In the beginning, there was one essential amino acid.
Great intro for a dietary supplement informational blog right?
Maybe one is a little too few, but not too far off.
The simple fact of the matter is that in the case of the living organism very often there are just a few sets of primary molecules used to produce a huge variety of other molecules.
And the body is very good at producing most of what you and all the other animals need to live.
Let’s take Tryptophan for example.
Tryptophan, as we’ve mentioned in other blog posts here at Turkey Sleep, is an “essential” amino acid.
Which means that the body can’t synthesize it. It needs to be brought in from the outside, and from there our bodies can make a whole bunch of additional molecules.
Let’s start with one famous molecule that most people are familiar with, and very common as a sleep-aid.
Melatonin is a hormone.
Yes, a hormone. Sounds kinda scary right?
Well, maybe a little. But, really that just means that it’s a signalling molecule in the body.
Melatonin is quite common in plants and animals, and many different versions of it exists.
It’s produced in the human brain by the pineal gland.
Its the molecule known to help direct the feeling of being awake and feeling sleepy.
Which is is the usual cycle that you prefer to wake up and fall asleep, called the Circadian rhythm.
Circadian comes from the latin circa meaning “around” and diem meaning “day”.
This rhythm exist in almost all living organisms to various degrees, and melatonin is one of many molecules that manage this cycle in bacteria, plants, and mammals.
Melatonin itself is made from Serotonin.
Serotonin is the famous “happiness” molecule.
Thought to be responsible for our brain telling us that we’re feeling good and generally happy.
Most of the serotonin in our body is actually found in our belly, or more specifically, within our intestines and the rest of the digestive tract.
It’s also found in the blood, and then the rest is circulating in our brain, interacting with the nerve cells in the brain, and of course being converted into melatonin as the pineal gland sees fit, to help with that circadian rhythm.
So, we know that both melatonin and serotonin are made in the body.
And one comes from the other.
So, Where Does Serotonin Come From?
Tryptophan is the source molecule for serotonin, which in turn is the source molecule for melatonin.
It’s a fact, that if you are deficient in Tryptophan, you will be deficient in serotonin and melatonin, there is no way around it, the natural way.
The body simply cannot make more of those molecules without Tryptophan as the raw material ingredient.
It’s a similar case for the molecules made from the other essential amino acids.
They simply cannot be made without the other key essential amino acid ingredients being made available via ingestion.
The creation of melatonin and serotonin within the body are the same type of reactions that occur in all chemical reactions.
Some molecules are converted into another via a pathway of least resistance within that local environment, and dependent on the concentrations of all the other molecules.
Living organisms have the ability to put energy into these reactions to make them happen, which is what we call metabolism.
But, as we’ve described for some molecules to be created, the body finds it an impossible task even if it has all the energy it needs to do so.
It just doesn’t have the raw ingredients to do so.
What Happens If I’m Low on Tryptophan?
If you are low on Tryptophan, you will be low on melatonin and serotonin.
And your circadian rhythms may be out of balance, as the chemical reactions simply cannot take place.
There are not enough raw materials to complete the job.
But melatonin and serotonin are not the only molecules that the body makes from Tryptophan.
In fact, there is quite a bit of competition for Tryptophan to produce a whole bunch of other important molecules.
Maybe not as important as melatonin and serotonin, but still important nonetheless.
And Vitamin B3?
One of these other molecules created by the body is Niacin, otherwise known as Vitamin B3.
Yes, the body is capable of making some of its own vitamins, which is pretty neat.
Niacin, Vitamin B3, is also available from our diet.
So if we are not getting enough Vitamin B3, the body converts some of its scarce Tryptophan into B3 to make sure those cells that need it are getting enough of it.
Not enough Vitamin B3 tends to be bad for your skin and can lead to tiredness or headaches in the modern era, but at one time this deficiency was a leading cause of death.
Today, most deficiencies of Vitamin B3 have been addressed with fortified products.
Fortified on cereal for example, and other products, to make sure that no matter what you’re eating, even if its junk food, you’re still getting enough hopefully.
At least, if you are low in Vitamin B3, but you’re getting enough Tryptophan, you can be sure the body will adapt and produce enough of it internally to get by.
Just that it takes about 60 mg of Tryptophan to get 1 mg of Vitamin B3, just so you know.
Ok, so what about Tryptophan from food?
One banana has about 10 mg of Tryptophan, and you’re supposed to be getting at least 10-20 mg Vitamin B3 a day, so you do the math.
That’s a lot of bananas, if you know what I mean.