What if I told you that there’s one chemical that’s responsible for our mood, anxiety and sleep patterns?
You’d be psyched, wouldn’’t you?
Thought so. The star of today’s show is 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan (also known as the serotonin precursor), It’s an amino acid which our body makes by breaking down another amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that we obtain from various foods. Once 5-HTP is made, with the help of Vitamin B6 it’s converted into another chemical called Serotonin. And as we all know, Serotonin is the “happy” neurotransmitter that controls everything from our mood to our sleep cycle. So, high levels of 5-HTP means higher levels of serotonin levels, along with dopamine and Norepinephrine in the Central Nervous System. This has an impact on overall chemistry of our brain. Pretty cool, right?
Now that we know the technical part, let’s look at exactly how it has an impact on our brain and everyday life.
Lower levels of tryptophan in the body causes lower levels of serotonin. Usually, this is either due to poor diet or an upregulation of enzymes that degrade tryptophan or direct it to paths that do not lead to the production of serotonin. It can also be caused by lower levels of magnesium, vitamin b6, or excessive stress. In 1972, a study was conducted by Dr. Sano, in which 107 patients suffering from uni-polar and bi-polar depression were given a daily dose of 50-300mg of 5-HTP. A significant improvement was observed within 2 weeks in 69% of the patients. In contrast to many conventional anti-depressants, which take 4 weeks or longer to respond, those taking 5-HTP had a significantly more rapid response. Since the 1970s, there have been several studies suggesting the clinical effects on depression of 5-HTP when taken with vitamin b6, like the commonly known prescription antidepressants, Prozac and Zoloft, 5-HTP also increases serotonin levels in the brain.
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes positive mood, feelings of happiness and states of relaxation. Its inhibitory actions prevent over-firing of neurons, which is the main cause of anxiety. A 2002 study by Dr. K. Schruers suggested that increased availability of serotonin inhibits panic attacks.
5-HTP is the quickest, most effective and has the most consistent overall results in treating insomnia. We’ve already accomplished that 5-HTP increases the levels of Serotonin. It is then subsequently converted into melatonin, which is responsible for regulating sleep patterns. 5-HTP can also directly be converted into melatonin. Studies show that 5-HTP can increase REM sleep by 25%, which means it increases the deep sleep states resulting in better sleep without requiring long hours.
Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications lower the production of melatonin, which is unfortunate because people suffering from depression and anxiety can greatly benefit from the benefits of a good night sleep.
In 1995, the nutritional supplement of 5-HTP first became available over the counter due to the supportive studies backing up it’s effectiveness with depression, anxiety and melatonin production.
One of the most important things you can do right away is to consume foods high in tryptophan, which as we learnt, automatically increase the production of 5-HTP. Some of the foods include: lentils, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, chicken, and red meat. However, foods contain insignificant amounts of 5-HTP.
Another way is to take the 5-HTP supplement directly
Anxiety – 50mg – 100mg
Depression – 125-500mg
Sleep – 100 – 300mg before sleeping. Start with a lower dosage, building up to 300mg.
Caution: Please do not use this if you’re using antidepressants or other neurological drug. Also, the supplement should not be given to children. Consult a licensed physician before taking any supplements or drugs because of the potential side-effects.