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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Who Could Benefit From 5-HTP, and Why

For starters, what is 5-HTP? 5-HTP is an acronym which stands for 5-hydroxytryptophan. It's an amino acid which is a direct precursor of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter with relaxing and even pain-relieving effects. 5-HTP is not present in significant amounts in a typical diet. The human body manufactures 5-HTP from L-tryptophan, a natural amino acid found in most dietary proteins. However, eating food that contains L-tryptophan does not significantly increase 5-HTP levels. For this reason, 5-HTP is widely available as a nutritional supplement, usually in capsule form. Typically, commercially-sold 5-HTP is sourced from the seeds of an African vegetable, Griffonia simplicifolia, as these seeds contain as much as 30% 5-HTP. 

As mentioned earlier, 5-HTP is an amino acid that serves as a sort of intermediate step between another amino acid, L-tryptophan, and the important brain chemical referred to as serotonin. There is a massive amount of evidence that suggests that low serotonin levels are a common consequence of modern living. The lifestyle and dietary practices of many people living in this stress-filled era results in lowered levels of serotonin within the brain -- with all manner of negative results.

Here's a listing of low-serotonin-related conditions which are known to be helped by 5-HTP:

• Depression
• Obesity
• Carbohydrate craving
• Bulimia
• Insomnia
• Narcolepsy
• Sleep apnea
• Migraine headaches
• Tension headaches
• Chronic daily headaches
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
• Fibromyalgia

(More on some of these below.)

5-HTP and carb cravings

Researchers believe that inadequate serotonin levels are in part responsible for the desire to overeat. Not surprisingly, obese individuals who crave carbohydrates usually show abnormally low levels of serotonin. Taking a 5-HTP supplement half an hour before a meal can "turn off" cravings and hunger pangs by feeding the brain's carbohydrate-satiety center. In this way 5-HTP can be a great asset as part of a weight-loss regime.

5-HTP and addiction

The use of many addictive substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and certain narcotics, elevates serotonin levels. When these substances are eliminated, serotonin levels drop drastically, causing anxiety and cravings. Taking 5-HTP can work to stabilize serotonin levels and help minimize the symptoms of withdrawal.

5-HTP and PMS

PMS sufferers report pain relief, as well as decreased irritability and mood swings from using 5-HTP. The supplement works by countering the hormone-induced decrease in serotonin levels that occurs naturally during menstruation.

5-HTP and sleep

Because of its calming effect, many rely on 5-HTP to alleviate stress-attacks, as well as to encourage more restful sleep. Unlike sedative drugs, 5-HTP is not associated with unwanted side effects, such as disturbed sleep patterns or grogginess. It can be taken regularly one hour before retiring as a remedy for insomnia.

5-HTP side effects and warnings

Very high intakes of 5-HTP have caused muscle spasms in guinea pigs and both muscle jerks and diarrhea in mice. Injected 5-HTP has also caused kidney damage in rats. To date, these problems have not been reported in humans. “Serotonin syndrome,” which is a serious but uncommon condition caused by excessive amounts of serotonin, has not been reported to result from supplementation with 5-HTP. In theory, this condition could possibly be triggered by the supplement; however, the level of intake at which this toxic effect might potentially occur remains unknown.

5-HTP should not be taken with prescription antidepressants, weight-control drugs, other serotonin-modifying agents, or substances known to cause liver damage, because in these cases 5-HTP may have exacerbating effects. People with liver disease may not be able to regulate 5-HTP adequately, and those suffering from autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma may be more sensitive than others to 5-HTP. Such persons should not take 5-HTP without first consulting with a knowledgeable healthcare professional. The safety of taking 5-HTP during pregnancy and breast-feeding is not precisely known at this time.

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