Tryptophan is a substance that is used by the brain to make serotonin. It can be consumed in two ways, either as a food supplement or as part of a natural diet. Foods which are rich in tryptophan include turkey, tuna, milk, and cheese. Relying supplements and diet alone might not be wise.
So, if one were to consume those sources of tryptophan would one’s serotonin levels rise up and relieve anxiety, panic attacks, and depression? Well, science is divided. Raising serotonin levels is what SSRIs like prozac and Celexa do, but they do it by stopping re-absorption not actually by increasing the amount of serotonin present. By putting the building blocks of serotonin into your body, by consuming tryptophan you are actually increasing the amount of serotonin.
Or are you?
Some people say the supplement is much better than medication, others say you can eat a high tryptophan diet to cure anxiety, still more people say a high tryptophan diet is all but useless. It is certainly true that studies have found tryptophan to be more effective with less side effects than SSRIs when treating anxiety and depression. And of course this research doesn’t penetrate the minds of too many doctors as the bug pharmaceutical companies have got the market sewn up and know what’s good for business.
Supplementing tryptophan can be much easier than increasing levels through diet.
On the other hand do you need supplements? Why not get enough naturally by say drinking a pint of milk a day? Well, Some people say that tryptophan taking as part of a normal meal will not reach the brain in sufficient quantities to make a difference due to the competition of other amino acids which outnumber tryptophan. This is a little simplistic. It seems that if you eat or drink tryptophan containing foods then you may be able to raise your serotonin levels. As always it’s a minefield and your body is unique. I say drink a pint of milk a day, spread out both with meals and on an empty stomach, and see if you feel better. Here is a list of food containing tryptophan.
There seems to me a good chance that a high tryptophan diet will improve mood as long as you are not on a massively high protein diet and have some complex carbohydrates going in as well.