He tryptophan it is an essential amino acid, that is, one of the “bricks” with which proteins are built. Our body uses amino acids, among other things, to manufacture neurotransmitters, which facilitate communication between neurons. One of the best known neurotransmitters is serotonin, related to the feeling of well-being and good humor.
Tryptophan is precisely the essential amino acid that our body uses to produce serotonin. It takes it from food in the form of L-tryptophan and converts it into 5-hydroxytryptophan, a direct precursor of serotonin.
Low serotonin levels have been linked to problems such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, irritability or migraines. And the speed of serotonin formation varies depending on the tryptophan available in the brain and in the blood.
Although this is perhaps the best known role of tryptophan, the latest research suggests that tryptophan may also play an important role in fighting inflammation. According to a study recently published in the journal Sciencea certain type of bacteria in the intestine would need the presence of tryptophan to create a type of T cell that helps the body to tolerate certain components of food and thus attenuates our immune response.
The usefulness of tryptophan has also been studied to reduce cardiovascular risk, slow cognitive decline or improve intestinal inflammation.
Foods rich in tryptophan
As an essential amino acid we need to get it through food. Tryptophan is, of all the amino acids, the least abundant in the diet. However, we can get enough tryptophan if we regularly include foods that provide it in our diet.
Many of the foods richest in tryptophan are of animal origin, such as dairy products and meats, but we also have some healthier plant foods that contain good amounts of tryptophan along with other essential nutrients to take care of the mood.
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