5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is a known dietary supplement made from the seeds of griffonia simplicifolia, a plant indigenous to Central and West Africa. A majority of those who take it have easy tolerance for it. Not to mention that, based on 5 HTP depression review submissions, it causes very few side effects, with majority of users not experiencing side effects at all.
How Serotonin and Depression are Linked
What many antidepressant medications do is raise serotonin to acceptable levels. 5-HTP, short for 5-Hydroxytryptophan, is produced naturally by the body to act as precursor to serotonin, the “happiness” neurotransmitter as well as melatonin, the “sleep” hormone. When 5-HTP is in short supply, serotonin levels become low and may cause underlying depression symptoms.
Research shows that depression and serotonin deficiency are interconnected. Serotonin plays a crucial role in relaying signals from one part of your brain to another. It is significant in psychological functions and responsible for general well-being and the feelings of calm. Of the brain’s 40 million cells, most are indirectly or directly influenced by serotonin.
The Preference for Natural Treatments
This includes memory, temperament, sleep, social behavior, learning, and appetite. The mood of a person can be altered by an imbalanced serotonin level and can lead, ultimately, to chronic depression. This is the reason why commonly-prescribed antidepressants are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, like Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc.
These SSRIs help change serotonin levels in your brain to alter the way in which your brain cells are able to send as well as receive chemical signals and messages. These medications, however, have chemicals in them which most people would have second thoughts about ingesting. More and more individuals who suffer from depression would rather undergo natural treatments.
Determining Serotonin Deficiency Symptoms
Here are some ways with which you can determine if what you have are symptoms of serotonin deficiency that can lead to depression:
- You feel and think pessimistic, cynical, gloomy, and distrustful emotions and thoughts, respectively, on a regular basis.
- Depression is often experienced more by women more than by men, so if you’re a woman you’re more likely to be at risk for this condition.
- You crave starches and sweets, foods that increase serotonin levels temporarily. These processed simple carbohydrates have a harmful effect on your brain which depletes its serotonin supply.
- Insomnia has been your constant evening companion because you wake up after having slept only a few hours, or in the middle of the night, and are not able to go back and sleep.
- Self-esteem is something you are having less and less of and you feel guilty or critical of yourself either about something you haven’t done, are currently doing or not having done yet.
- You feel apprehensive, have panic attacks or worry more often than usual. Serotonin deficiency can manifest itself as false fear, worry, extreme shyness or phobia.
- Studies have shown that serotonin deficiency is linked to impulsive behavior, erratic behavior, overeating, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and alcohol or substance abuse.
- Conditions of Temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, syndrome (grinding, tension, and pain related to your jaw), migraines, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia (unexplainable muscle pain), asthma or obesity have indicated low levels of serotonin.
Any of the mentioned symptoms may cause depression and increasing serotonin levels will be the only real solution to prevent it. 5-HTP is convertible to serotonin and melatonin. Treating depression with 5-HTP is one of the safest and most natural ways, according to numerous clinical studies that have confirmed its efficacy with genuine antidepressant properties.
Taking a 5-HTP supplement between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM, with the lowest dose of 50mg on an empty stomach, and then again before bedtime is how it typically works for you. According to the Nutritional Supplements and Health Guide, the 5-HTP dosage for depression should be a 50mg capsule taken between one and four times a day.
After taking it for three days at the mentioned dosage, it is usually increased to 100mg at each of the mentioned times. If this proves to be ineffective from four to six weeks of taking it, the evening dose is usually increased to 200mg. Including B-complex vitamins in the diet can also boost the efficacy of 5-HTP since these are partners in the metabolizing it.
The Silver Lining of the FDA Ban on Tryptophan
Although tryptophan supplements have been useful of treating depression and other anxiety disorders, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited both its manufacture and sale in the country since 1988, the result of a single contaminated batch from Japan that was imported to the U.S. in the 80s. Despite evidence that this ban is unnecessary, the FDA has maintained it.
This ban has led consumers to turn to expensive and dangerous drug alternatives to relieve their depression, something that they could otherwise have benefited from with tryptophan, an essential amino acid from which your body produces not only 5-HTP but serotonin, melatonin, enzymes, biochemicals (including niacin or vitamin B3), and other structural proteins.
The silver lining in the FDA ban, however, is the emergence of 5-HTP to take center stage. Some studies have indicated that it may be better than its tryptophan source in treating serotonin deficiency. Although no reported adverse side effects have been reported in the use of 5-HTP, it should not be used if depression is present together with the following existing conditions:
- It should not be taken when certain pharmaceuticals including those intended to lower blood pressure, cure migraines, and treat Parkinson’s disease are also being taken.
- Do not take 5-HTP if you are taking other supplements such as Hawaiian baby woodrose, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) or St. John’s Wort, which also have anti-depressant properties.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women who have depression should not take 5-HTP during pregnancy or while nursing their infants because its effect on fetal development or nursing babies has not been established.
- Those who have bipolar affective disorder of BPAD should never take any kind of supplement such as 5-HTP that increases serotonin levels because it will cause excess serotonin.
5-HTP supplements should not be taken by those who are already on supplements that boost serotonin levels since they should increase beyond normal limits.
Avoid an Overdose or the Serotonin Syndrome
Starting off with the lowest dose is always the safest way to take it. Don’t make the mistake of overdosing on 5-HTP and risk acquiring a condition called the serotonin syndrome. You shouldn’t also take it on prolonged periods to avoid dependency on it. Discuss your possible use of 5-HTP with a certified health care practitioner, your doctor or a medical professional before even taking a 5-HTP supplement in any form.
How much 5 HTP for depression should you take? Remember that it is not a magic pill that can eliminate depression overnight. Any treatment that acts on your brain’s neurotransmitters need to be taken at a regulated pace before results are obtained. Some people may want to take 5-HTP in increased doses after a few days in their wrong notion that they can get better faster. But it’s always best to follow the dosage stated in the product label.