5-HTP Information

5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is a naturally occurring amino acid that is made from L-tryptophan, which is found in dietary proteins. Once manufactured in the body, it is then decarboxylated, or converted, into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is one of the most important chemicals in the brain, and is associated with the regulation of appetite, sleep disorders and insomnia, anxiety, depression and mood disorders, sexual behavior, and pain sensation, to name a few. A serotonin deficiency would cause your psychological and physiological function to go haywire. So, to keep adequate levels of serotonin in the brain, 5-HTP needs to be plentiful. Generally, 5-HTP is not present in usual food sources, so you can either supplement with one of the many products available, or get it indirectly from eating protein sources containing tryptophan, which will then convert into 5-HTP naturally, and further then to serotonin.

So, for the person who wants more 5-HTP than what their body is producing naturally, then the man-made dietary supplement which is manufactured from the seeds of an African plant, the Griffonia simplicifolia, is the only other option. Taking 5-HTP supplements has become popular, since in theory, more 5-HTP, then more serotonin; and the more serotonin, the better my brain will function. Right? In theory, yes it works like that. The goal is to increase the amount of serotonin. Many people like the idea of using this type of alternative medicine, as opposed to drugs. Even so, there is still a very strong serotonin anti depressant relationship. Both remedies work.

Although depression treatment is the most common use of 5-HTP, it is also used as one of the alternative therapies for insomnia, for weight loss issues associated with over eating or controlling appetite, and for preventing and/or reducing the frequency of migraines. Some may refer to 5-HTP as a natural sleeping pill, since once converted in the body into serotonin, it can then become melatonin (thanks to the pineal gland), which is the hormone needed to regulate sleep-wake cycles and also help normalize sleep patterns. Melatonin got the reputation for being a treatment for insomnia, when it actually first begins with the regulation of serotonin, which is really controlled by the amount of 5-HTP there is in the body available for conversion! Everything ultimately tied to plentiful amounts of 5-HTP. It’s truly overwhelming how many natural chemical processes happen within our body to adjust our hormonal levels, and control how our body functions and reacts to various conditions, all without any drugs or medications.

When recommending 5-HTP supplementation, never exceed the dosage on the product’s label and always buy from a reputable retailer. Also, always check with your doctor before beginning any type of supplementation using alternative medicine. Do not try to self-diagnosis or begin any treatments for things or issues you aren’t sure about.

Julie Riggs

Julie Riggs Med. RD LD
Registered and Licensed Dietician


Julie Riggs has been teaching fitness and nutrition skills to every population, from NFL players to the elderly, pre and post-natal moms to professional bodybuilders for her entire career. As a writer and consultant for www.i-supplements.com and as a registered dietician, personal trainer, and mom of three Julie brings real life perspective to the every day person's fitness and nutritional concerns.

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