Tryptophan today is often written and talked about as an essential amino acid, which doubles up as a precursor to the all important serotonin ( a polypeptide neurotransmitter).
Migraineurs are known to be defecient in serotonin levels and this defeciency is known to be a major factor in triggering migraines. However, serotonin cannot be taken as a supplement as it is not permitted through the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain, where it is required. Studies have found that if we increase the intake of tryptophan-rich foods, then we increase the level of serotonin from a state of deficiency in migraineurs.
Some tryptophan-rich foods are spirulina, cod, peas, soya, pulses, salmon, beans, egg whites, turkey, cottage cheese, tofu, sesame seeds, avocados and all types of beans (fava, lima, kidney, pinto, broad etc).
The process of conversion and metabolization of tryptophan to serotonin is a 3 stage process and is greatly helped by the presence of adequate levels of Vitamin B3 and B6 in our body.
The tryptophans are large molecules (see image below) and their break down and absorption is not as easy as those of the smaller molecule amino acids. To divert the small molecule amino acid such that they do not compete with the absorption of tryptophan, we must marginally increase our insulin levels. This should not be done by intake of sugar, but through mildly increasing the intake of brown rice, bran bread, oat porridges and jacket potatoes. Refined sugar should not be a part of the diet of a migraineurs, preferably even in small doses.
The Wikipedia Common image gives the structure of a tryptophan molecule:
The conversion of tryptophan to serotonin and eventually to melatonin is exhibited beautifully in the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tryptophan_metabolism.png
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