These days there seems to be a cure for everything that plagues us: from medicines intended to provide relief from migraines to magic “hangover pills” to all-natural supplements designed to ensure you receive a hefty raise at work.
Well, that last one may not exist…yet.
But in an age of increasing technological advancements, and competitive scientific and medical research happening in every corner of the globe, we are always just one step away from “the next big cure.”
And when it comes to the health-related concerns most human beings will face in their lifetimes, some of the most common ailments are related to our quality of sleep (or lack thereof), struggles to maintain a healthy weight, and widespread depression among people of all ages and backgrounds. Yes, our emotional well-being and serotonin levels are at a particular disadvantage these days due to being overworked and overstressed in this age of technology and ever-present media.
Therefore, a supplement touted for its effects and benefits related to sleep, weight loss, and depression seems like a “miracle cure” of sorts. At the very least it’s one worth investigating!
That supplement—5-HTP—is growing in popularity, even if its name sounds something like the next big boy band.
What is 5 HTP?
Well for starters, it’s not Five Hip Tiny People (though a record deal is likely being signed, somewhere in Hollywood, for a similar group right now). 5 HTP is the shortened name of 5-Hydroxytryptophan, which is produced naturally within your body. Yes, tryptophan–you may remember this word from post-Thanksgiving dinner when everyone is sleepy and comfortable; legend has it that it is the tryptophan in turkey that makes you feel this way.
Perhaps you have never heard of 5 HTP, but you have probably heard of serotonin. You can’t have one without the other, because 5 HTP is the amino acid compound that ultimately turns into serotonin in your brain.
A neurotransmitter that regulates moods, serotonin is closely linked to not only depression but also an individual’s appetite, digestion, and sleep habits.
In short, low levels of serotonin can be linked to numerous ailments (including the aptly named serotonin syndrome which affects the blood-brain barrier), and if you need to produce more serotonin, a 5 HTP supplement may be your best friend (in the form of capsule dietary supplements, anyway).
The Health Benefits of 5 HTP Supplements
Before we review the benefits of 5 HTP supplements, it is important to point out that you should discuss using 5 HTP with your doctor first. If you are already taking prescription medication to treat depression—or any medications for that matter—your doctor can advise you on any potential complications between supplements and depression medication. If you are taking a medication that already increases serotonin levels, the use of 5HTP could result in TOO much serotonin being produced. Just like the porridge in the Goldilocks tale, serotonin needs to be “just right.” Too little serotonin can be problematic, but too much isn’t good either. Your doctor is in the best position to help you find the serotonin sweet spot!
If she decides 5HTP is appropriate for your health regimen, you may enjoy the benefits described by its users in relation to sleep, weight loss, and depression.
5HTP for ZZZs
Your quality of sleep affects so many areas of your life; those who struggle to get enough rest often have problems at school, at work, and in relationships with family and friends. Insomnia can even manifest itself in things like obsessive-compulsive disorder or migraine headaches, in addition to serotonin deficiency. Sleep is known to have a direct impact on our mental health, so improper sleep will naturally produce adverse effects to your brain.
You may be wondering, with all the talk here about serotonin, why we are not focusing on melatonin? Isn’t that what helps us sleep after all?
It’s true that melatonin is produced by our bodies in the dark, and it helps us regulate sleep cycles. But serotonin and melatonin are inextricably linked—because it is in fact the serotonin that TURNS into melatonin in the nighttime hours. You need a good night’s sleep to get your circadian rhythm working properly, and to keep your central nervous system and serotonin receptors happy. So by increasing the serotonin in our bodies we end up increasing melatonin production, too. And for that reason 5HTP is believed to improve both the quality of sleep and length of sleep in many individuals.
5HTP and Your Waistline
Millions of people struggle to maintain healthy weight for reasons both within and outside their control. You can hardly pick up a newspaper these days (well, read one online anyway) without seeing stories about the ways obesity is challenging the health care field (and its’ ever-rising costs). We are bombarded with advertisements for everything from fad diets to cryotherapy for weight loss, and supplements that are intended to promote weight loss are more popular than ever.
And as it turns out, serotonin is not just important when it comes to sleep: it can act to suppress appetites, too. Therefore, the use of 5HTP is believed to help some individuals lose weight. To reduce appetite in a clinical way, consider using a nutritional supplement that contains 5HTP.
5HTP for Your Happiness
Many patients battling depression use a 5HTP supplement (in consultation with their doctors) to increase serotonin levels with the objective of regulating moods. While there is still much research to be done on 5 HTP’s effectiveness in treating depression, we do know that serotonin is commonly linked to depression and other mood disorders, so a supplement that increases serotonin certainly seems promising.
Possible Side Effects of 5 HTP
Ah, there it is…the fine print. As with almost any medication or supplement, 5 HTP has some reported side effects. This does not mean you will necessarily experience all of them, but it is important to be aware of these before you introduce it into your health regimen.
Possible Side Effects from 5HTP Include
-Diarrhea, Nausea, and/or Vomiting
Side effects can increase in severity at higher dosages, so your doctor is likely to recommend starting with a lower dose until you see how your body reacts.
The bottom line is if your quality of life is diminished because of sleep issues, weight struggles, or depression, 5HTP is a supplement worth considering and exploring in consultation with your health care provider. It could be a beneficial part of your health routine that leads to better sleep, a healthier weight, and a happier outlook.