5 Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-HTP) is a serotonin amino acid precursor. As much as this chemical substance is natural, you can also take it in supplemental form. Some people take this supplement, believing that it would improve their health in certain aspects. These aspects mainly include sleep quality and mental health, among many others. These effects are connected with its role in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps your brain to produce certain produce “feel-good” chemicals. Low levels of serotonin are linked with anxiety and depression. It can also lead to weight gain and sleep disorders, among many other health issues. As such, having more 5-HTP to make more serotonin may deliver various health benefits. That is why 5-HTP supplements are becoming more and more popular.
5-HTP does not occur naturally in any food source. So how does your body get it? Your body makes it from the amino acid Tryptophan. So the flow is that your body gets tryptophan from your diet. It then converts tryptophan to 5-HTP. And then, it now finally converts 5-HTP to serotonin. The process is quite more complicated than this. But this should suffice as a simple explanation. While 5-HTP is not present in any food source, it is present in the seed of Griffonia simplicifolia, a native African plant. Producers usually manufacture 5-HTP supplements from these seeds. The main reason why people take these supplements is so that they can supply additional 5-HTP to boost serotonin synthesis. In this article, we will talk about some potential benefits of this serotonin precursor, as well as its sources and potential risks.
Benefits of Taking Serotonin Amino Acid Precursor 5-HTP
If you have a serotonin-related disorder like depression, your doctor is likely to prescribe an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) for you. These are the most common treatment options for depression.
These SSRIs work by inhibiting your body from metabolizing serotonin. When your body is not breaking serotonin down, it builds up and becomes more available in your body. With more serotonin available, your body can make more “feel good” chemicals to light up your mood.
Some experts think that 5-HTP may have the same benefits as these SSRIs. But it works differently. While SSRIs prevent serotonin breakdown, 5-HTP encourages its production. But then, research on 5-HTP is still in the early stages. So we do not have enough research yet to support the use of 5-HTP for serotonin-related conditions.
Anyways, one old meta-analysis studied certain research results on this claim. These research studies examined Tryptophan and 5-HTP for their effects in relieving symptoms of depression. Over a hundred studies were reviewed in this process. But their results were inconclusive.
A lot of research studies support the use of 5-HTP. But then, many others also discourage its use. We can only conclude that we need more studies with high-quality methods to either validate or invalidate the claims of 5-HTP enthusiasts.
This notwithstanding, lots of people now use 5-HTP supplements. They often use these supplements in treating depression and anxiety. More so, they are thought to deliver quick results because your body would typically absorb 5-HTP rapidly. However, their effects may be short-lived because your boy would also eliminate it as rapidly as it absorbed it.
These characteristics cast a lot of doubt on how effective 5-HTP would be. But then, many users say they are satisfied with the results they get. These claims are subjective. However, we cannot completely discard them.
If researchers can find a means of making the 5-HTP stay in the human body longer than it normally does, then all questions on its effectiveness will be laid to rest. And if not all, at least most will be.
What Should You Be Looking For If You Want More 5-HTP?
To clear the air, 5-HTP supplements different from L-tryptophan supplements. However, both supplements can help increase your serotonin levels. But the main difference is that if you take tryptophan, your boy would still have to convert it to 5-HTP first before serotonin.
Anyways, to boost 5-HTP you can get tryptophan from protein-rich foods. These include chicken, turkey, milk, pumpkin seeds, bananas, and spinach. But 5-HTP itself is not naturally present in any food. You can, however, add it to your meals via supplements.
You can get 5-HTP supplements from health food and online stores. And you can also get it from drug stores. But experts tell us that it is easy to confuse 5-HTP (5 Hydroxy-Tryptophan) with 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine). 5-HT is serotonin’s chemical name. As such, you must be cautious when buying 5-HTP supplements, or any other supplement for that matter.
Remember that the FDA has no regulations to guide the production and use of supplements. As such, what one product contains may differ from what some others contain. Some products even contain something different from what the producer specifies on their product label.
You should also beware of supplements if you are a pregnant woman or a nursing mother. Don’t be too quick to give supplements to your children either. If you have a medical condition or you are on another medication, ask well from your doctor before taking supplements.
To say the truth, you should always get your doctor’s consent before you use any supplement regardless of your age and health status. That rules out the option of self-treatment with 5-HTP supplements. You never do it. If you delay or avoid standard care for any health issue, you may suffer serious consequences.
All we can offer here are general tips. It is your doctor that has the final say on whether you should use 5-HTP supplements or not. Your doctor is also in the best position to advise you on dosage.
Potential 5-HTP Side Effects
Some people experience mild side effects when they use 5-HTP. These mild effects may include:
- Stomach upset/pain
These adverse effects usually depend on the dose you are taking. So you may not experience them if your dose is low. And they tend to get worse with increasing doses. The safe dosage range for 5-HTP serotonin amino acid precursor supplements is 50–100mg twice daily. You can then gradually increase it over 2 weeks if need be.