Tryptophan depletion and its implicatio – PubMed Mobile

In experiments, rapid depletion of tryptophan in the body worsened  unipolar depression in people who were already depressed.  Even more impressively, people who were in remission from their depression, when deprived of tryptophan, relapsed!

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is present in protein-containing foods.  It is a precursor of serotonin, which is the target  molecule for the class of antidepressants known as selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  They work by inhibiting the body’s method of recycling serotonin, which is secreted by brain cells as a chemical messenger.  That causes the net amount of seratonin to go up, since it’s not being reabsorbed.  Increasing the level of seratonin in the brain often improves depression.

My question is:  since  SSRIs are known to worsen bipolar depression, could tryptophan depletion improve it?

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  1. This article does not surprise me. I’ve had a suspicion for awhile.

    My body seems to be capable of taking care of it’s own self subconsciously. Depressed? Peanut butter. Nuts are high in tryptophan. I used to eat a PB sandwich before bed every single night. Heavier, yes. But happier.

    Now, here comes the question. What part does tryptophan play in this? What is the function and dyfunction specifically when it is either absent or present? I have a multi-system dysfunction theory that’s bigger than this part. But, here’s a few ideas. Tryptophan is one of the enzymes responsible for sleep. Regulating sleep and providing restful sleep is healing.

    Also, nuts are highly recommended for people who need to regulate blood sugar. I believe sleep and blood sugar are easily tied together. And blood sugar is touchy. Too much sugar, and a person goes past a certain threshold, they sleep, and then their sugar crashes. Sugar crashs are bad for moods and encourage more sugar / carb binging.

    So, will eating a handful of cashews do it? No. It’s a lot more complicated than that. But, would it hurt to add a supplement? Why not try it?

    • I’m with you on the sleep angle. I cannot but think that sleep disorders and mood reorders are inexorably bound together.

      Not only that: research is now coming out that proves my privately held opinion that fibromyalgia is either a result of a sleep disorder, or the cause of one, or both. And in my acupuncture practice I have treated many fibromyalgia sufferers who couldn’t sleep, and every single one has turned out to be a survivor of child sexual abuse. So they had very good reasons not to be able to sleep, and to hold tension and pain in their body’s tissues!

      But back to tryptophan. I think it’s a good argument for dietary therapy. As the article says, sudden depletion of tryptophan causes worsening of non-bipolar depression. And yet it is known that SSRIs, which increase the tryptophan levels in the brain, cause worsening of bipolar depression. So what are we bipolar people to do? Forego the Thanksgiving turkey? Go vegan?

      I personally have had disastrous experiences when an inexperienced psychiatrist put me on SSRIs, rather than recognizing me as a bipolar and using Lithium and/or Lamectil. So I think I would forego the L-Tryptophan supplements, myself.

      Anybody else have experiences to share?

      • Hmm, I see. Personally, I take some combination supplements that seem to do the trick.

        Let’s see what the contents are:

        Huperzine A
        Ginkgo biloba

        That’s just one of them. That one supports neurological function. I’ve noticed something that supports my energy levels is anything that helps heart health.

        Vitamin D – there’s a correlation between vitamin d deficiency and depression

        This one is for gynecological cancers:

        Curcumin extract
        Green tea extract
        Wasabia japonica (rhizome)
        Bioperine® (pepper extract)

        Seems to support energy levels. Probably resulting from the negligible levels of green tea extract.

        This one is specifically for heart health:

        Ubiquinol (Co-Q 10)
        Vitamin E

        Nothing works to support my energy levels like Co-Q 10. Since I added the first one, for neurological health, my moods have gotten better. I’m not scraping the lower end as much.

        So, sifting through all of that, what kind of conclusion can we come to? The only thing I know for sure is that BP is different for everyone. Some people claim B-12 helps. I didn’t get anything from that. I claim Vitamin D helps. But, I live in a sun deprived area.

        I definitely think that there is a biological agent at work, but the cause and effect are uncertain. Do I think that I should stop taking my meds because supplements help? NO WAY! I went through a lot of trial and error to get where I am now with supplements. Some were surprising and very off label. And the ones suggested for mood had the opposite effect. (I ended up with a paranoid episode because of one of those!)

        But they help. They really do. And the nice thing about them is that I don’t have to go through a slew of side effects to get some relief.


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