If you have looked into natural remedies for depression, anxiety or mood support you may have run into the supplement 5-HTP. As many of you may know, I am someone who addresses LIFESTYLE Behaviors FIRST, then we will look at your GUT INTEGRITY, your hormones and then (or in addition too) will look at using supportive supplements.
That is why, if you are going to start looking for supportive supplements, we want to share with you our take on them so that you can feel informed by your decision to add them to your healthy lifestyle regiment.
Here we go! 🙂
As a Functional Medicine Health Coach, we always want to start out with a quick disclaimer.
In considering adding in supportive supplementation, make sure you first check with your healthcare provider and do some quality research about the supplement before adding it to your regiment.
Last, keep in mind that most supplements are IN ADDITION to a healthy lifestyle and not meant to replace making those behavior changes.
5-HTP has become a recent FAVORITE supplement for many of my lady leaders. Here I will give you the brief 411,
- What is 5-HTP
- Possible Side Effects
- Contraindications (SSRI’s Poor gut integrity)
What is 5-HTP
5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for mood regulation, cognition and has been shown to play a role in digestion, as well as sleep.
Benefits/Uses of 5-HTP
As mentioned above, 5-HTP has also been shown to help with anxiety and depression due to the increase in serotonin synthesis (keep reading for the important contraindication for this below).
In fact, several small studies have found that 5-HTP reduced symptoms of depression. However, two of them did not use placebos for comparison, limiting the strength of their findings.
Similarly, another analysis concluded that 5-HTP may help treat depression.
It may help improve sleep quality because you increase your serotonin which is a precursor for making melatonin. However, I have had some clients who can’t take it at night but do well taking it during the day so try it earlier in the day if you decide to give it a try.
If taking it later in the day, pairing it with other supplements that give off a calming effect tends to enhance the sleep quality benefits (examples of calming supplements that I like are GABA and theanine).
5-HTP has also been shown to help aid in weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness. In one study, 20 people with diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. The results showed that those who received 5-HTP consumed approximately 435 fewer calories per day, compared to the placebo group (Trusted Source).
What’s more, 5-HTP primarily inhibited the intake of calories from carbohydrates, which was associated with better blood sugar control.
Possible Side Effects
Some people may experience nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain when taking 5-HTP supplements. These side effects are dose-dependent, meaning they get worse when increasing your dose.
To minimize these side effects, start with a dose of 50–100 mg two times per day and increase to the appropriate dose over a two-week period (40Trusted Source).
Some medications increase serotonin production. Combining these medications with 5-HTP may cause dangerous serotonin levels in your body. This is called serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Medications that may increase your body’s serotonin levels include certain antidepressants, cough medicines or prescription pain relievers.
Since 5-HTP may also promote sleep, taking it with prescription sedative medications, such as Klonopin, Ativan or Ambien, may cause too much sleepiness.
Due to the potential for negative interactions with other medications, consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking 5-HTP supplements.
When buying supplements, look for the NSF or USP seals, which indicate high quality. These are third-party companies that ensure supplements contain what they claim on the label, without impurities.
If you are currently using serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRII’s), anxiety or depression medications (including MAOIs [monoamine oxidase inhibitors]) do not use 5-HTP because adding 5-HTP with psych meds can elevate your serotonin levels too high causing side effects (VERY IMPORTANT not to combine these two).
This should not be taken if you are pregnant or having surgery within the following two weeks.
If you have depression due to depleted catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, and/or epinephrine). A neurotransmitter test that I really like and would invest in prior to using anti-depressants or 5-HTP (if dealing with diagnosed or questioning if you have depression) is by ZRT Laboratory.
View a Sample Neurotransmitter report HERE
If your goal is to be on 5-HTP long term because although it can be fantastic (I use it as needed or for short cycles), taking it long term can deplete catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine).
Another contraindication (in my opinion) is if you have poor gut health. Since almost all serotonin is created in the gut, we need to make sure our gut is working well so that all of the enzymatic processes can happen for this to be an effective option for mood support, cognition and sleep.
There you have it! This is a supplement that I’ve used off and on over the last 10 years and hope you found this information helpful. If you are not sure which brand of 5-HTP to use within your budget, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I would be happy to guide you towards finding the best brands and additional supportive supplements to help you reach your goals. Again, before adding 5-HTP to your regiment, please check with your healthcare practitioner to make sure this is right for you and your unique situation.