Tryptophan is a nutritionally essential amino acid.
Essential amino acids are those that cannot be created
by other compounds of the human body. Amino acids
are groups of chemical substances that form proteins.
Proteins are extremely complex, naturally occurring
substances made of amino acids that are essential to
the body's structure and function.Tryptophan is
essential for normal growth and proper balance of
nitrogen in the body. Nitrogen is a natural element that
is an essential building block of amino acids and nucleic
acids. Nucleic acids are substances found in all living
things that play a major role in the continuation of life.
The molecular structure of tryptophan.
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Tryptophan is the preceding part of several important biocehmicals, including serotonin,
melatonin, and niacin (vitamin B3). Serotonin is a chemical messenger that contributes to
feelings of well-being, happiness, exerts a calming effect, and regulates sleep. Melatonin
is a naturally occurring chemical that can cause a sleepy feeling. A form of tryptophan,
known as L-tryptophan, is found in turkey, pork, chicken, and cheese. Since L-tryptophan
has a sleep inducing effect, this is one reason you may feel sleepy after eating turkey.
When eating foods containing tryptophan, digestion causes other amino acids to be
released in the blood. These amino acids compete to enter the brain via a gateway
known as the blood brain barrier. However, when tryptophan is combined with foods (e.g.,
breads, cookies, cakes) containing carbohydrates, the carbohydrates help carry L-
tryptophan across the blood barrier so it does not need to wait in line.
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Also, some amino acids that compete with tryptophan leave the blood and enter muscles, leaving more
tryptoman in the blood. For L-tryptophan to have this sleep inducing effect in humans, it needs to be
combined with. The chemical name of tryptophan is 2-Amino-3-(3-indolyl)-propionic acid.