Tryptophan 5-HTP – What is it? Uses, side effects and contraindications

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan is a precursor to the hormone serotonin. It is used as an antidepressant medicine for people with a deficiency of this hormone, as well as a treatment for cases of epilepsy. 5-HTP is sold in pharmacies, and due to its potential side effects and contraindications, it has even been withdrawn from the market in Spain and Japan.

The primary use of 5-HTP supplements is to increase serotonin when chronic deficiency develops. Serotonin is the key neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of well-being. When their levels drop significantly, symptoms of depression appear.

When is it recommended to take HTP-5? Uses and benefits

Taking HTP-5 should always be done under the authorization of a doctor. The most common uses are when a lack of serotonin occurs caused by the excessive use of alcohol, nicotine, and other narcotics such as MDMA. As well as when going through complex emotional situations, genetic or eating disorders.

The lack of serotonin in the body is associated with the development of depression, changes in mood, bipolarity, chronic insomnia, and eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) ¹. Taking tryptophan 5HTP supplements is an effective treatment to regulate the natural production of melatonin and serotonin.

This supplement is believed to help quit smoking and kick bad habits. Just as some research suggests that 5-HTP reduces cravings for foods high in simple carbohydrates. Another use is to normalize levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Symptoms of a lack of serotonin

The lack of serotonin is reflected as disorders of the emotional state and a negative perception of reality. As well as the deterioration of cognitive abilities, low libido, and impaired sexual function.

Since tryptophan is one of the critical components for synthesizing the sleep hormone melatonin, a lack of serotonin is considered one of the causes of chronic insomnia. Including foods with tryptophan in the diet or HTP-5 supplements can prevent sleep disorders such as shallow sleep, regular nightmares, etc.

How to take 5-HTP?

The recommended dose of 5-HTP is 100 mg of hydroxytryptophan once a day. The amount can be increased to 300 mg in severe depression. It is recommended to take 5-HTP tablets with meals.

Once again, we note that its use is contraindicated in antidepressants or any other medication that affects the production of serotonin, dopamine, and other hormones associated with them.

Tryptophan foods vs. supplements

The amino acid tryptophan is found in different food groups, so including it in the diet is a strategy to prevent a lack of serotonin. Studies suggest that the advantage of having HTP-5 instead of food improves assimilation.²

In addition, when there is a lack of tryptophan, reaching doses of 100 or 300 mg per day can create an imbalance in the proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats typical of a healthy diet. Another reason why taking 5-HTP supplements may be justified.

Side effects and contraindications

The side effects of taking tryptophan tablets are (4):

  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Peristaltic
  • Allergic reactions
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurry vision
  • Heartburn

In none of the following cases should 5-HTP be taken:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Eosinophilia Disorder
  • Liver or kidney disorders
  • Use of antidepressants and sedatives: dextromethorphan, phenothiazines, benzodiazepines, tramadol, meperidine, pentazocine
  • Herbal Use: Valerian, St. John’s Wort, Poppy, Catnip, Calamus

Tryptophan is a precursor to the hormones serotonin and melatonin. 5-HTP is used as a treatment for chronic serotonin deficiency. 5HTP is not considered a safe supplement, so a doctor should always prescribe it

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