Increased serum free tryptophan in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome

DM Christmas, A Badawy, D Hince, S Davies, Chris S J Probert, Tom J Creed, John E Smithson, M Afzal, DJ Nutt, JP Potokar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Irregularities of serotonin function in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be due to changes in the metabolism of the serotonin precursor l-tryptophan. Dietary alteration of tryptophan intake may impact upon the mood and bowel symptoms of IBS. We hypothesized that diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (d-IBS) patients would exhibit an increase in plasma tryptophan due to alterations in tryptophan metabolism. We also hypothesized that a diet low in tryptophan would reverse this change and reduce symptoms. Thirteen patients with d-IBS had fasting serum free and total tryptophan, large neutral amino acids, and 6 kynurenine metabolites measured before and after 2 weeks of a strict dairy-free diet. Baseline tryptophan parameters were compared with an age- and sex-matched control group. Changes in the specific tryptophan parameters before and after dairy-free diet were correlated with symptoms of IBS and mood. Compared with the control group, d-IBS patients at baseline exhibited significantly higher free serum tryptophan (10.5 ± 4.35 vs 4.75 ± 2.43 μmol/L [means ± standard deviation], P = .006) and significantly lower tryptophan dioxygenase and total tryptophan oxidation as measured by the kynurenine to free tryptophan and total kynurenines to free tryptophan ratios (23.37 ± 10.12 vs 55.33 ± 16.02, P <.001 and 49.34 ± 17.84 vs 258.46 ± 98.67, P <.001, respectively). Dairy-free diet did not modulate metabolites of the kynurenine pathway or symptoms. Tryptophan metabolism along the kynurenine pathway is inhibited in d-IBS, and a dairy-free diet does not alter this. Our findings are consistent with possible enhanced serotonin activity in d-IBS.
Translated title of the contributionIncreased serum free tryptophan in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678 - 688
Number of pages11
JournalNutrition Research
Volume30 number 10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


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