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Inside you, the essential amino acid L-tryptophan is broken down into anxiety-reducing, snooze-inducing niacin. Even more important, tryptophan is also made into serotonin, one of your body’s most important neurotransmitters. Serotonin gives a feeling of well-being and mellowness, or as the Australians would say, “no worries.” This is such a profound effect that Prozac, Paxil and similar antidepressants usually either mimic serotonin or artificially keep the body’s own serotonin levels high. You can do the same thing with your food. And no one can tell us that beans, peas, cheese, nuts and wheat germ are toxic if you eat a lot of them!
Plenty of carbohydrates (starches) in your meals help tryptophan get to where it does the most good: in your brain. In order to cross the blood-brain barrier to get in, carbos are required. So cheese and crackers provides a better effect than the cheese standing alone. An egg or two on toast is better than just the egg. Beans, peas, and nuts already contain carbohydrate, so you are all set there.
Consider that five servings of beans, a few portions of cheese or peanut butter, or just one big handful of cashews provides one to two thousand milligrams of tryptophan, which will work as well as prescription antidepressant, but don’t tell the drug companies. Some skeptics think that the pharmaceutical people already know. Here are two quotes in evidence:
“Pay careful attention to what is happening with dietary supplements in the legislative arena… If these efforts are successful, there could be created a class of products to compete with approved drugs. The establishment of a separate regulatory category for supplements could undercut exclusivity rights enjoyed by the holders of approved drug applications.”
(FDA Deputy Commissioner for Policy David Adams, at the Drug Information Association Annual Meeting, July 12, 1993)
“The task force considered many issues in its deliberations including to ensure that the existence of dietary supplements on the market does not act as a disincentive for drug development.”
(FDA Dietary Task Force Report, released June 15, 1993)
Remember that tryptophan is one of the ten essential amino acids you need to stay alive. It is by law added to liquid feedings for the elderly and all infant formulas. You can buy tryptophan, or L-5 hydroxytryptophan, a tryptophan derivative, at health food stores. Both are quite costly, however. The good news is that plenty of inexpensive vitamin C enables your body to convert dietary tryptophan into your own 5-HTP, and then on into serotonin. And, tryptophan is really quite easy to get from the good foods listed above.
So go, eat, and be happy!
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