5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that your body synthesizes and it is used to make the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Depression, anxiety, sleep, weight gain, and GI issues are affected by serotonin. Saying ‘low serotonin’ is the cause of these conditions is oversimplified. However, when people are given 5-HTP these issues can be lessened.

You probably have heard about SSRIs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors (ie Prozac/fluoxetine, Zoloft/sertraline, Lexapro/escitalopram, Celexa/citalopram, and Luvox/fluvoxamine.) These medications are first-line treatment for Depressive Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. In brief, these medications increase the amount of neurotransmitters in the synapse.

5-HTP can also help you feel satiated, eat less and lose weight. It also may improve symptoms of fibromyalgia, including muscle pain, sleep problems, anxiety and fatigue. Migraines have been diminished also by the use of 5-HTP. Serotonin is converted to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. This is why 5-HTP may help with sleep disturbances.

5-HTP is NOT the same as L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan also is converted to serotonin. It is found in proteins like turkey. But L-tryptophan can get diverted down the wrong metabolic pathway and create inflammation. 5-HTP is NOT found in food and only comes as a supplement (derived from an African plant Griffonia simplicifolia).

Too much 5-HTP may cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Or if it is taken with a medication increasing serotonin, like SSRIs, some migraine medication, and some pain relievers, you may get serotonin syndrome (restlessness, rapid heartrate, high blood pressure, nausea, confusion, sweating, diarrhea, muscle twitching/rigidity).

If you want to purchase 5-HTP go to Wholescripts, register by entering your email and then search for 5-HTP-CR.

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Dr. Laurie Goldman is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and functional medicine practitioner who’s been in private practice since 1999. She founded Clear Path Wellness to help her patients reach their maximum state of mental and physical health using a personalized, comprehensive approach powered by the principles of functional medicine, which treats the whole person, not just symptoms.   

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