- What is 5-HTP?
- 5-HTP and Alcohol
- Mixing Alcohol and 5-HTP Affects Serotonin Levels
- Combining Alcohol and 5-HTP May Harm the Liver
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
- Relaxation, a strong bio clock, and better sleep: 5-HTP may help
- The Benefits of 5-HTP
- What are the risks?
What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is used to treat sleep disorders, often caused by insomnia, anxiety, depression, migraine, tension headache, obesity, PMS, Parkinson’s Disease, seizure disorder, ADHD, and other related conditions. It is a chemical by-product of L-tryptophan. It is also produced from the seeds of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant.
How does 5-HTP work?
5-HTP increases the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps to regulate sleep, temperature, appetite, sexual drive, and sensations of pain, among other things, and so it can have a profound effect on sleep and restfulness.
What is 5-HTP used for and how effective is it?
Two of the most intriguing areas in which serotonin has been successfully applied are in the treatment of depression, and in some negative effects of Down syndrome.
Some research indicates that oral administration of 5-HTP reduces symptoms of depression. More study needs to be done, but early indications are that it might be as effective as conventional antidepressant therapy in some patients.
Some studies also show that giving 5-HTP to infants with Down syndrome can improve muscle activity – though other studies seem to contradict this. It may be that taking it alongside conventional drugs is the key to its efficacy, improving overall results to improve development, including social and language skills.
Side Effects of 5-HTP
It seems that, for most people, it is safe to take 5-HTP orally, though that is not the case for everyone. Some people report experiencing eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) after taking the drug by mouth. EMS is a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). This may be caused by an accidental ingredient in some 5-HTP products, but this has not yet been determined.
There are some other potential side effects too, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, heartburn, stomach pain, drowsiness, muscle weakness or soreness, and problems with sexual performance.
It is not recommended to take 5-HTP by mouth in large doses. Doses of 6-10g daily can cause severe stomach problems and muscle spasms, especially in the stomach area.
Special Safety Precautions
Daily doses of up to 5mg/kg have been used safely in infants for up to 3 years, and in children up to age 12. There are still concerns about EMS, as there are for adults, and so caution is advised and a doctor should always be advised of how things are going, and of any apparent changes or possible problems or symptoms.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you do not use 5-HTP. There is not enough reliable information on the possible negative effects of 5-HTP on unborn or nursing babies.
If you are planning on undergoing surgery, it is also recommended that you do not use 5-HTP. Since 5-HTP affects serotonin levels, it can compound with some drugs administered during surgery that also affect serotonin, creating a magnified effect. Serious side effects can occur from this combination, including uncontrollable shivering, increased anxiety, and heart problems. It is best to avoid 5-HTP if you are going into surgery, and to inform doctors of 5-HTP use in the event of an accident that may require surgery.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Sometimes it might be easier for you to take a daily vitamin to increase your 5-HTP levels instead of getting it through dietary changes.
If you’re interested in taking supplementation for this nutrient, then learn more about our 5-htp supplements here.
5-HTP and Alcohol
5-HTP (5- hydroxytryptophan) is an herbal supplement that is available for purchase over the counter at several grocery and retail stores. Like other herbal supplements, it doesn’t require Food and Drug Administration approval before being sold to consumers.
People taking 5-HTP should avoid alcohol for several obvious reasons. Those who take the supplement often believe the supplement may help improve symptoms of depression, insomnia, anxiety, obesity and other health issues.
Alcohol is a depressant. It’s known to cause symptoms of depression, anxiety and weight problems. In addition, alcohol withdrawal is associated with insomnia. If you’re trying to improve your health, drinking alcohol is a bad idea. There are several health benefits of quitting alcohol, including improved mood and sleep.
5-HTP is converted into serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a natural chemical in the brain that regulates sleep, mood, anxiety and appetite, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s medical reference guide.
However, researchers writing in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment described claims that 5-HTP can treat depression as “exaggerated and inaccurate.” They wrote that the health benefits of the supplement have no scientific basis and may make depression worse in some circumstances.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine does not list any proven benefits of 5-HTP, but it states that the supplement is “possibly effective” at treating depression. More research is needed to prove that it’s effective. Combining alcohol with any supplement that has unknown benefits and side effects is risky.
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Mixing Alcohol and 5-HTP Affects Serotonin Levels
Internet forums are full of horror stories of people vomiting, blacking out or having seizures after drinking while on 5-HTP. It’s impossible to know if the stories are reliable, but there is little other evidence of known interactions between 5-HTP and alcohol.
We do know that alcohol affects serotonin levels in the brain. Experts believe that alcohol’s effects on serotonin may contribute to why we feel rewarded or intoxicated when we drink.
Antidepressants also affect the balance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Popular antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors increase levels of serotonin in the brain. The labels of SSRIs such as Celexa and Prozac warn patients not to drink alcohol while on the drugs. If you shouldn’t drink with antidepressants, you probably shouldn’t drink with 5-HTP.
The effects of mixing 5-HTP and alcohol on serotonin levels are not fully understood. However, both substances alter serotonin levels, which may increase the risk of developing serotonin syndrome. This life-threatening condition is caused by the accumulation of too much serotonin in the body. Serotonin syndrome can cause confusion, agitation, sweating, coordination loss, fever and seizure.
If you experience any of these side effects after taking alcohol and 5-HTP, call 911 immediately.
Combining Alcohol and 5-HTP May Harm the Liver
Both serotonin and tryptophan are associated with liver inflammation. 5-HTP is made from tryptophan, a chemical that naturally occurs in several foods. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that tryptophan made nonalcoholic fatty liver disease worse in people with a diet high in fat and fructose.
Research has not found an association between 5-HTP and liver disease, but it’s possible that the chemical can play a role in liver toxicity because tryptophan is associated with liver toxicity. The University of Maryland Medical Center warns people with liver disease to avoid 5-HTP.
People who drink alcohol heavily have increased rates of liver damage, liver disease and other diseases and disorders. Liver damage is one of the risks of mixing alcohol with other substances that can cause harmful reactions, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
Individuals who drink alcohol regularly should speak to a health provider before taking 5-HTP. Heavy drinking damages the liver, and combining alcohol with 5-HTP may cause increased liver damage. The best way to recover from alcohol-related liver damage is to stop drinking.
Taking 5-HTP with alcohol is risky. People who with alcohol addiction should avoid 5-HTP. You should speak to your doctor about the benefits and risks of 5-HTP before taking the supplement. When taking supplements that affect brain chemistry, you should always play it safe and avoid alcohol.
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Relaxation, a strong bio clock, and better sleep: 5-HTP may help
Relaxation, a strong bio clock, and better sleep: 5-HTP may help
In my world, I am often asked about herbal supplements for sleep. One of the more popular ones I am asked about is 5-HTP. Many people have tried it for emotional issues, and others have tried it for sleep. Here, I do a review of 5-HTP so we can all learn a little more about this fascinating supplement.
Most of us have experienced how emotional distress can lead to restless, sleepless nights and difficult days. Whether it’s a tough break up, a tricky situation at work, or a more prolonged struggle with depression or anxiety, our emotions and stress levels can throw sleep off kilter.
There’s complicated relationship between mood and sleep—depression, anxiety and stress can interfere with healthy sleep, and poor sleep makes us more vulnerable to problems with mood and emotional regulation.
The compound 5-HTP has effects on both sleep and mood, as well as other body functions that impact our health and our ability to feel good during the day and sleep restfully at night. Let’s take a closer look at what this mood-boosting, sleep-promoting compound does in the body, the benefits it may have for sleep, health, and quality of life.
What is 5-HTP?
5-Hydroxytryptophan—commonly known as 5-HTP—is a compound made naturally in the body. 5-HTP is created as a by-product of the amino acid L-tryptophan. Our bodies don’t make L-tryptophan naturally—we absorb this essential amino acid from the foods we eat.
5-HTP is produced as a supplement from the seeds of a plant, Griffonia simplicfolia, which is native to West Africa.
As we age, natural levels of 5-HTP appear to decline.
How does 5-HTP work?
5-HTP helps the body to produce more serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood and sleep-wake cycles. Healthy levels of serotonin contribute to a positive mood and outlook and also promote restful sleep. Serotonin also plays an important role in many other of the body’s functions, including digestion, appetite, and pain perception.
Serotonin influences sleep and sleep-wake cycles in many ways, and scientists continue to make discoveries about how this important neurochemical affects our sleeping and waking lives. One important way serotonin affects sleep and bio time is through its relationship with the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Melatonin is made from serotonin in the presence of darkness. (Remember, melatonin production in the body is triggered by darkness and suppressed by exposure to natural and artificial light.) Healthy serotonin levels are essential for maintaining healthy melatonin levels—and both serotonin and melatonin are critical to sleep and a well-functioning bio clock. With its ability to increase serotonin, 5-HTP supports a neurochemical process that can enable high-quality sleep and keep the body’s bio clock in sync.
Because of its serotonin-boosting capability, 5-HTP may also help with other conditions, including mood problems, stress, pain, and appetite control.
Benefits of 5-HTP
Sleep and sleep-wake cycles
Because of its role in creating serotonin, 5-HTP is indirectly involved in producing melatonin, a hormone that is critical for sleep. Melatonin helps the body’s bio clock stay in sync, and regulates daily sleep-wake cycles. A strong bio clock and regular sleep-wake routines are the cornerstone of healthy, restful, rejuvenating sleep. Research suggests that 5-HTP may help shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep amounts.
5-HTP can be effective in improving mood, and easing symptoms of stress and anxiousness, which can in turn interfere with sleep.
Research also indicates that 5-HTP may be effective in helping to reduce sleep terrors in children.
Stress, anxiety, and depression
5-HTP has been shown in scientific studies to promote relaxation and alleviate stress and anxiety. The relaxation and anti-anxiety properties of 5-HTP appear to come from its ability to elevate levels of serotonin. Research has demonstrated that 5-HTP may reduce the risks of panic attacks and symptoms of panic, as well as anxiety and emotional stress. Research also indicates 5-HTP may be effective in helping to alleviate depression.
Appetite suppression and weight control
For decades, 5-HTP has been recognized as important to appetite regulation. Higher levels of serotonin are linked to diminished appetite. Keeping serotonin levels from dipping can help keep appetite in check, and may help reduce cravings for carbohydrates. As a serotonin booster, 5-HTP may help to suppress appetite. Research indicates that 5-HTP may be effective in helping people who are overweight or obese lose weight.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that often combines chronic physical pain with sleep problems. Research indicates that 5-HTP can help improve fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, tenderness, daytime fatigue, sleep quality, and anxiety.
Migraines and headache pain
There’s scientific evidence indicating that 5-HTP may be able to reduce the frequency of migraine headache attacks and reduce pain from chronic headaches.
Other uses for 5-HTP
Because of its direct influence over serotonin and indirect influence over other hormones including melatonin, scientists are investigating the therapeutic potential for 5-HTP for a range of conditions, including:
• Menopausal symptoms
• Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
• Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
• Parkinson’s disease
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Nervous system disorder
• Ramsey-Hunt syndrome
• Alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms
5-HTP: what to know
Always consult your doctor before you begin taking a supplement or make any changes to your existing medication and supplement routine. This is not medical advice, but it is information you can use as a conversation-starter with your physician at your next appointment.
The following doses are based on amounts that have been investigated in scientific studies. In general, it is recommended that users begin with the smallest suggested dose, and gradually increase until it has an effect.
A range of doses from 25mg to 500mg and higher has been studied in scientific research, for sleep problems, anxiety, depression, stress, appetite suppression, and other conditions.
Possible side effects of 5-HTP
5-HTP is generally well tolerated by healthy adults. Possible side effects of 5-HTP include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, excessive sleepiness, muscle spasms, and sexual problems.
People with the following conditions should consult with a physician before using a 5-HTP supplement:
• Pregnancy and breast feeding
• Surgery patients (Some surgery medications can affect serotonin. It’s generally recommended that people stop taking 5-HTP at least two weeks ahead of scheduled surgery.)
• Children. Talk with your child’s physician before beginning your child’s use of 5-HTP.
5-HTP has been linked in very rare instances to a condition known as EMS, or eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, which combines extreme muscle tenderness with abnormalities in the blood. A contaminant that was found in some tryptophan supplements in the late 1980s, and was linked to a small number of EMS cases, was also found in some 5-HTP supplements. It’s important to talk with your doctor before you begin taking 5-HTP or any other supplement, and to make sure you’re getting your supplements from a reliable provider.
The following medications and other supplements may interact with 5-HTP. Effects may include increasing or decreasing sleepiness and drowsiness, interfering with the effectiveness of the medications or supplements, and interfering with the condition that is being treated by the medication or supplement. These are lists of commonly used medications and supplements that have scientifically identified interactions with 5-HTP. People who take these or any other medications and supplements should consult with a physician before beginning to use 5-HTP.
Interactions with medications:
• Carbidopa (used to treat Parkinson’s disease)
• Dextromethorphan (found in cough medicines including Robitussin DM and others)
• Antidepressant medications
• Pain medications (including Demerol, Talwin, Tramadol and others)
• Sedative medications
Interactions with other supplements:
Using 5-HTP in combination with other herbs or supplements that may cause sleepiness or drowsiness may lead to excessive sleepiness. These herbs and supplements include but are not limited to:
• California poppy
• Jamaican dogwood
• St. John’s wort
• Yerba mansa
Using 5-HTP in combination with other herbs or supplements that increase serotonin levels may lead to too-high serotonin levels. These herbs and supplements include but are not limited to:
• Hawaiian baby woodrose
• S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
• St. John’s wort
Emotional balance and management of stress levels and mood make an enormous difference to sleep, as well as to performance, quality of life, and overall health. If these issues interfere with your sleep and your daily well being, consider speaking with your doctor about whether 5-HTP might help.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
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The Benefits of 5-HTP
If there’s one thing that everyone has in common, it’s the shared love and appreciation that we all have for a good night’s sleep. Waking up refreshed is the key to a productive day, but once duration and quality of sleep start to diminish, everything else is affected.
Similarly, depression affects the entire body and our relationships with those around us. Throughout the years, many studies have linked depression to a lack of serotonin in the body. Today, many people treat mood disorders like depression with prescribed antidepressants, or SSRIs, that increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Daily use of antidepressants is fairly common, but a study published in Harvard Health shows that these drugs can cause many side effects. These can range from insomnia and weight gain, to lack of sexual interest. These changes can have an effect on the personality, and can often lead to people choosing to opt out of antidepressants.
What is 5-HTP?
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is naturally produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan, and is a precursor to serotonin. 5-HTP can be taken orally as a natural supplement to increase levels of serotonin in the body. With higher levels of serotonin, many positive changes can occur, including mood regulation, weight loss, and healthy sleep patterns.
Adding 5-HTP to Your Supplement Stack
The benefits of 5-HTP can occur with daily intake of oral doses, as they absorb well into the bloodstream. Weight loss associated with taking 5-HTP derives from feelings of satiety, resulting in a lower daily calorie intake.
When combined with gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), 5-HTP can improve sleep latency, duration, and quality as well. A good sleep can result in a well-rested body and a focused mind. When we lack sleep, though, we risk irritability, poorer cognitive function, and weight-gain, among other things. Proper sleep patterns regulate our body’s ability to function optimally and are essential to a healthy lifestyle.
Why Choose 5-HTP?
In a 2013 placebo-controlled experiment, 73.3% of people in a test group showed a positive response to taking 5-HTP. The same study showed that 5-HTP alleviated some symptoms of depression. For those who suffer from depression, prescription medication like Prozac is an option, though it may come with the aforementioned side effects. Because 5-HTP is a natural supplement, it can be a good alternative to prescription antidepressants.
Step 1 – Talk to Your Doctor
Before taking 5-HTP, it is important to consult your doctor to ensure that it won’t interfere with any other medications, including prescribed antidepressants.
What are the risks?
Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.
- Side effects. 5-HTP supplements may cause cramping, heartburn, gas, diarrhea, irregular heartbeats, rash, and loss of appetite.
- Risks. Contaminated 5-HTP supplements led to dangerous side effects in the past. Some people have developed a life-threatening neurological condition after taking 5-HTP supplements. These supplements may have been contaminated. Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take these supplements.
- Interactions. Don’t use 5-HTP supplements if you take antidepressants. It could cause a serious interaction. Check with a doctor first if you take any other drugs, especially cough medicines, painkillers, or treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.