What is 5htp, and what 5htp benefits can we realistically expect? 5htp is fast gaining a reputation as a miracle supplement, capable of alleviating depression, regulating sleep, reducing anxiety and even aiding in weight loss. How does it work, and is it a safe supplement?
5htp is metabolized by our bodies from the essential amino acid tryptophane. It is then transformed into serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating hunger, mood, and sleep patterns. FDA-approved antidepressant drugs include selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's), which are thought to increase the amount of serotonin available to the brain by blocking its "re-uptake." Re-uptake is the reabsorption of a neurotransmitter after it has performed its function of transmitting a neural impulse.
For this reason, 5htp benefits are similar to those of prescription anti-depressant medications for many individuals. Bolstering 5htp levels increase the brain's serotonin production by providing more of the material we need for its construction.
Mood disturbances, depression, fibromyalgia and chronic pain, PMS, headaches and insomnia have all been associated with low serotonin levels. With increasing frequency, 5htp is used as a nutritional supplement to improve these problems. A recent wave of medical reviews have suggested that 5htp improves the mood of those suffering from depression and decreases the frequency with which panic attacks occur. In general, these sources recommend that, before concrete claims are made to 5htp benefits, more clinical trials should be conducted.
Research has indicated that those with high serotonin levels have a decreased appetite, which is of great assistance when trying to lose weight. Serotonin's relationship with melatonin also helps 5htp regulate sleep cycles. The neutotransmitter turns into melatonin in a small endocrine gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin is a hormone which helps control our sleep patterns. The more serotonin we have, the more is available to be naturally converted to melatonin. Theoretically, increased stores of serotonin in the brain will result in decreased appetite and more regulated sleep, explaining 5htp's relationship to these outcomes.
Taking too much 5htp might result in excessive serotonin, which can have a negative and sometimes serious impact on health. The response to any supplement can vary wildly from person to person, and such is the case with 5htp. Research has shown that excessive amounts of serotonin can have a negative impact on health, including serious effects like cardiovascular disease.
Many experts agree that up to 100 milligrams of 5htp can be safely taken by anyone as a nutritional supplement. Some experts believe much larger dosages can be consumed without experiencing negative effects, but more concrete research is needed to prove this conclusion. Some also state that larger doses of 5htp are especially effective when taken with the prescription medication carbidopa. When taken with 5htp, carbidopa helps prevent serotonin from metabolizing in the peripheral circulatory system, where it can cause adverse effects, and helps more of it reach the brain, where it is needed.
5htp is available over-the-counter, and is generally thought to be a safe nutritional supplement for most. 5htp use only needs to be supervised by a physician for those with conditions in which increased serotonin levels may have adverse health effects. If prescription medications are being used to treat these conditions, obtaining medical advice is even more highly recommended. Those with high blood-pressure, or who have had a stroke or heart attack should consult a physician before beginning a 5htp regimen. Extremely elderly individuals, cancer patients, Parkinson's sufferers and those with autoimmune system problems should also seek medical advice.
5htp should not be used unless under a doctor's supervision by those taking certain prescription medications, including all classes of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, anti-Parkinson's medications, barbituates and tranquilizers, and even some antibiotics. These medications can also increase serotonin levels and effect neurotransmitters. The coupling of these drugs with 5htp can potentially increase serotonin production dramatically, to perhaps unsafe levels.