5-HTP, Among The Best Nootropics for Anxiety
A beneficial therapy for mood disorders, anxiety, stress, depression and sleep regulation, 5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid made in your body.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is created from tryptophan which is found in foods like meat, poultry, dairy and seafood. Supplement sources typically come from an African shrub species’ seeds (Griffonia Simplicifolia) which contain approximately 20% 5-HTP.
Yes, tryptophan is the turkey ingredient you always hear about come Thanksgiving time that everyone thinks makes them feel sleepy. The sleepiness could also be accounted for by the sheer volume of food we eat during Thanksgiving which diverts blood flow for digestive purposes putting you in a sedative state.
Tryptophan is also a precursor to the coenzyme NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is required for ATP energy production; the source of cellular energy, healthy DNA, regulating metabolic processes, and control over circadian rhythm. Current research suggests that NAD+ and sirtuins are responsible for cellular communication, which means NAD+ and sirtuins are directly involved in key physiological processes.
Sirtuins (silent information regulator) are proteins that express genes in our cells, deciding our body's response to stress and nutrition. NAD+ is required for sirtuins to function. This newly discovered system is implicated in aging. So it's conceivable and reasonable to consume a nootropic like 5-HTP that has shown scientific evidence for raising NAD+ levels and improving the function of sirtuins.
However, this post focuses on the benefits of 5-HTP, standard uses with supporting research, potential side effects, and recommendations. It is meant to educate the reader on improving health and performance with all natural nutrition.
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Why supplementing your diet with 5-HTP is better than eating food sources containing tryptophan.
Supplementation of 5-HTP skips the conversion step from tryptophan resulting in immediate use. The reason you may have heard about 5-HTP and its wide array of health benefits is that once it’s metabolized it converts readily to serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin regulates happiness, anxiety and mood. It is responsible for the chemical messages (neurotransmitters) sent from one nerve cell to the next. Many people associate serotonin with happiness, but what's less commonly known is that serotonin also plays a massive role in the digestive system. Serotonin is a regulatory hormone; it helps keep our bowel movements regular.
Low levels of serotonin in our CNS (central nervous system = brain & spinal cord) has been associated with depression.
Serotonin is involved in sleep depending on which of our brain’s receptors for waking or sleeping are being stimulated. CNS serotonin levels not only have implications for sleep but also appetite, depression, anxiety, pain sensation and sexual behavior.
Melatonin is commonly used as a supplement and as a synthetic drug for regulating our sleep-wake cycles for those with insomnia or shift work disorder. Other common uses for melatonin are for jet lag, ADHD dependent insomnia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for memory loss and seasonal affective disorder. Melatonin brings about a sense of calm so many people use it for anti-anxiety purposes.
Melanin is not melatonin! Melanin is a dark skin pigment (also in your hair and iris) that is released from the penetration of UV rays from sun exposure. It darkens or tans your body to help reduce damage from the sun.
The two similar names can cause confusion. Melanin is produced by oxidation of an amino acid called tyrosine and melatonin has an associated link to tryptophan . The M’s the in’s and the T’s definitely add to the confusion.
When the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are at optimal levels and in balance they contribute to cognition, memory, mood, sexual desire and decision making.
BENEFITS OF 5-HTP
- Achieve Better Sleep
- Increase Weight Loss
- Decrease Anxiety
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Achieve Better Sleep With 5-HTP Supplements
5-HTP is converted in your body from tryptophan which leads to the production of serotonin and subsequently melatonin. With enough serotonin available in your body, it will convert to the natural sleep hormone melatonin.
Supplementing with 5-HTP is so effective because it is well absorbed orally and bypasses the conversion of tryptophan resulting in 70% bioavailability in the bloodstream. It crosses the blood brain barrier readily and easily promotes CNS synthesis of serotonin.
“Therapeutic administration of 5-HTP has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of a wide variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, binge eating associated with obesity, chronic headaches, and insomnia..”
Bypassing the conversion from L-tryptophan is so important because that is the rate limiting step that slows or stops the synthesis of serotonin. So by skipping this step 5-HTP is far more effective at increasing serotonin levels.
In addition to regulating quality of sleep, serotonin is involved in memory, learning and appetite regulation.
Melatonin is responsible for our circadian rhythm and is often referred to as our internal body clock. Circadian rhythm regulates dips in wakefulness and sleepiness with the majority of dips occurring between 2:00-4:00 am and between 1:00 and 3:00pm.
If your body clock did not adjust homeostasis for sleep and wakefulness you would wake up in the morning at your most alert and then progressively get more sleepy throughout the day. The longer we are awake however, the more hormonal build up there is that tells us we need to sleep.
When we have been awake for too long or for excessive physically and mentally stressful periods our circadian rhythm will assist our body in staying asleep until restorative processes have taken effect. Taking a natural sleep aid helps to put you into deeper sleep so that recovery is enhanced.
This is why when you workout longer or work physically harder during a given day your body will log the demand for sleep. These physically demanding periods should be followed by more effective sleep patterns. You'll fall asleep faster and stay in deep sleep longer.
What about the days when you aren’t so physically active? The days where you’re mentally working hard but stress hormones and anxiety are peaking. This affects your sleep pattern that evening. It takes you longer to fall asleep and you just don’t feel well rested the next morning. Even setting an alarm too early can be detrimental to your overall recovery. People needing to “catch up” on sleep is actually true from a scientific perspective.
When we physically deal with our stress through exercise we notice a huge benefit in sleep patterns. The problem is so many aren’t allocating the time for exercise. On days when work has piled up, 5-HTP is very effective at promoting deep restorative sleep and is highly beneficial for those with more sedentary lifestyles.
Proper sleep for restorative purposes is of the utmost importance. The harder you work, the more and better sleep quality you should be getting. The big problem is that most people work harder and sleep is put on the back burner.
Some people naturally require more sleep than others. It just depends upon your genetics and chemical makeup. Those who can function at a high level with little sleep are able to get more performance out of less. Lucky them. They sort of won the genetic lottery when it comes to sleep deprivation and work performance. They just keep getting it done. For those of us that need a longer and better recovery period, 5-HTP offers a potential solution.
If you are someone who requires more sleep in order to feel fully rested, accept longer sleep periods as a necessary fact of life. You will have the potential to be so much more effective throughout your day and are more likely to accomplish as much if not more in a shorter span of time. So stop procrastinating on sleep and see what 5-HTP can do to help your insomniac work habits.
5-HTP a Nootropic that Increases Weight Loss
Serotonin helps to regulate appetite. If you have trouble with late night snacking contributing to weight gain, taking 5-HTP prior to bedtime can curb those hunger sensations.
It is important to point out that 5-HTP is a precursor to 5-HT (hydroxytryptamine) and 5-HT receptors are responsible for feeling full and decreasing overall hunger levels.
Administration of the serotonin precursor 5-HTP has shown to produce weight loss in the obese. It is thought to aid weight loss by acting on 5-HT receptors that are responsible for satiety.
Mammal populations show significant attenuation of body weight and demonstrate hypophagia (suppression of caloric intake). CNS 5-HT receptors are critical to the satiety response .
This means that your appetite would be less prior to eating and you would eat fewer calories during the meal, which selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and 5-HTP have shown positive results for. It can also help curb one’s propensity for gaining weight.
SSRIs are synthetic drugs and 5-HTP is a naturally occurring compound. Some people may need the drug to aid serotonin levels, but under normal circumstances everyone else should stick with a nutrient that has shown promising results.
Decrease Anxiety With 5-HTP Supplements
5-HTP for nootropic use can be highly effective for people who experience difficulty sleeping secondary to stress and anxiety. If you’re someone who deals with start of the work week anxiety or more colloquially, the "Sunday Scaries" then implementing 5-HTP into your diet can be very beneficial.
Anxiety levels and sleep are highly correlated. I’ve already discussed 5-HTP and it’s benefits as a sleep aid but how does it help with anxiety?
Often times we find ourselves fretting over trivial worries about work the next day. Whether a meeting, face to face time with your boss or general workflow. This typically elicits some form of anguish from most people. If it didn’t we wouldn’t have anyone taking responsibility to get anything done.
There is a difference however between mild worry over deadlines and more pronounced anxiety that affects confidence, mental fatigue and overall sleep habits. Taking 5-HTP alone or in combination with other natural nootropics can really help calm deeper rooted anxiety and reduce the symptoms that often are associated.
In a double blind placebo controlled study (high efficacy) of 45 patients suffering from anxiety disorders, 5-HTP showed moderate reduction in symptoms as reported on the SCL-90 and on the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) . These checklists monitor patients’ self reports of their psychiatric symptoms due to anxiety.
Researchers have also looked at the associative effects of serotonin (5-HT) on anxiety specific panic disorder (PD). They administered 10, 20, and 40 mg of 5-HTP and placebo to 7 patients with PD and 7 healthy individuals in a random order. Anxious and depressive symptoms were measured before, during and 2h after 5-HTP administration. No patient experienced a panic attack or showed greater anxiety or depressive symptoms .
Antidepressant Effects Of Taking 5-HTP Supplements
SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are common drugs used for depression. The mechanism at work here allows increased levels of serotonin to be available for use by lowering or stopping their uptake. Basically SSRIs increase the stores of serotonin that remain available where they have an effect on our mood and overall happiness in the central nervous system.
Whenever you experience a happy or joyous moment certain hormones will flood your brain like serotonin and dopamine. These provide us those feelings of elation but there seems to be a strong correlation with low levels of serotonin in people who suffer from depression.
Taking a natural remedy nootropic like 5-HTP that has excellent bioavailability and contributes directly to serotonin levels is very beneficial for anyone looking to limit symptoms of depression.
In a past study 5-HTP was considered to be equal in relation to traditional antidepressants. In an open study 25 depressed individuals were given 5-HTP. The best results were shown within 3-5 days for those with an anxious-agitated depressive syndrome and in those with endogenous (internal cause) depression in the acute stage .
Many patients with depressive symptoms show signs of disturbed 5-HT metabolism. Endogenous depression arising from an internal cause is linked to deficiency in 5-HT (hydroxytryptamine). It is suspected that 5-HT deficiency contributes to depressive symptoms rather than resulting from them.
Clomipramine is a drug that inhibits the uptake of 5-HT, similar to SSRIs for serotonin. All this means is that the availability of these compounds stays higher and they are able to deliver their effect. In a majority of patients, 5-HT deficiency persists even after depression symptoms have disappeared and medication has been stopped. This disturbed metabolism of 5-HT is not considered a direct cause but a predisposing factor of depression.
5-HTP acts similar to Clomipramine, whereas they both lead to higher availability of 5-HT that is then capable of acting on receptors responsible for depression.
The authors of Psychiatry Research proposed that abolishing the 5-HT deficiency by administering 5-HTP would have a prophylactic effect. As predicted, 5-HTP was found to reduce the relapse rate of recurrent vital depressions. The prophylactic effect was even more pronounced for patients with greater disorders of CNS 5-HT metabolism .
STACKING WITH 5-HTP
5-HTP in MEND with huperzine a, valerian root, vitamin B6, zinc picolinate and magnesium glycinate assist in rounding out an all natural sleep aid with no drowsy additives. These nutrients help to keep you calm, decrease anxiety and contribute to cognitive processing through chemical reactions in your brain and body.
5-HTP stacked with L-theanine has been anecdotally championed for its positive effects on mood and anxiety. Combining L-theanine with 5-HTP is an incredible stack for regulating mood and decreasing anxiety.
The Best Calming, Stress Reducing, Sleep Aid Stack with 5-htp…MEND
- Huperzine a - assist acetylcholine formation & improves cognition & learning
- Valerian root - Decrease anxiety, anti somniatic, eliminate insomnia
- Mg Glycinate - decrease stress & anxiety, improve sleep
- Malic Acid- enhances focus, energy, and muscle performance
- Vitamin B6 - improves cellular communication and processing speed
5-HTP PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATION
Everyone’s physiology isn’t exactly the same. 50mg has been a minimal effective dose for most of my patients and for proponents of 5-HTP. Experiment with yourself in order to determine your threshold of best response.
Others have reported needing much higher doses to achieve their desired effects. Fortunately 5-HTP as a natural precursor to serotonin is very safe. It’s ok to take at meal time or between meals. Keep in mind that no two people are alike and this article is merely a guide to offer helpful information on potential solutions for common health problems and for increasing health performance.
5-HTP is an excellent nutrient to help modulate serotonin levels and subsequently aid symptoms of anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. Taking doses up to 200mg is still very safe and people have experienced relaxation and stress benefits. It can be taken in combination with other stress reducing, anti-anxiety, and sleep aid nootropics.
SIDE EFFECTS OF 5-HTP
Potential side effects include: nausea ,GI disturbance, headache, mood disturbance, seizure and abnormal blood counts.
Common side effects may also be due to contaminants from poorly sourced and handled 5-HTP. It is important to get your nutrition supplements from trustworthy merchants who use well established manufacturers to help safeguard against potential side effects.
If you experience any abnormal side effects, stop taking 5-HTP. Pregnant or nursing women should consult with a physician before beginning any supplement regimen.
RECAP OF 5-HTP
Studies suggest that 5-HTP as a precursor to serotonin and melatonin…
- Alters caloric intake and eating behaviors for the better, & increase weight loss in obese individuals
- Reduces anxiety, and regulate 5-HT receptors via serotonin pathways
- Minimizes symptoms of depression and panic disorder
- Promotes calm, and develop healthy sleep patterns
- Regulates circadian rhythm / internal body clock via 5-HTP -> serotonin - > melatonin
- Reduces tender pain points for people with fibromyalgia
Where can I buy 5-HTP supplements?
Momental MEND contains an effective dose of 5-HTP to increase serotonin and melatonin production to promote relaxation, decrease anxiety and enhance sleep quality.