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What is Tryptophan & How Does It Impact Substance Use Recovery?

Recovery isn’t as simple as removing a substance from your life. To be successful, treatment must have a more holistic approach. The foods you eat play a powerful role in how you think, act and feel. Good nutrition fuels your body and can assist your recovery.

Amino acids are the unsung heroes of addiction recovery. These simple organic compounds can help your body and brain repair from the damage done by drugs or alcohol. Most people have only heard of the amino acid tryptophan in reference to post-Thanksgiving naps. However, introducing tryptophan medications or supplements into your recovery process may help your body overcome the toll of addiction.

What Is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan, specifically L-tryptophan, is an essential amino acid that helps your body make proteins and other brain-signaling chemicals. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that play an essential role in nearly every bodily function, including digestion and the production of the energy you need to get you through the day.

Your body cannot produce tryptophan, so a healthy diet is essential to ensure you get enough of this amino acid. Your body changes L-tryptophan into niacin, which is crucial in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin. While the functions of serotonin are complex and multifaceted, the chemical is best known for helping control your mood and contribute to sleep.

What Role Does Tryptophan Play in Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery?

Tryptophan is closely linked to the production of serotonin. This neurotransmitter may play a key role in addiction recovery.

Addiction seriously impacts your brain’s ability to function normally. While many cognitive changes occur during active addiction, the disruption of serotonin regulation may be one of the most difficult things for those in recovery to overcome. Research suggests that the cognitive deficits caused by serotonin disruption could play a key role in the uncontrolled use of a substance and impaired decision making. Basically, the addicted brain receives surges of serotonin, which could account for a substances’ reinforcing and addicting effects.

“Sober Sadness”

One of the withdrawal symptoms that accompany early recovery is known as “sober sadness.” For many people getting sober, this side effect is completely chemical. The brain has grown accustomed to using drugs or alcohol. Without these substances, former users may experience a deficit of essential neurotransmitters, like serotonin, resulting in increased depressive symptoms.

Tryptophan as a Serotonin Replenishment Aid

Effective addiction treatment means treating the physical repercussions of addiction. Supplementing tryptophan may help restore the brain’s neurotransmitter function, particularly that of serotonin, to normal levels. For serotonin inhibited individuals, assisting the brain and body’s healing can help curb cravings and reduce or eliminate depressive symptoms.

Serotonin can be replenished by adding foods known to be high in tryptophan to your diet. This amino acid is found in more than just turkey. Tryptophan-rich foods include:

  • Brown rice
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, peanuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Tofu and soy
  • Chocolate

Learn More About Our Personalized Approach to Addiction Recovery

At Gateway Foundation, we believe treatment should reflect the particular needs of each patient. That’s why our team takes a personalized approach to addiction recovery. We develop each treatment program with care to address your exact needs.

Learn more about our professional medical addiction services when you contact us today.

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