What is 5-HTP?
If you have been dealing with side effects from not having enough serotonin production, such as insomnia, anxiety, or unexpected weight gain, 5-HTP might be for you.
This is an excellent supplement when you aren’t producing enough of the amino acid on your own, and want to get help with these and other ailments from not having enough serotonin.
This report will go over some of the basics of the supplement, what it can help with, and some potential risks and side effects you should be aware of.
1. About 5-HTP
5-Hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid that is made in your body naturally, and it’s also an earlier metabolic step in the creation of the neurotransmitter called serotonin. Currently, 5-HTP is produced and sold in pill form for people who are hoping to gain some mental health benefits and possibly boost their immune functionality.
Serotonin has a profound effect on many different aspects of your life including sleep, sexual behaviors, appetite, body temperature, and things of that nature. But many people don’t produce enough serotonin on their own, making the supplement highly useful.
It is the hope that future studies might lead to advancements that could change the course of mental health. Until then, consumers are happy to take the 5-HTP for the effects that they can utilize today. Efficacy varies from person to person, so it takes some exploration to find out exactly what 5-HTP can help you with.
2. Ways That 5-HTP May Help
Scientists have a bit of a skeptical view of 5-HTP because of the currently unpredictable way in which it can affect one person or another. There are theories that there may be specific conditions and individual chemistries within subjects that affect how 5-HTP reacts.
As a result of this, it ends up being similar to many other drugs that are available for a prescription today, in that many doctors can’t be sure how many of the medications prescribed will affect an individual until they’re already taking it and being observed. To cover all bases, the next few sections will delve into some of the positive effects that may be available to those who are interested or want to try an alternative to some of the harsher traditional drugs. The primary aim here is to limit the types and amount of side effects from these chemical corrections by using 5-HTP.
Any time you introduce a new substance to your body, there is a potential risk for side effects, so it’s important to note that having an understanding of the fact that it might take some study to discover the correct dosage for each person.
Here are some ways in which people have noticed improvements after taking this supplement:
One of the big serotonin-involved disorders that are commonly seen is depression. Depression can be caused or triggered by a number of factors, usually those related to personal issues that are difficult to face. During a study on the effectiveness of 5-HTP for depression, researchers working with the patients were able to record a decrease in depressive thoughts and feelings. This is because 5-HTP can effectively raise serotonin levels in the brain. While this effect could be seen as a placebo in some, the rise in serotonin was seen in several other studies that were unrelated to mental health.
Help for Anxiety
Anxiety is quickly becoming one of the most common disorders seen in the last decade. In 2017, Barnes and Noble recorded a sudden trend. There was a sudden surge in the purchase of books that discussed topics for dealing with anxiety. A number of mental health professionals are saying that they believe this uptick in anxiety could be related to isolation, and the steadily increasing amount of constant connection to media and electronic devices, but one thing is clear, anxiety is a serious issue.
In 2004, there were a few experiments studied to see if there was any difference between the decreased anxiety that could come as a result of a placebo or that of an actual drug reaction. The trial was done double-blind so that doctors would not know who had taken the drug or placebo ahead of time to prevent bias on the side of 5-HTP, and researchers found that it did in fact have an increasing effect on serotonin levels, as well as a decrease in anxiety.
It Could Help You Sleep
5-HTP enters the body as a precursor to melatonin, which later is converted to serotonin, but on the way, it’s used to help facilitate sleep by controlling your blood pressure, blood sugar, body temperature, and other systems to help you relax. Evidence collected by researchers supports the idea that taking 5-HTP could lend some support to sleep. Even so, the presence of melatonin isn’t enough on its own to make a person ready for sleep. A person would have to be ready to go to sleep in order for it to work in this way.
For Hyperactivity Disorders
5-HTP has been able to produce some favorable results in patients who have hyperactivity disorders. During one trial, doctors were able to report that nearly 80% of the patients who were given 5-HTP showed serious signs of improvement.
This is significant because researchers are well aware that there are more chemicals in the mind at play than serotonin and dopamine. However, these improvements were so wide across the people tested that it could be said that the efficacy was above that of some ADHD medications, and doctors recording the data from this study were clear in their recommendation of the further study of 5-HTP for hyperactivity disorders.
When considering the lack of viable solutions that have already been accepted, it makes you question why this chemical hasn’t been pushed forward as a possible alternative to the treatment that seems to have lower success rates.
Fibromyalgia Sufferers May Benefit
In medical trials that see 5-HTP as the possible treatment for fibromyalgia, subjects once again saw some recorded improvements. While success in reducing symptoms is extremely important, there is yet another element that flies in the face of critics of 5-HTP.
One of the primary concerns raised in the studies held in the 1970s is that 5-HTP has a possibility of losing its effectiveness after a person has been taking it for a sustained period. The trials being spoken of in this case were written about on April 1, 1992, and they clearly stated that efficacy was retained for 90 days without any issues other than minor side effects. Since those days, researchers have learned more ways to monitor and measure doses to achieve maximum effects without depleting precious chemicals your brain needs.
Using the 5-HTP supplement may also help reduce migraines, particularly those related to issues with low serotonin, like depression or anxiety. However, studies have shown that the doses often need to be higher in people treating this type of pain with the supplement. The doubts raised about the short-term benefits of 5-HTP were once again called into question because the length of the study was about 2 months.
This is a lot different than the former image painted by doctors who basically called 5-HTP a fly-by-night, ineffective drug. What’s even more interesting, is that after a few initial doses, the mg of the dose can be lowered without losing many of the positive effects, which can further work to prevent negative effects associated with depletion or chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Like most of the drugs that land in this category, 5-HTP has seen some results with weight loss. This is similar to the way in which antidepressants are used. The worldwide increase in obesity has caused doctors to scramble for more answers and options to get people the treatments that are going to work for them. 5-HTP also appears to have a dramatic effect on weight loss. This connection was discovered during a 1989 study that was focused on obese women. They showed drastic weight loss when 5-HTP was introduced.
3. Common Side Effects
One thing found across all of the studies was that there were common side effects that were repeated. These effects generally appeared as diarrhea, nausea, and other related gastrointestinal disturbances. Depletion of some of the essential amino acids needed for proper emotional stability was also found to produce feelings of hopelessness, and even anger. Those bits of data became a part of the understanding that too much can go wrong when there isn’t a complete picture of what is useful in the body, and what other circumstances might be at play.
Serious Side Effects
In the early stages of testing for 5-HTP, a condition known as eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) came into focus. Doctors witnesses some patients in the trial with a condition involving muscle soreness and abnormalities (eosinophilia) in their blood. There has been some speculation that this condition was likely to have been caused by some outside source, like contamination or extra ingredient, but testing is still needed to fill in those missing answers.
Some of the concerns raised by the lack of understanding of some of the areas involving amino acids and the possible dangers associated with experimenting on those processes is a likely reason for the apprehension of medical researchers because testing limits is one of the first steps in a trial.
Large Doses Aren’t Advisable
The most frustrating thing about many substances and chemicals like these amino acids is that there are an unknown number of interconnected systems and processes that can be affected by the introduction of additional chemicals. There are too many things that doctors don’t know how to make safe choices when looking at the effects of a beyond normal dose, but the one thing that all professionals can agree on currently is that taking too much could be seriously bad for you.
Doses of 6 grams or more have been connected with the condition EMS, and there might still be other illnesses that may result without understanding the mechanisms, therefore creating a reality where conditions created can’t be monitored or observed.
It should be noted that while some doctors have made recommendations of pairing 5-HTP with other antidepressants, recent research shows that some of these drug combinations can produce startlingly dangerous effects, some of which can be entirely unpredictable. Medications that should not be taken in conjunction with 5-HTP are MAOIs, Antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft Tofranil, and others. The level of avoidance is considered to be urgent, so avoid mixing them with 5-HTP.
As always, you should talk to your doctor before taking this or any other supplement, even over-the-counter varieties.