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5-HTP: Are the Possible Benefits Worth the Risk?

By HERWriter
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5-HTP is the abbreviation for the chemical 5-hydroxytryptophan. 5-HTP is made by the body from an essential amino acid called tryptophan. Essential amino acids are chemicals that are necessary for the body but which are not made by the body. They must be consumed in the foods we eat. 5-HTP is not found in the foods we eat, but tryptophan is. The body uses tryptophan to make 5-HTP. It then uses the 5-HTP to make another chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which helps relay signals between cells in the brain. Serotonin is sometimes called the “feel good” chemical because it helps regulate mood. Because of this, 5-HTP is believed to help with mood, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, appetite, and pain.

Tryptophan supplements were tied to a 1989 outbreak of eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS) which is a potentially fatal condition. Researchers believe the tryptophan was contaminated with a substance known as Peak X. Due to this contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled all tryptophan supplements from the market. Since that time, Peak X has also been found in some 5-HTP supplements, although few cases of EMS have been reported as a result. The National Institutes of Health Medline Plus still states that 5-HTP supplements may not be safe and advises against taking them.

Why 5-HTP is used
5-HTP is sometimes used to treat sleep disorders, depression, headaches, PMS, and ADHD. 5-HTP may work as well as some prescription medications for depression. It also appears to help people with fibromyalgia by reducing symptoms.

Studies do not show that 5-HTP is effective against headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, PMS, ADHD, or a number of other conditions.

How 5-HTP is used
5-HTP is not found in any of the foods we eat. Tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP, is found in a variety of foods including turkey, chicken, milk, potatoes, some greens, and sunflower seeds. However, eating foods that contain tryptophan has little effect on the level of 5-HTP in the body.

5-HTP supplements are made from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia.

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EmpowHER Guest

I use 5 htp on regular basis. And I must tell you that it does help against headache. I had severe migraines with terrible pain that lasted for 8 hours at a time. I ate tones of tablets that my doctor prescribed (like Relpax or ketonal) and some of those you can by over the counter like paracetamol or nalgesinum. Sometimes they helped but most of the time they did not. I ate so many of those that i felt toxic. But than i found 5 htp and my suffering was over. My "protokol" of taking 5 htp is this: when I start to feel slight headache I take one 100 mg pill. And that is usualy enough. If i still feel some discomfort I take another 100 mg pill. And that is it. Pain free and toxic pill free for a year now. It does work for me.
The only side effect that i had is a bit of nausea if I take 2 pills of 5 htp. But i prefer nausea to severe pain of migraine.
I hope that helps .

November 9, 2012 - 2:06am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.