5-HTP, or 5-Hydroxytryptophan, is a naturally occurring compound, which is produced by the body and converted into tryptophan when metabolized. Tryptophan helps the body to produce larger amounts of serotonin. A shortage of serotonin is often evident in people exhibiting symptoms of depression and anxiety. Undoubtedly, this neurotransmitter plays a key part in maintaining a healthy mind. This is why using 5-HTP for depression is an important topic.
It is believed that hectic, stressful modern lifestyles and poor eating habits lower levels of serotonin in the body. Aggression, irritability, anxiety, worrying and impatience are all known to facilitate the release of serotonin. The body then has to replenish this serotonin from food. However, in many diets, serotonin is not present in significant amounts, so the body tries to make it from foods that have L-tryptophan in them (like oats, chocolate, dried dates, bananas, yogurt, milk, meat, cottage cheese, turkey, fish, sesame, chicken, peanuts and chickpeas). Consequently, many people crave these foods (i.e. carbohydrates and fats), particularly when they are stressed, which causes depression, weight gain, muscle aches and headaches.
5-HTP Supplements and Their Side Effects
5-HTP supplements are made using seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, which is an African plant. Sublingual, spray, time released and regular capsules or tablets of 5-HTP are sold at local markets or health food shops. They can be bought from many online retailers too. Typically, 5-HTP for depression is sold in 200 mg, 100 mg or fifty mg doses. These supplements can be purchased over the counter in Canada, the UK and the US.
Some experts think that using 5-HTP for depression is preferable to using prescription antidepressants, like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), because it works in a similar way – but without many of the undesirable side effects. Indeed, gastrointestinal disturbances are the side effects most commonly experienced with 5-HTP – such as vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Additional side effects from using 5-HTP for depression include insomnia, rapid heartbeats and headaches. These side effects normally vanish over time, and they can be reduced by lowering the dosage of 5-HTP. Care ought to be exercised, particularly when taking 5-HTP with antidepressants like SSRIs, SNRIs (Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) and MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors). Prior to using such combinations, it is important to consult a doctor, otherwise the combination might cause serotonin syndrome, which is a type of serotonin toxicity.
Many people regard antidepressants as a long term or lifetime commitment, because stopping them suddenly – with no tapering off – can result in horrible symptoms like panic attacks, or a severe relapse of depression. In contrast, using a natural compound, like 5-HTP for depression, does not usually result in any withdrawal symptoms. 5-HTP is an indirect, gentle and more subtle therapy for boosting serotonin levels. Notwithstanding, when taking 5-HTP for depression, it is always sensible to cut down on the use of natural therapies, to minimize any potential sensitivities or symptoms.
Numerous clinical tests have demonstrated the effectiveness of using 5-HTP for depression. For instance, in a clinical trial lasting six weeks, sixty-three test subjects were given either an antidepressant (fluvoxamine, fifty mg three times daily), or 5-HTP (100 mg three times daily). 5-HTP was shown to work just as well as fluvoxamine, with less side effects.
Crossing the Blood/Brain Barrier
Unlike serotonin, 5-HTP is able to access the brain via the bloodstream. This is why many physicians recommend using 5-HTP for depression, rather than a serotonin supplement. To gain access to the brain, compounds and chemicals have to cross the blood/brain barrier. Both tryptophan and 5-HTP can cross this barrier, but it is easier for 5-HTP to do this. This is because tryptophan uses the same transport mechanisms as other amino acids, like isoleucine, valine and leucine. 5-HTP gets converted into serotonin in liver tissues and in the nervous system. Because serotonin can not cross the blood/brain barrier, only the 5-HTP that enters the brain can generate the serotonin required to have a psychoactive effect on the central nervous system’s neurons.
How Women can Benefit From Using 5 HTP for Depression
Using 5-HTP for depression is known to boost the amount of serotonin inside the cerebrospinal fluid, and the plasma concentration of this neurotransmitter. Conversely, SNRIs and SSRIs function by stopping serotonin from being removed from nerve endings. This enables serotonin to work for longer. Women do not metabolize serotonin like men do. Actually, the liver enzyme that breaks down serotonin is more active in women than it is in men. Various studies have shown that women accumulate more serotonin inside their brain neurons than men do, and that they are more responsive to changes in serotonin levels. Furthermore, 5 HT receptors in women are highly sensitive to estrogen. Female depression sufferers also have a smaller L-tryptophan plasma concentration than male depression sufferers. This is why women gain considerable benefits from taking 5 HTP for depression.