5-HTP and its benefits
5-HTP is the abbreviation for L-5hydroxytryptophan. It is actually a compound created by our bodies from the amino acid L-Tryptophan. The reason why this amino acid is so interesting is its ability to create the neurotransmitter serotonin. This neurotransmitter is essential for many functions, some of which are explained below.
5-HTP cannot be obtained from food. Instead, we need the amino-acid L-Tryptophan to produce it. It is found in white meats, milk, potato, turnip, greens, seaweed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin carries signals between our cells. It has been found to play a role in digestive health, skeletal development, appetite, cardiovascular health and it’s most well-known function, good mental health.
5-HTP works in a similar way that anti-depressants do. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) prevent the body from breaking down serotonin so it remains available. 5-HTP acts in a similar way. This does not mean you should stop your anti-depressants though. Seek advice from your prescribing health practitioner with regards to this.
Migraines and headaches
Again 5-HTP's ability to facilitate the retention of serotonin is believed to contribute to relieving migraines and headaches. Clinical trials, although with small populations (100-200 individuals) showed results which were positive. Patients reported a reduction in symptoms and the number of days they experienced them.
This ability to potentially reduce the amount of pain relief sufferers use has a knock-on positive effect, as it reduces the side effects of pain killers such as harming the gut biome. Also, some pain relief can be addictive and have long-term effects on perception of pain. 5-HTP, as a natural interaction, reduces this likelihood.
Where 5-HTP assists in raising serotonin levels, it is also a precursor for melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. 5-HTP has been known to assist with sleep patterns and alleviate insomnia.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
5-HTP has been found to have a hypotensive effect on blood pressure. Studies on rats confirmed that it did have a blood pressure-lowering effect. More studies need to be carried out and it is not known yet whether the serotonin is a positive or negative influence on blood pressure.
Supplementary 5-HTP is available but if other medications are being taken, the prescribing practitioner should be consulted about its introduction. It is a natural source and smaller doses are required than those of Tryptophan as it does not need to be modified for absorption. Also, it does not have other contaminants in it as it is not modified.
One source is the African Vine 'Griffonia Simplicifolia' and its production has become a worldwide industry due to its high levels of 5-HTP.
The above actions of 5-HTP proves that a balanced diet is essential and that the essential amino acids (L-Tryptophan being one of them) must be included in the diet. For vegetarians and vegans, it is vital that they are aware of ensuring the essential amino acids are included in their diet, and this factor can be missed through lack of knowledge.
Seeking advice from a health professional to ensure the correct nutrients are included is, therefore, beneficial. Research is growing on this supplement so knowledge of its interactions with other medications is becoming better understood.
Once again, as mentioned above, this does not mean you suddenly stop your existing medications.