What is 5-HTP?
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that is the middle step between tryptophan and the important brain chemical serotonin. There is ample evidence that low serotonin levels are a common consequence of modern lifestyle. The lifestyle and eating habits of many people living in stressful regions lead to a low level of serotonin in the brain.
As a result, many people are overweight, suffer from cravings for sugar and other carbohydrates, have to deal with depression at times, and often suffer from headaches or indefinite muscle pains and sore muscles. All of these symptoms can be offset by an increase in serotonin levels.
Scientists and researchers finally discovered a breakthrough dietary supplement that safely and efficiently increases serotonin levels and reduces depression, obesity, insomnia, migraines, and anxiety. This dietary supplement is called 5-HTP.
Symptoms related to low serotonin levels that can be alleviated by 5-HTP:
- Tension headache
- Chronic daily headache
- Premenstrual syndrome
Although 5-HTP is relatively new to us, intensive research has been carried out over the past three decades. It has been available in several countries since the 1970s.
What are the advantages of 5-HTP over L-tryptophan?
5-HTP has several advantages over L-tryptophan. First, 5-HTP is often more effective than L-tryptophan because it can be converted to serotonin faster. 5-HTP is obtained from a natural source: the seed of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia). L-tryptophan is produced using fermentation.
5-HTP is a safe and natural alternative to medication to increase serotonin levels in the brain. 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), the direct predecessor of serotonin, is effectively absorbed into the bloodstream and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier to create an optimal serotonin balance in the brain.
5-HTP has been shown to be more effective than L-tryptophan because it is chemically one step closer to serotonin. However, there are also people in whom L-tryptophan works better than 5-HTP. Experience shows that the effects of 5-HTP, but also tryptophan, can vary from person to person. Therefore, nutritionists recommend testing one of the two and switching to the other if necessary if the desired effect does not occur.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is absolutely essential for the proper functioning of your brain and your body. A neurotransmitter is a substance in the body that transports vital signals between cells. A serotonin deficiency means that these signals are not transmitted correctly.
Serotonin is a particularly important neurotransmitter because it regulates the activity of many other important brain components. Low serotonin levels have dramatic negative effects and have been linked to diseases ranging from depression to fibromyalgia and insomnia.
5-HTP could revolutionise the treatment of mental and physical illnesses related to serotonin. It has been used effectively in Europe for decades.
Current clinical studies confirm that therapeutic administration of 5-HTP is an effective treatment for depression, fibromyalgia, cravings, chronic headaches, and insomnia.
Note: The information provided here should not be used to diagnose or treat a disease. A doctor should be consulted for the diagnosis and treatment of all diseases. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
You should not use this information to diagnose a health problem or illness without consulting a qualified healthcare provider. Please contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your illness.
For depression, weight loss, headache, and fibromyalgia, the dosage should start at 50mg three times a day. If the desired effect does not appear after two weeks, you should increase the dose to 100mg three times a day.
Since 5-HTP does not require the same transportation methods as L-tryptophan, it can be taken with meals. If you are taking 5-HTP for weight loss, it should be taken 20 minutes before a meal.
For insomnia, we recommend taking 100 to 300mg about 30-45 minutes before bed. Start with the lower dose for at least three days before increasing the dose.
Yes. In fact, the two work very well together. St. John's wort extract has shown in over 25 double-blind studies that it is more effective than antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression. In more severe cases, I recommend taking 5-HTP with St. John's wort extract.
Make sure you take the St. John's wort extract standardised to 0.3% hypericin. The dosage of this extract is usually 300mg three times a day. When taking in conjunction with 5-HTP, I recommend taking 50 - 100mg of 5-HTP and 150 - 300mg of St. John's wort extract three times a day.
5-HTP side effects
5-HTP seems to be well tolerated as there are few and relatively minor side effects, of which nausea is the most common. However, very high doses of 5-HTP should be avoided as these can lead to extremely high serotonin levels, which has negative effects.
5-HTP is better tolerated than SSRI medication.
Possible side effects of SSRI medication:
- Changes in eyesight
Important intake instructions
5-HTP should not be taken with antidepressants unless the intake is monitored by a doctor, as 5-HTP can increase the activity of these medications.
5-HTP should not be taken by pregnant women, nursing mothers, and people with severe cardiovascular diseases.
High doses of 5-HTP can greatly increase serotonin levels in the blood, which can cause temporary nausea. Therefore, do not take more than 900mg a day.
Like any dietary supplement, 5-HTP can also be misused. With reasonable dosage and use, however, it has proven to be a safe and effective nutritional supplement.
5-HTP and insomnia
Do you suffer from insomnia? Having trouble falling asleep? Having trouble sleeping through the night? Do you wake up in the morning and feel sleepy and exhausted?
If so, you are not alone. In reality, one in three people suffer from insomnia - the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep.
How 5-HTP improves the natural sleep
This is the reason: Sleep can be divided into several cycles. A normal sleep pattern includes four to seven cycles that are spread over the night. Each cycle consists of two main parts.
The first part includes slowing brain activity and reducing the level of consciousness. We do not dream in this phase. The second phase of the cycle is called REM sleep, which is where you dream.
5-HTP helps you 'smooth out' irregularities in sleep patterns and promote deeper, more relaxing sleep.
Studies have shown that 5-HTP improves sleep quality by greatly extending the REM phase and prolonging the deep sleep phases of non-REM sleep without changing the overall sleep time.
This is an advantage over many prescription sleeping pills, which can actually worsen insomnia by disrupting the normal sleep pattern.
These drugs tend to disrupt the REM phase and the non-REM deep sleep phases, resulting in a superficial sleep that offers little benefit to you.
In contrast, 5-HTP improves REM and deep sleep phases by increasing the levels of serotonin, which is the fuel your brain needs to regulate sleep activity.
Note: If you have been taking prescription medication for more than four weeks, you should not suddenly stop taking the medication. Talk to your doctor about ways to gradually stop taking the drug to minimise or avoid potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
5-HTP's ability to improve sleep includes regulating the hormone melatonin, a hormone that many people take as a sleep aid. However, 5-HTP has been shown to be more effective in promoting restful sleep as it promotes the release of melatonin through the pineal gland in the brain.
Therefore, taking 5-HTP improves the body's natural cycle of melatonin production and release without causing daytime sleepiness.
The positive effects of 5-HTP on insomnia were first discovered in studies by Dr. Richard J. Wyatt at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and by Dr. Vincent Zarcone discovered at Stanford University. These studies showed that 5-HTP changes the length of REM sleep, depending on the dosage chosen.
The neurotransmitter serotonin is crucial for falling asleep and staying asleep. As a direct predecessor of serotonin, 5-HTP promotes restful, high-quality sleep that allows you to wake up rested and rested in the morning and start the new day.
How does 5-HTP compare to melatonin in the treatment of insomnia?
5-HTP could prove to be better than melatonin. Several clinical studies have shown that 5-HTP achieved good results in promoting and maintaining sleep in normal test subjects as well as those suffering from insomnia. One of the main benefits of 5-HTP for treating insomnia is the ability to improve sleep quality.
5-HTP and depression
Everyone feels bad every now and then. However, if your depressed mood lasts longer than two weeks or interferes with your daily activities, it could be something worse: Depression.
Below are the diagnostic criteria for depression based on: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C., 1994.
Diagnosis criteria A and A2:
At least one of the following three abnormal moods that severely affect the person's life:
- Abnormal depressed mood for much of the day, almost every day, for at least 2 weeks.
- Abnormal loss of interest and pleasure for most of the day, almost every day, for at least 2 weeks.
- If 18 years of age or younger, abnormally irritable mood for most of the day, almost every day, for at least 2 weeks.
At least five of the following symptoms arose during the same, 2 week depression phase:
- Abnormal depressive mood (or irritable mood if a child or adolescent) - as defined in criteria A.
- Appetite or weight disorders: - either: - Abnormal weight loss (without diet) or reduced appetite - Abnormal weight gain or increased appetite
- Sleep disorders, either abnormal insomnia or abnormal hypersomnia
- Activity disorders, either abnormal movement or slowdown (observable by others)
- Abnormal exhaustion or loss of energy
- Abnormal self-blame or inappropriate guilt
- Abnormally poor concentration or indecisiveness
- Abnormal morbid thoughts about death (not just fear of death) or suicide
Note: This list of criteria is for information only and is not intended to diagnose any type of disease. Contact a mental health specialist for a correct diagnosis.
Depression can affect anyone
Depression is not something you just imagine. It is not a personal weakness and it cannot be defeated by the will - just like heart disease or diabetes cannot be cured by thought. It is a real disease caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The good news is that help is available.
A breakthrough in the treatment of depression was the development of SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These antidepressants work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, which have often been shown to be too low in depression.
However, there is a natural alternative to SSRI that can also increase serotonin levels in the brain: 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). 5-HTP easily penetrates the brain, where it is converted to serotonin.
Numerous study results confirm the effect
Since the early 1970s, at least 15 studies on 511 subjects have assessed the clinical effects of 5-HTP on depression. The overall result of these studies showed a significant improvement in 56% of the test subjects.
One of these studies that looked at the effectiveness of 5-HTP as an antidepressant included 59 patients taking 150-300mg of 5-HTP daily. The result was incredible. 40 of the patients (68%) showed a positive reaction, most within a week.
When the numbers were summed up at the end of the study, the average success rate for those taking 5-HTP was slightly higher.
The side effects were mild and usually disappeared in the first few days, with 5-HTP better tolerable than SSRI. The tolerance of 5-HTP was rated as good or very good by 95% of the patients.
A side note: Some researchers discovered that 5-HTP's antidepressant effect was increased when L-Tyrosine combined with.
However, it is not advisable to stop taking medication without consulting your doctor first.
However, if you suspect you are depressed and suspicious of current medications like fluoxetine, 5-HTP may be the natural alternative you've been looking for.
Has the use of 5-HTP to treat depression been studied?
Yes. In fact, there is excellent documentation to show that 5-HTP is an effective anti-depressant. 5-HTP often gave very good results in patients who do not respond to normal antidepressants.
One of the most impressive studies was done on 90 patients suffering from 'therapy-resistant' depression. These patients did not respond to previous therapies, including all available antidepressants and electro-seizure therapy. These therapy-resistant patients received 5-HTP in an average dose of 200 mg per day, which however varied between 50 and 600 mg per day.
43 of the 99 patients were completely healed, a further 8 showed a significant improvement. Such significant improvements in patients suffering from long-term, unresponsive depression are very impressive and led the author of another study to state that '5-HTP deserves a place in the forefront of antidepressants rather than as a last resort to be applied.
I have not used an active ingredient in 20 years that: 1) works so quickly; 2) makes the patients completely who they used to be and who their partners knew; [and] 3) is completely without side effects.'
Are there also studies in which 5-HTP was compared directly with antidepressants?
Yes, there are several. 5-HTP is equal to or better than standard antidepressants and the side effects are much less. The most significant study compared it to fluvoxamine, a selective inhibitor of serotonin reuptake.
Subjects received either 5-HTP (100 mg) or fluvoxamine (50 mg) three times a day for 6 weeks. The percentage decrease in total depression values was slightly higher in the 5-HTP group (60.7% vs. 56.1%). 5-HTP responded to more patients than fluvoxamine, and 5-HTP was faster than fluvoxamine.
The real benefit of 5-HTP in this study was the minor side effects. Here is how doctors described the differences between the two groups:
'Even though the number of patients suffering from side effects did not differ significantly between the two treatment groups, the interaction between the severity and the type of medication was highly significant: fluvoxamine led to moderate to severe, 5-HTP mainly mild side effects .'
The most common side effects of 5-HTP were nausea, heartburn, and gastrointestinal problems (flatulence, satiety and rumbling feelings). These side effects were rated as very mild to mild. In contrast, most of the fluvoxamine group's side effects were described as moderate to severe.
How can 5-HTP help people suffering from headaches?
Since people with chronic headaches have low levels of serotonin in their tissues, many researchers refer to migraines and chronic headaches as 'low serotonin syndrome'.
There have been several clinical studies that examined 5-HTP to treat headaches - both migraines and tension headaches - which gave excellent results. In particular, the use of 5-HTP to prevent migraines offers significant advantages over drug therapy.
Although a variety of medication has proven to be useful in preventing migraines, all of them have side effects. In contrast, 5-HTP is very safe.
5-HTP - Headaches and migraines
We all suffer from headaches from time to time. For some people, however, their intensity and frequency are so high that they affect the quality of life. Painkillers help only minimally for many. In fact, they can actually make the problem worse.
As with fibromyalgia, persistent headaches appear to be the result of low serotonin levels. 5-HTP increases serotonin levels, thus correcting the biochemical defect that can cause headaches.
Over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches. Sixteen to eighteen million of them suffer from migraines. The industry loses $ 50 billion a year from headaches.
Many suffer from intense, chronic and disabling pain. However, these can be prevented.
There are two types of headaches: vascular and non-vascular
Vascular headaches are caused by excessive dilation of the blood vessels in the head. The pulsating pain is the result of the blood that is pumped through these vessels with every heartbeat. Migraine is a form of vascular headache.
The good news is that serotonin constricts blood vessels and reduces pain. The effects of 5-HTP on serotonin therefore make it a valuable means of preventing these types of headaches.
It was determined, that persons are less likely to suffer from pain the more serotonin is available. This may be due to the fact that 5-HTP affects the amount of endorphin. Endorphins, which are chemically related to morphine, are the body's natural pain reliever.
There is growing evidence that 5-HTP can increase endorphin levels by releasing serotonin, which regulates the production and release of endorphins.
A study showed a significant improvement in headaches in 71% of people
A study of the effect of 5-HTP in the treatment of headaches in 124 people who had migraines showed that 71% of all test subjects who were given 5-HTP reported a significant improvement.
Researchers at the Institute for Pain Research and Treatment at the University of Milan found that 77.4 to 93.5 percent of all patients who suffer from chronic headaches experience an improvement when they take 5-HTP. The study lasted two months and the results improved continuously the longer 5-HTP was taken.
Food and lifestyle recommendations to reduce headaches:
- Eat a wholesome diet (whole grains, leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds)
- Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and sugar
- Identify and control food allergies
- Do sports on a regular basis
- Perform relaxation exercises every day for ten to fifteen minutes (deep breathing, meditation, prayers, visualisation etc.)
- Drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day
- Avoid foods and drinks that contain histamine (such as chocolate, cheese, wine, and beer), as histamine can trigger migraines
Recommended use of 5-HTP against headaches:
100 mg to 200 mg three times a day. The improvement can be observed increasing over several months.
5-HTP is not a miracle cure and does not work for everyone. But it works for many people. If you suffer from chronic headaches, you should consider taking a natural and proven 5-HTP dietary supplement.
5-HTP and fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is characterised by general pain, exhaustion, morning stiffness, and sleep disorders. It is a constant and gnawing general pain that severely affects people's ability to function.
The pain generally affects the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, or knees, and is usually more common in the morning.
Fibromyalgia is associated with low serotonin levels
As discussed in a study on fibromyalgia and migraines, increasing serotonin levels could have a direct impact on reducing the transmission of pain signals. The more serotonin there is, the less susceptible you are to pain.
The fact that 5-HTP affects endorphin levels supports this theory. Endorphins are chemicals associated with morphine and are considered to be the body's pain reliever.
Increasing evidence shows that 5-HTP can increase endorphin levels by increasing serotonin levels, which regulate the production and release of endorphins.
Diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia
In order for fibromyalgia to be diagnosed, the patient must meet all three main criteria and four or more sub-criteria.
- General pain or stiffness in at least three anatomical locations that last for at least three months
- Six or more typical, persistent tender points
- Exclusion from other diseases that can cause similar symptoms
- General exhaustion
- Chronic headache
- Sleep disorders
- Neurological and psychological complaints
- Joint swelling
- Numbness or tingling
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Study showed a reduction in pain by 5-HTP
A 90-day study found that 5-HTP reduced the symptoms of fibromyalgia in 50 patients. Anxiety, tender points, pain intensity, exhaustion, and sleep quality improved significantly.
Another study found similar results in reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. (Sarzi, Caruso, et al. 1992; Caruso, Sarzi, et al. 1990)
In fibromyalgia, fatigue is caused by a lack of deep, restful sleep (4th stage). People who suffer from fibromyalgia tend not to experience deep sleep phases in the sleep cycles, which means that they spend most of the night in the first stage of the sleep cycle. (Harding, et al; 1998)
5-HTP helps patients with fibromyalgia improve sleep quality. (Juhl, 1998)
The combination of 5-HTP (100mg), St. John's wort extract (300mg) and magnesium (200 to 250mg) was found to work three times a day better than all of these products alone.
Note: the maximum benefit is generally seen after four weeks of continuous use.
Fibromyalgia is a real danger and the pain patients suffer is unimaginable. There are real reasons for these pain conditions, for example low serotonin levels. The good news is - and many people can already confirm this based on experience - that 5-HTP addresses precisely these reasons and thus provides pain relief.
What is fibromyalgia and how can 5-HTP help?
Fibromyalgia is a recently recognised disease that is considered to be a common cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is a relatively common disease that affects around 4% of the population. The diagnosis assumes that all three main criteria and at least four of the sub-criteria have been met.
The history of 5-HTP as an effective treatment for fibromyalgia began with studies on the fenclonin drug. This drug blocks the enzyme that converts tryptophan into 5-HTP, thereby blocking serotonin production.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the prevailing opinion was that increased serotonin production promoted migraines (later the opposite was proven, e.g. increased serotonin levels reduce the occurrence of migraines).
The researchers discovered that people suffering from headaches experienced severe muscle pain when taking fenclonin. This effect was contrary to expectations, but led to important advances in fibromyalgia research and an explanation for the origin of the strong symptoms.
The researchers also discovered that people who suffered from migraines reacted much more strongly to the drug than people who did not suffer from headaches. Fenclonin did not induce fibromyalgia in most normal subjects. These observations show how sensitively people who suffer from migraines react to low serotonin levels.
Migraines and fibromyalgia have a common characteristic: both are diseases that are characterised by low serotonin levels. After more than 25 years of research, one of the leading scientists stated: 'In our opinion, and in the opinion of other pain specialists, 5-HTP can greatly reduce the painful characteristics of primary fibromyalgia'. Double-blind studies support this finding.
5-HTP and weight loss
One of the biggest obstacles to successful weight loss programs is the tendency towards diet cravings. This is where 5-HTP comes in.
It has been shown that the desire for carbohydrates and the subsequent cravings can be linked to low serotonin levels. An increase in serotonin levels in the brain can therefore contribute to the success of a weight loss diet.
5-HTP is the direct precursor to serotonin, which means that it is converted to serotonin in the body. 5-HTP easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and promotes an optimal serotonin balance in the brain in a similar way to prescription weight loss products.
Initial study results prove the success
Numerous scientifically controlled clinical studies have shown that 5-HTP is effective in weight loss programs.
Such a study by the University of Rome assessed the effects of 5-HTP (300 mg three times a day) on the eating habits and diet programs for weight loss in 20 overweight women.
The twelve-week study period was divided into two six-week sections. Patients took either 5-HTP or placebo for the first six weeks, but no dietary restrictions were prescribed. During the second six-week period, study participants were put on a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet while continuing to take either 5-HTP or a placebo.
The participants in the placebo group did not observe any significant weight loss after the two time periods, while the test subjects in the 5-HTP group reported significant weight loss in the first and second time periods.
The placebo group also showed no significant changes in calorie intake - not even in the second period when it was recommended to reduce food intake.
The 5-HTP group, on the other hand, benefited from a significant, spontaneous reduction in food consumption from 3,220 calories to 1,879 calories per day in the first period - the carbohydrate intake was reduced by 50 percent !!
In the second period, the calorie intake of the 5-HTP group decreased even further and dropped to 1,268 calories per day - the carbohydrates were also further reduced.
The researchers interpreted these findings as confirmation of the theory that 5-HTP reduces cravings for carbohydrates and eating due to food cravings - even without a structured diet.
How should you take 5-HTP while on a diet?
As part of a weight loss diet program, it is recommended to take 5-HTP 20 minutes before each meal as it acts as a natural appetite suppressant and reduces the desire for carbohydrates.
Start with 100mg three times a day. If the desired result is not achieved after four weeks, increase the dose to 200mg three times a day.
A dose of up to 300mg three times a day was well tolerated, but you should never exceed 900mg per day. Slight nausea is sometimes observed at higher doses, but is usually temporary.
How does 5-HTP affect weight loss?
As early as 1976, researchers demonstrated that rats taking 5-HTP ate too much due to breeding and were prone to obesity led to a sharp reduction in food intake. These rats were found to have less activity from the enzyme that converts tryptophan to 5-HTP and then to serotonin.
In other words, the rats were too thick due to a genetically low level of activity of the enzyme, which triggers the production of serotonin from tryptophan. Therefore, these rats never received the signal to stop eating until they had consumed much more food than normal rats.
There is ample evidence that many people are prone to obesity due to genetic factors. This tendency can include the same mechanisms observed in rats that are genetically prone to obesity.
In other words, many people tend to be overweight because their conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP is reduced, which also lowers serotonin levels. By administering 5-HTP, this genetic defect is avoided and more serotonin is produced. 5-HTP stops the hunger.
Studies with 5-HTP showed a loss of weight
Early animal testing using 5-HTP as a weight loss product was followed by a series of three human clinical trials conducted by the University of Rome on overweight women.
The first study showed that 5-HTP can reduce calorie intake and promote weight loss without the women consciously trying to lose weight. The average weight loss during the five-week period of taking a 5-HTP supplement was around 1.4 kilograms.
The second study aimed to determine whether 5-HTP could help overweight people follow dietary recommendations. The twelve-week study was divided into two six-week sections. There were no nutritional recommendations in the first six weeks, and the women followed a 1,200-calorie diet in the second six weeks.
The women who received a placebo lost about 1 kg, while the women who took 5-HTP lost about 4.7 kg. As in the previous study, 5-HTP seemed to promote weight loss by triggering the feeling of satiety - a feeling of satisfaction - which leads to low calorie intake during meals. Every woman who took 5-HTP reported a feeling of satiety earlier.
In the third study regarding 5-HTP, there were no nutritional recommendations in the first six weeks. For the next six weeks, the women were on a daily 1200 calorie diet.
The results of this study were more impressive than those of the previous studies for several reasons. The group taking the 5-HTP lost an average of around 2 kilograms in six weeks and an average of around 5.3 kilograms in 12 weeks.
In comparison, the placebo group had lost an average of only around 0.3 kg in six weeks and around 0.8 kg in twelve weeks. The placebo group's lack of weight loss after six weeks confirms the fact that women had trouble sticking to the diet.
A previous feeling of satiety was registered by 100 percent of the test subjects during the first six weeks. Over the next six weeks, 90 percent of women taking 5-HTP reported a previous feeling of fullness, despite a greatly reduced calorie intake.
Many of the women who took 5-HTP (300 mg three times a day) reported mild nausea during the first six weeks of therapy. However, the symptoms were not severe enough to persuade women to drop out of the study. No other side effects have been reported.
5-HTP does not interfere with normal serotonin delivery, reuptake, and excretion. 5-HTP is not a synthetic drug - it is an amino acid that is normally formed by your body's metabolism.
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