5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical by-product of an essential amino acid that the body makes called tryptophan. After tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, the chemical is then changed into another chemical called serotonin which is one of the most important neurotransmitters required by the body in transmitting nerve impulses. Serotonin is the "happy" neurotransmitter hormone of the body that provides the overall sense of well-being and relieves depression as it helps regulate moods, temper, anxiety and natural sleep. It is also known to play an important role in regulating able-bodied functions such as as aggression, appetite, sexuality, metabolism, muscle contraction, pain susceptibility and some cognitive functions including memory and learning; and in blood platelets where it helps to regulate body temperature, blood clotting and vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels). Approximately 80 percent of the human body's total serotonin is located in the enterochromaffin cells in the gut, where it is used to regulate intestinal movements. The remainder is synthesized in serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system and/or in the brain.

Other than the above mentioned health roles of serotonin, 5-HTP is used for migraine and tension-type headaches, fibromyalgia, binge eating associated with obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizure disorder and Parkinson's disease.

Dietary Sources
The amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP, can be found in egg white, turkey, duck, halibut, pork, chicken, lobster, milk, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflower & sesame seeds, turnip, collard greens, spinach, spirulina, seaweed, dates, avocados, papaya, banana, and chocolate. Research also suggests that eating a diet rich in whole grain carbohydrates and low in protein will increase serotonin by secreting insulin, which helps in amino acid competition.

Supplement Dosage
Please consult your health care professional before starting a supplement therapy. 5-HTP should not be given to children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. In adults 5-HTP is generally recommend in 50 mg taken 1 - 2 times per day.

Precautions: At high doses, it is possible that serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body, could develop. Therefore, people taking any form of antidepressants, should strictly not take 5-HTP. People with high blood pressure, liver disease or diabetes should talk to their doctor before taking 5-HTP.

Tramadol (Ultram) - It is used for pain relief and sometimes prescribed for people with fibromyalgia, may raise serotonin levels too much if taken with 5-HTP.

Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, and others) - Taking 5-HTP with dextromethorphan, found in cough syrups, may cause serotonin levels to increase to dangerous levels, a condition called serotonin syndrome.

Meperidine (Demerol) - Mixing the two may cause serotonin levels to increase to dangerous levels, a condition called serotonin syndrome.

Triptans (used to treat migraines) - 5-HTP can increase the risk of side effects, including serotonin syndrome, when taken with these medications: Naratriptan (Amerge), Rizatriptan (Maxalt), Sumatriptan (Imitrex), Zolmitriptan (Zomig)

Carbidopa - Taking 5-HTP with carbidopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson's disease, may cause a scleroderma-like illness. Scleroderma is a condition where the skin becomes hard, thick, and inflamed.

Note: 5-HTP has been linked with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in the past. But there is not enough scientific evidence as 5-HTP is naturally found in the body and some people think the EMS might be caused by an accidental ingredient (contaminant) in some 5-HTP products.