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5-HTP Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Contraindications

What is 5 HTP

      5 HTP is the metabolic precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Tryptophane, an essential amino acid, is metabolized into 5-HTP by the body. 5 HTP is in turn, converted into the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for mood, hunger and sleep. Antidepressant drugs approved by the FDA, including selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's), are said to work by increasing the amount of serotonin available to the brain. 5 HTP, therefore, may for some individuals, serve as a natural alternative to some prescription SSRI type drugs.

      Supplementing either Tryptophane or 5 HTP increases Serotonin levels by supplying more of the building block material needed to make this neurotransmitter. Low levels of Serotonin have been associated with depression, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, altered mood, insomnia, PMS, and headaches. Both tryptophane and 5 HTP are sometimes used as nutritional support for these conditions. 5 HTP is about five times more potent than Tryptophane for this application.

5 HTP for Mood Elevation, Depression and Panic Attacks

      According to medical journals and reviews it has been proven that 5 HTP helps improve the mood of depressed patients and helps panic attacks. The same sources generally recommended that more research on 5 HTP should be done before claims were made.

5 HTP for Sleep and Weight Loss

      5 HTP may aid in weight loss and improve sleep patterns for some individuals. Research suggests that good serotonin levels may reduce appetite thereby assisting in weight loss. Serotonin is converted into melatonin in the pineal gland and melatonin, in turn, regulates sleep cycles. The theory is that if 5 HTP can increase serotonin levels, it may be able to improve sleep and aid in weight loss. In the medical articles reviewed, positive results have been reported but the authors caution that more research is needed before claims can be made.

5 HTP Dosage

      As with all nutritional supplements or medications, individual response is a variable. It is clear that large excesses of serotonin in the peripheral circulation can cause cardiovascular disease and other adverse effects. Too much 5 HTP in the diet could potentially result in too much serotonin in the peripheral circulation.

      Some sources suggest that 5 HTP can be safely used as a nutritional supplement at a dosage of up to 100 milligrams (mg) per day. Some authorities maintain that much larger dosages can be consumed without adverse effects. Some also suggest that 5 HTP, especially in larger doses should be used with the prescription drug carbidopa. The purpose of this drug is to prevent the 5 HTP from being converted to serotonin in the peripheral circulation.

5 HTP Precautions & Side Effects

      5 HTP is available without prescription and is generally considered safe and may be beneficial for many individuals. Contraindications to 5 HTP use or conditions under which 5 HTP use should only be under the supervision of a physician are conditions in which increased serotonin levels may be harmful. This list is generic and does not represent a contraindication for all individuals. Obtaining professional advice is advised, especially if prescription medications are also being used.

  1. Cardiovascular Diseases (high blood pressure, post-stroke, post-heart attack)
  2. Extremely Elderly Persons
  3. those with Parkinsons Disease, Cancer or Autoimmune Diseases (Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus)
  4. Lung Diseases
  5. Chronic Alcoholism
  6. Liver diseases (hepatitis or cirrhosis)
  7. Parasitic Infection
  8. AIDS
  9. Anorexia Nervosa
  10. Low protein Diets
  11. Allergies (severe)
  12. Myalgia (persistent pain and weakness of the muscles)
  13. Peripheral Neuropathy (pain weakness of the muscles)
  14. Rash or Flushing
  15. Edema
  16. Nausea
  17. Diarrhea
  18. Sickle cell anemia
  19. Hemophilia
  20. Pregnancy

      Concurrent drug use: 5 HTP should not be used if taking:

  1. Anti-depressant drugs
  2. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  3. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's e.g., Prozac)
  4. Tricyclic medications
  5. Weight Loss medications (i.e., dextenfluramine)
  6. Anti-parkinson medications (e.g., L-dopa)
  7. Barbiturates and other tranquilizing drugs
  8. Antihistamines and cold medications
  9. Alcoholic beverages
  10. Intravenous (illegal I.V.) drugs
  11. Cancer Chemotherapy
  12. Antibiotic Medications

      The principal reason for not combining 5-htp with these classes of medications is that many of them may also increase serotonin levels or affect other neurotransmitters, but by different biochemical mechanisms. The combination, in some cases, has the potential of acting synergistically to dramatically increase serotonin levels. This combined action could have adverse effects.

      While tryptophan is less potent than 5htp, it may also be safer to use. Its effectiveness is enhanced by the inclusion of synergestic factors including lysine, niacin and synergistic herbal extracts.

      Alcohol and 5-HTP should not be taken together. Allow at least six hours between use of alcohol and 5 HTP.

Warning: 5 HTP can increase the effect of some tranquilizing drugs.

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Disclaimer: The information in this article and on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. None of the products mentioned in this article or on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained from a medical professional. This information is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing medical, psychological, or nutritional counseling services on this site. The information on this Web site does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, and interactions. Liability for individual actions or omissions based upon the contents of this site is expressly disclaimed. This information has not been evaluated or approved by the U.S. FDA.

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