Life Extension Magazine May 2013
Better Brain Chemistry with Tryptophan
By Travis Harding
Tryptophan Relieves Premenstrual Symptoms
No discussion of irritability and “grumpiness” would be complete without mention of premenstrual syndrome and its more disruptive cousin, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In both syndromes, a reduction in brain serotonin levels is to blame for the dysphoria (state of unease, the opposite of euphoria), mood swings, tension, and irritability that define them.51 Standard drug treatment consists of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, with their attendant side effects.52,53
Studies of tryptophan depletion reveal a worsening of premenstrual symptoms, especially aggression, while a small number of studies have now appeared suggesting that tryptophan supplementation is effective at reducing symptoms.54-56 In one study of premenstrual dysphoria, a dose of 6 grams/day produced a significant reduction in dysphoria, mood swings, tension, and irritability, when started on the day of ovulation and continued until the third day of menstruation.55
One of the greatest heartbreaks of aging is its association with short tempers, easy frustration, and irritability, resulting in the sometimes accurate stereotype of the “grumpy old man” (or woman).
Today, we recognize that the chronic inflammation that’s part of the aging process eats away at our bodies’ supply of tryptophan, the amino acid needed to produce the “happiness neurotransmitter,” serotonin.
Loss of adequate serotonin in the brain is associated with more than just grumpiness, however. Age-related changes in serotonin levels are responsible for troubling sleep disturbances and for the manifestations of many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Even premenstrual syndrome is now recognized as a consequence of transiently low serotonin levels.
Studies reveal the intimate relationships between tryptophan levels in the blood and serotonin levels in the brain. Tryptophan depletion can replicate symptoms of irritability, mood disorders, anxiety, and stress, while tryptophan supplementation is proving capable of reversing many of these symptoms.
Instead of taking an expensive pharmaceutical drug to boost your synaptic serotonin levels, consider daily tryptophan supplementation to achieve similar results at less cost and greater safety.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
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