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Fall allergy  air filter

Will Eating Turkey Make You Sleepy?
The Facts About The
L-Tryptophan Effect

bulletWhat is tryptophan? 
bulletIs tryptophan safe as a dietary supplement
bulletThe answer
bulletRecommendations
bulletRelated stories -  bulletdid you know that (according to the US FDA, cattle are being fed chicken manure?  No kidding - here are the facts, and evidence)
bulletIs your turkey safe (from bad bacteria)?
bulletTurkey Thawing, Preparation, Cooking, and Storing Tips

 

What is tryptophan? 

Tryptophan is an essential Amino Acid.  It is a precursor for serotonin (which aids sleep and anxiety),and helps in niacin (B vitamins) production.  Foods that are considered sources of tryptophan are dairy products, beef, poultry, barley, brown rice, fish, soybeans, and peanuts.

L-tryptophan is a natural sedative. It is normally found in turkey meat, and many people believe it to be the cause of a sleepiness common after a Thanksgiving feast.

Tryptophan is a component of many plant and animal proteins, and a normal part of the diet that humans must get from outside sources. It also happens to be the precursor (starting material) from which our brains make serotonin, which calms you down and makes you sleepy. 

Is tryptophan safe as a dietary supplement?

L-tryptophan was a very popular sleeping aid in the United States until recently, and was also used for premenstrual syndrome and depression. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) removed it off the market in 1990 because of a sudden outbreak of eosinophilic-myalgia syndrome among people who had taken the supplement. About 5,000 people got sick and 27 died.

The ailment Eosinophilic-myalgia is characterized by muscle pain, weakness, and joint pain.  It is serious and sometimes fatal. An investigation into the connection with L-tryptophan traced the problem to a contaminated batch of the supplement made by a Japanese company, Showa Denko KK, which had changed its fermentation process to incorporate genetically engineered bacteria, and had also lessened the amount of charcoal it used to purify the product. Nevertheless, the FDA did not relax its ban, reasoning that it's still not clear whether manufacturers can make a product that isn't toxic. However, L-tryptophan is still available by prescription in Canada.

The Answer

Now, back to our original question.  Does the tryptophan in turkey make you sleepy after eating a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner? 

Sorry to say, that if you're looking for the sedative effect, it's unlikely you'll get it from eating meats like turkey. L-tryptophan doesn't act on the brain unless you take it on an empty stomach with no protein present. So it probably isn't at fault  for the sudden drowsiness that hits right after the meal when the football games come on, and the dishes are waiting! 

It's more likely due to the combination of drinking alcohol and overeating - not just turkey, but also mashed potatoes, ham, creamed onions, cranberries, sweet potatoes, peas, stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer), carrots, bread, pies, and whipped cream - all of which have the effect of puling the blood away from your brain to help your digestive tract do it's work, and the sugar/insulin effect.

On the bright side, more evidence suggest that caffeine is not only not bad for you; it actually helps many brain functions, alertness, learning, memory and countering Alzheimers... so as long as you don't become a total, jittery addict... have a cup of coffee or tea! (yeah, green tea if you really want to claim additional health benefits! )! 

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Recommendations

What can you do? Don't pig out - too much - or just plan on a nap.  But take care of the dishes first!

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