Indoleacetic acid (IAA), or indole-3-acetate, is produced by the bacterial fermentation of the amino acid tryptophan.
IAA can be formed from several common gut microbes such as Clostridia species, Escherichia coli, and Saccharomyces species.
Common Dietary Sources:
High tryptophan intake, green/black tea
- Blaut M, Clavel T. Metabolic Diversity of the Intestinal Microbiota: Implications for Health and Disease. J Nutr. 2007;137(3):751S-755S.
- Russell WR, Duncan SH, Scobbie L, et al. Major phenylpropanoidderived metabolites in the human gut can arise from microbial fermentation of protein. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013;57(3):523-535.
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- Karu N, McKercher C, Nichols DS, et al. Tryptophan metabolism, its relation to inflammation and stress markers and association with psychological and cognitive functioning: Tasmanian Chronic Kidney Disease pilot study. BMC Nephrol. 2016;17(1):171.
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Low levels of 3-indoleacetate may occur if the patient is on a low-protein diet or gastrointestinal disorders are present. 3-indoleacetate may be produced from the body’s tryptophan metabolism or via tryptophan metabolism by the gut bacteria in the microbiome.
3-indoleacetate may participate in gut-microbiome crosstalk to promote tolerance and regulatory T-cell production. A loss of diversity in the gut microbiome may occur due to antibiotic use or due to chronic psychological stress (insufficiency dysbiosis). The presence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may decrease 3-indoleacetate levels. Exposure to rotenone or similar pesticides may also decrease levels.
If indicated, consider supporting 3-indoleacetate synthesis with tryptophan and vitamin B3. Both 5-hydroxyindoleacetate and 3-indoleacetate may be low if the diet is low in tryptophan. Giving tryptophan separately between meals may improve absorption.
NOTE: Tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) supplementation is contraindicated in patients using serotonin-reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs). Check all medication use with a medical professional.
High levels of 3-indoleacetate may occur if the patient is on a high-protein diet, or if tryptophan or 5-HTP supplements are being used. The presence of digestive disorders can leave large amounts of undigested protein in the gut lumen and may also increase levels. The presence of liver or kidney disorders may also increase circulating levels of 3-indoleacetate, with can induce endothelial dysfunction, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Drinking coconut water, which naturally contains 3-indolacetate, may artificially increase levels.
- If amino acid supplements are being used that contain phenylalanine (as well as or instead of tryptophan) are in use, that may also increase levels of 3-indolacetate.
- If the levels of both 2-hydroxyphenylacetate and 3-indoleacetate are high, there may be an inherited low-activity enzyme preventing the proper breakdown of phenylalanine.
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