The benefits of taking 5HTP supplements range from conquering depression to getting a better night's sleep. 5HTP may also benefit you by relieving your nasty migraine headaches or easing those persistent carbohydrates cravings that keep your hand glued to the cookie jar. If you have a problem caused, or exacerbated, by low serotonin levels, 5HTP can provide benefits.
To understand the benefits of taking 5HTP, it helps to know a little about how 5HTP works, how it affects serotonin levels, and that that means for your health.
5HTP is the raw material needed by the body to produce serotonin. Just like you need flour to make bread, the body needs 5HTP to produce serotonin. The process the body uses to supply the brain serotonin is quite complex and involves several steps. 5HTP is known by scientists as the "precursor" to serotonin, which means 5HTP turns directly into serotonin under the right conditions.
Serotonin is the end product used by the brain and body to regulate lots of things including: mood, sleep, pain, digestion, and cognition. Generally speaking, low levels of serotonin lead to all kinds of ailments, many of which plague our modern day word. Depressed, anxious? Blame low serotonin. Pacing the floor at night, wired with insomnia? Blame low serotonin levels. Migraines forcing you to crawl into a dark quiet retreat? Blame low serotonin levels.
The benefits of taking 5HTP correlate with the benefits of raising serotonin levels. If your headaches are indeed caused by low serotonin levels, then 5HTP may help you. Keep in mind that lots of things cause migraine headaches, low serotonin is just one factor and your headaches might be due to something else entirely.
Depression is often caused, or exacerbated, by low serotonin levels, but not always. Not all depression will respond to an increase in serotonin, but generally about 80% of depressed people do feel better when their serotonin levels are raised. So the benefits you receive from taking 5HTP will depend on whether low serotonin levels are indeed your problem.
5HTP seems to be one of the best and least risky ways to raise serotonin and receive the associated benefits. Raising serotonin is the objective with a very popular class of modern medicines which are taken by millions of people, the SSRI antidepressant medications. Starting with the cultural phenomenon that followed the release of Prozac in the mid-eighties, SSRI drugs have helped, and in some cases, harmed millions of people.
Taken to combat all sorts of mental disorders and stress, SSRIs drugs include well known prescription drugs like Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa, and Elavil. Wellbutrin, Effexor and other medicines used to treat depression are similar but affect other brain chemicals in addition to serotonin. Older medications used to treat depression, known as the tricyclic antidepressants, also affect serotonin levels.
5HTP is the body chemical needed for serotonin production, so often the benefits of taking any of the above pharmaceutical medicines can be enhanced by adding 5HTP supplements. This would be the equivalent of giving the baker more flour so she can make extra loaves of bread. Before you do this however, consult with your doctor. This strategy benefits some people, but there are risks involved too.
You can, in effect, "overdose" on serotonin. Serotonin Syndrome is the name for a condition which can come on suddenly and be extremely dangerous. If the serotonin system in the body becomes over stimulated, a person becomes confused and may slip into a hypo-manic, or mildly manic, state. Serotonin Syndrome can also cause a person to feel agitated and loose coordination like they're drunk. Fortunately, serotonin syndrome is extremely rare and many people have enhanced the benefits of their prescription SSRI regimen by adding 5HTP.
5HTP benefits vary from person to person. Generally speaking, people who need to increase their serotonin levels find 5HTP more beneficial and less harmful than the pharmaceutical treatments used by so many doctors. 5HTP not only can provide more direct benefits with less side effects, 5HTP is cheaper and easier to obtain than a doctor's prescription. Even with insurance, an SSRI can cost more than 5HTP and certainly for the person who does not have insurance, 5HTP is a bargain indeed.