Tryptophan is one of the 14 essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins) we need to consume through food. Examples of other essential amino acids are Tyrosine, Phenylanine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Taurine, Glutamine, Alanine, Asparagnine, and more.
Tryptophan is essential for people with migrains as they form the raw material for serotonin - the key player in migraine occurrence and prevention.
Levels of serotonin in your brain also decides your mood, states of anxiety, depression and sleep. Tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, unlike most other essential amino acids, has a large molecular structure. Such large molecules are not allowed through the blood-brain barrier.
We must understand that tryptophan is required in only trace quantities by our body. The RDA value for it is set at 0.2 grams per day. Our meals on an average provide us anything between 1 to 1.5 grams every day. Yet only a small fraction of it reaches our brain where it is needed most.
Let us see how the scarce tryptophan can play truant in the various stages of it's metabolization:
Stage #1: Tryptophan is first broken down by the enzyme Tryptophan Hydroxylase with the help of Vitamin B3 (or Niacinamide) into 5HTP. Here is Catch #1: It might so happen that you are deficient in Vitamin B3, which will spin into action a whole new string of events in the body. When the liver encounters the dietary tryptophan in the absence of adequate levels of Vitamin B3, it will use the scarce tryptophan to manufacture Vitamin B3. It does so at a very steep ratio of 60mg of tryptophan to produce 1mg of Vitamin B3.
Stage # 2: Next, another enzyme called Decarboxylase converts 5HTP to 5HT with the help of Vitamin B6. Catch # 2: In the liver, tryptophan is metabolized using the enzyme tryptophan pyrrolase. However, if you are even mildly deficient in Vitamin B6, this tryptophan will be converted to toxic metabolites such as hydroxikynurenine, xanthurenic acid and hydroxyanthranilic acid, by the liver.