotonin – it certainly can’t hurt.  Serotonin also has a role in learning, sleep, and anxiety.  

Therefore, on this day of giving thanks, I raise my glass to tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin for keeping me healthy and happy (most of the time).

brett

 

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Comments

  1. Excellent info!

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