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.
- Sandyk R. L-tryptophan in neuropsychiatric disorders: a review. Int J Neurosci. 1992 Nov-Dec;67(1-4):127-44.
- Russo S, Kema IP, Bosker F, Haavik J, Korf J. Tryptophan as an evolutionarily conserved signal to brain serotonin: molecular evidence and psychiatric implications. World J Biol Psychiatry. 2009;10(4):258-68.
- Capuron L, Schroecksnadel S, Feart C, et al. Chronic low-grade inflammation in elderly persons is associated with altered tryptophan and tyrosine metabolism: role in neuropsychiatric symptoms. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jul 15;70(2):175-82.
- Jenny NS. Inflammation in aging: cause, effect, or both? Discov Med. 2012 Jun;13(73):451-60.
- Russo S, Kema IP, Fokkema MR, et al. Tryptophan as a link between psychopathology and somatic states. Psychosom Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;65(4):665-71.
- Reilly JG, McTavish SF, Young AH. Rapid depletion of plasma tryptophan: a review of studies and experimental methodology. J Psychopharmacol. 1997;11(4):381-92.
- Bell C, Abrams J, Nutt D. Tryptophan depletion and its implications for psychiatry. Br J Psychiatry. 2001 May;178:399-405.
- Fernstrom JD. Effects and side effects associated with the non-nutritional use of tryptophan by humans. J Nutr. 2012 Dec;142(12):2236S-44S.
- Bravo R, Matito S, Cubero J, et al. Tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in elderly humans. Age (Dordr). 2012 May 24.
- Moskowitz DS, Pinard G, Zuroff DC, Annable L, Young SN. The effect of tryptophan on social interaction in everyday life: a placebo-controlled study. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2001 Aug;25(2):277-89.
- Winberg S, Overli O, Lepage O. Suppression of aggression in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) by dietary L-tryptophan. J Exp Biol. 2001 Nov;204(Pt 22):3867-76.
- Wolkers CP, Serra M, Hoshiba MA, Urbinati EC. Dietary L-tryptophan alters aggression in juvenile matrinxa Brycon amazonicus. Fish Physiol Biochem. 2012 Jun;38(3):819-27.
- Moskowitz DS, Pinard G, Zuroff DC, Annable L, Young SN. Tryptophan, serotonin and human social behavior. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2003;527:215-24.
- aan het Rot M, Moskowitz DS, Pinard G, Young SN. Social behaviour and mood in everyday life: the effects of tryptophan in quarrelsome individuals. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2006 Jul;31(4):253-62.
- Nantel-Vivier A, Pihl RO, Young SN, et al. Serotonergic contribution to boys’ behavioral regulation. PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20304.
- Russo S, Kema IP, Haagsma EB, et al. Irritability rather than depression during interferon treatment is linked to increased tryptophan catabolism. Psychosom Med. 2005 Sep-Oct;67(5):773-7.
- Udina M, Castellví P, Moreno-España J, et al. Interferon-induced depression in chronic hepatitis C: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;73(8):1128-38.
- Angoa-Perez M, Kane MJ, Briggs DI, et al. Genetic depletion of brain 5HT reveals a common molecular pathway mediating compulsivity and impulsivity. J Neurochem. 2012 Jun;121(6):974-84.
- Lee RJ, Gill A, Chen B, McCloskey M, Coccaro EF. Modulation of central serotonin affects emotional information processing in impulsive aggressive personality disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2012 Jun;32(3):329-35.
- Zimmermann M, Grabemann M, Mette C, et al. The effects of acute tryptophan depletion on reactive aggression in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and healthy controls. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32023.
- Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Diet promotes sleep duration and quality. Nutr Res. 2012 May;32(5):309-19.
- Mishima K. Melatonin as a regulator of human sleep and circadian systems. Nihon Rinsho. 2012 Jul;70(7):1139-44.
- Hartmann E, Spinweber CL. Sleep induced by L-tryptophan. Effect of dosages within the normal dietary intake. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1979 Aug;167(8):497-9.
- Hartmann E. Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep. J Psychiatr Res. 1982;17(2):107-13.
- Korner E, Bertha G, Flooh E, Reinhart B, Wolf R, Lechner H. Sleep-inducing effect of L-tryptophane. Eur Neurol. 1986;25 Suppl 2:75-81.
- Hartmann E, Lindsley JG, Spinweber C. Chronic insomnia: effects of tryptophan, flurazepam, secobarbital, and placebo. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1983;80(2):138-42.
- Schneider-Helmert D, Spinweber CL. Evaluation of L-tryptophan for treatment of insomnia: a review. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1986;89(1):1-7.
- Markus CR, Jonkman LM, Lammers JH, Deutz NE, Messer MH, Rigtering N. Evening intake of alpha-lactalbumin increases plasma tryptophan availability and improves morning alertness and brain measures of attention. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1026-33.
- Lieberman HR, Corkin S, Spring BJ, Wurtman RJ, Growdon JH. The effects of dietary neurotransmitter precursors on human behavior. Am J Clin Nutr. 1985 Aug;42(2):366-70.
- Seif F, Patel SR, Walia H, et al. Association between obstructive sleep apnoea severity and endothelial dysfunction in an increased background of cardiovascular burden. J Sleep Res. 2013 Jan 19. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12026. [Epub ahead of print]
- Garcia-Rio F, Alonso-Fernandez A, Armada E, et al. CPAP effect on recurrent episodes in patients with sleep apnea and myocardial infarction. Int J Cardiol. 2013 Jan 7.
- Vitulano N, Di Marco Berardino A, Re A, et al. Obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease: the biomarkers point of view. Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2013;5:588-99.
- Schmidt HS. L-tryptophan in the treatment of impaired respiration in sleep. Bull Eur Physiopathol Respir. 1983 Nov-Dec;19(6):625-9.
- Han F. Respiratory regulation in narcolepsy. Sleep Breath. 2012 Mar;16(1):241-5.
- Shabbir F, Patel A, Mattison C, et al. Effect of diet on serotonergic neurotransmission in depression. Neurochem Int. 2013 Jan 7.
- Sa M, Ying L, Tang AG, Xiao LD, Ren YP. Simultaneous determination of tyrosine, tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptamine in serum of MDD patients by high performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection. Clin Chim Acta. 2012 Jun 14;413(11-12):973-7.
- Thomson J, Rankin H, Ashcroft GW, Yates CM, McQueen JK, Cummings SW. The treatment of depression in general practice: a comparison of L-tryptophan, amitriptyline, and a combination of L-tryptophan and amitriptyline with placebo. Psychol Med. 1982 Nov;12(4):741-51.
- Levitan RD, Shen JH, Jindal R, Driver HS, Kennedy SH, Shapiro CM. Preliminary randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of tryptophan combined with fluoxetine to treat major depressive disorder: antidepressant and hypnotic effects. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2000 Sep;25(4):337-46.
- Barr LC, Goodman WK, McDougle CJ, et al. Tryptophan depletion in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder who respond to serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994 Apr;51(4):309-17.
- Paykel ES. Partial remission, residual symptoms, and relapse in depression. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2008;10(4):431-7.
- Booij L, Van der Does AJ, Haffmans PM, Riedel WJ, Fekkes D, Blom MJ. The effects of high-dose and low-dose tryptophan depletion on mood and cognitive functions of remitted depressed patients. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 May;19(3):267-75.
- Feder A, Skipper J, Blair JR, et al. Tryptophan depletion and emotional processing in healthy volunteers at high risk for depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Apr 15;69(8):804-7.
- Jaworska N, Thompson A, Shah D, Fisher D, Ilivitsky V, Knott V. Acute tryptophan depletion effects on the vertex and late positive potentials to emotional faces in individuals with a family history of depression. Neuropsychobiology. 2012;65(1):28-40.
- Murphy SE, Longhitano C, Ayres RE, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ. Tryptophan supplementation induces a positive bias in the processing of emotional material in healthy female volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Jul;187(1):121-30.
- Ghadirian AM, Murphy BE, Gendron MJ. Efficacy of light versus tryptophan therapy in seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord. 1998 Jul;50(1):23-7.
- McGrath RE, Buckwald B, Resnick EV. The effect of L-tryptophan on seasonal affective disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 1990 Apr;51(4):162-3.
- Eshkevari L, Permaul E, Mulroney SE. Acupuncture blocks cold stress-induced increase in hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in rat. J Endocrinol. 2013 Feb 5. s[Epub ahead of print]
- Corchs F, Nutt DJ, Hood S, Bernik M. Serotonin and sensitivity to trauma-related exposure in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors-recovered posttraumatic stress disorder. Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jul 1;66(1):17-24.
- van Veen JF, van Vliet IM, de Rijk RH, et al. Tryptophan depletion affects the autonomic stress response in generalized social anxiety disorder. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Nov;34(10):1590-4.
- Robinson OJ, Overstreet C, Allen PS, Pine DS, Grillon C. Acute tryptophan depletion increases translational indices of anxiety but not fear: serotonergic modulation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis? Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jul;37(8):1963-71.
- Eriksson O, Wall A, Marteinsdottir I, et al. Mood changes correlate to changes in brain serotonin precursor trapping in women with premenstrual dysphoria. Psychiatry Res. 2006 Mar 31;146(2):107-16.
- Pearlstein T, Steiner M. Non-antidepressant treatment of premenstrual syndrome. J Clin Psychiatry. 2000;61(Suppl)12:22-7.
- Rapkin A. A review of treatment of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003 Aug;28 Suppl 3:39-53.
- Menkes DB, Coates DC, Fawcett JP. Acute tryptophan depletion aggravates premenstrual syndrome. J Affect Disord. 1994 Sep;32(1):37-44.
- Steinberg S, Annable L, Young SN, Liyanage N. A placebo-controlled clinical trial of L-tryptophan in premenstrual dysphoria. Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Feb 1;45(3):313-20.
- Bond AJ, Wingrove J, Critchlow DG. Tryptophan depletion increases aggression in women during the premenstrual phase. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug;156(4):477-80.
- Segura R, Ventura JL. Effect of L-tryptophan supplementation on exercise performance. Int J Sports Med. 1988 Oct;9(5):301-5.
- Javierre C, Segura R, Ventura JL, Suarez A, Roses JM. L-tryptophan supplementation can decrease fatigue perception during an aerobic exercise with supramaximal intercalated anaerobic bouts in young healthy men. Int J Neurosci. 2010 May;120(5):319-27.