5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a chemical naturally found in the body that’s known to help regulate many different neurological processes. In theory, experts believe that 5-HTP supplements can affect mood, sleep, cognition, and more. The question is–have any 5-HTP benefits been scientifically proven? Before you dive into a 5-HTP dosing regimen, here’s what you should know:
Some evidence suggests that 5-HTP supplements may complement a healthy weight loss routine to help you shed extra pounds. One study found that 5-HTP may help to suppress hormones that induce hunger. Another small study found that diabetic people who received 5-HTP consumed over 400 calories less per day on average compared to the placebo group.
Yet another study suggests that 5-HTP may inhibit the intake of calories from carbohydrates, meaning it could improve blood sugar levels.
Actually, there have been various studies to confirm that 5-HTP may help suppress appetite (1989, 1991, 1992, 2012). Two smaller studies (1996, 2004) even suggest that 5-HTP can help limit overeating caused by stress or depression, one major cause of obesity.
More specifically, it may help increase serotonin production. It’s important to note that depression is often linked to low serotonin levels, and low serotonin may play a role in many other mood disorders.
Several studies (1972, 1974, 1980, 2017) have found that 5-HTP may help improve serotonin, which experts theorize can help manage depression. Some of these studies neglected to use a placebo control group or paired 5-HTP with other antidepressant medications, but the promising results still call for more research regarding 5-HTP benefits for mood regulation.
In addition to potentially managing mood disorders, 5-HTP may also help to manage panic attacks and anxiety as well. In some cases, chronic panic attacks may be caused by low serotonin levels. One study evaluated the use of 5-HTP supplements in non-depressed adults suffering from romance-related stress. All participants reported to experience less anxiety after a 6 week period of supplementing with 5-HTP. Of course, anxiety disorders are complex and more research is needed to confirm 5-HTP’s potential anxiolytic effects.
Although the exact cause of migraines is hard to pinpoint, some experts believe that they could be linked to low serotonin levels. By this logic, some researchers theorize that 5-HTP can help reduce the occurrence of migraines. In fact, one small study compared 5-HTP to a common migraine medication and found it to decrease the number of migraine attacks in over 70% of participants. Another study also found a 70% decrease in the frequency of headaches when using 5-HTP daily in a small group of students.
More research is needed to understand how 5-HTP could help, but those who back these benefits claim that daily preventative doses are the best approach.
Research is limited in this regard, but one small animal study suggests that 5-HTP may change the way that pain is perceived to make it more manageable. This may also have to do with 5-HTP’s impact on serotonin, which plays a role in the regulation of pain signaling.
Although general pain studies are limited, there is quite a bit more evidence to suggest that 5-HTP could help to manage symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Researchers are not entirely sure what may cause fibromyalgia, but many experts suggest that low serotonin levels may be linked to the condition. Some evidence (1985, 1990, 1992) suggests that 5-HTP could improve muscle pain, sleep issues, anxiety, and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia, possibly because of its ability to help balance serotonin levels.
We mentioned that 5-HTP helps increase serotonin, but it’s also important to note that serotonin can be converted to melatonin by the body. Low serotonin can also be an implication in insomnia. Some evidence suggests that 5-HTP supplementation may help improve sleep by increasing melatonin production in your body.
One study found that 5-HTP combined with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) decreased the amount of time it took for participants to fall asleep. The combination also improved sleep duration and quality compared to the placebo. Several other animal and insect studies confirmed these effects as well, although more evidence is needed to see how 5-HTP may affect sleep when not combined with GABA.
5-HTP is a powerful, essential neurochemical that plays a role in many body processes, and supplementing with 5-HTP is often regarded as a natural solution for mood disorders, stress, and sleep issues. Of course, more evidence is needed to understand the true extent of 5-HTP benefits.
For now, those who want to experience 5-HTP benefits for themselves choose to combine it with various adaptogenic herbs and powerful nootropics for more complete effects. Of course, 5-HTP can be used on its own (and is frequently used in combination with GABA supplements), but can also be an essential part of a well-rounded wellness regimen for boosting brain health, immunity, and physical health.
Because 5-HTP supplements are not regulated as strictly as pharmaceuticals in the U.S., it’s important that you look for a high-quality supplement that’s well-made and lab tested. This, combined with using the correct dosage, is the best way to avoid 5-HTP side effects.
Always talk to your doctor before adding new supplements or making any changes to your wellness routine, especially if you take prescription medications.
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