5-hydroxtryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid derivative and a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin also known as 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine).  Vitamin B6 is required for this molecular conversion.  This transmitter is not only found in the brain but in blood cells and the gut.  Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter as it is involved with mood and creating a sense of well being.  It is involved with sleep behaviors, eating behaviors and memory.  Serotonin is converted  in the pineal gland to make melatonin.  Melatonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone involved with sleep.  Low serotonin levels lead to eating disorders (obesity), loss of sleep, migraines, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia and possible addictive behaviors not to mention a whole host of other psychological disorders..  5-HTP is sold as a supplement over-the-counter as a single supplement and is also available with assorted other supplements.  All though this is a natural supplement it is best to take it under the care of your healthcare provider.  Melatonin and 5-HTP are available over-the-counter however, serotonin is not.

As a precursor of serotonin, 5-HTP is often used to treat individuals who have deficiencies in serotonin to treat depression, fibromyalgia, headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders, and addictive behaviors. 

5-HTP is often supplemented when an individual has sleep problems to balance the sleep/wake cycle. 

Release the Happiness with 5-HTP

Since 5-HTP is a precursor of serotonin and serotonin is a precursor of melatonin, taking in 5-HTP will drive an increased production of both serotonin and melatonin.  Vitamin B6 is required to to convert 5-HTP to serotonin.  Now, to get serotonin to convert to melatonin you need vitamin B5 which is a precursor to acetyl Co-A.  Acetyl Co-A is needed to donate an acetyl to serotonin to make acetylserotonin.  Now one needs methionine which is a precursor to S-adenosylmethionine (SAM).  Methionine is used for methyl transfers.  To make sure all substrates are available, vitamins B5 and B6 along with 5-HTP and methionine are often supplemented together.  Clinical and basic research indicates that this form of supplementation in fact works.

5-HTP supplementation is also used for individuals who need assistance with weight control.  Supplementing with 5-HTP is known to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin which in turn creates a loss of appetite.  This is done by binding to different serotonin receptors.  Higher levels of serotonin decrease cravings for sugar so you are actually cutting back on your carbohydrate consumption.  Low levels of serotonin creates sugar cravings and over eating  Whereas higher levels of serotonin decrease cravings particularly for sweets.  

Low levels of serotonin come from a number of causes.  In some situations there is a dietary problem where the individual doesn’t get enough of the amino acid L-tryptophan, vitamin B6, or consumes too much theanine.  Other causes of low serotonin levels involve mental abuse or possible other forms of mental and/or physical stress.

Addiction and serotonin loss

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid so you can only get if from your diet as your body can’t make it.  Vitamin B6 is an essential coenzyme required for the conversion of L-tryptophan to serotonin amongst other things.  Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that is reported to decrease the synthesis  and release of serotonin.  So if you are a huge green tea drinker you might want to rethink how much you take in.  Abuse in childhood or adulthood has been clinically linked to lower serotonin levels.  Unhealthy environments can bring about long-term depression by way of learned behaviors.  Low serotonin levels can bring about addictions of many origins.  This can stem from drug addiction that interferes with serotonin production and brings about an imbalance, to prolonged low self esteem that brings about imbalances.  Serotonin imbalances can bring about addictions to gambling, drinking, drug taking, sugar and chocolate intake to internet addictions.  Any king of physical or emotional stress can produce imbalances in this transmitter.

Both clinical and animal studies have reported improved mood with a decrease in anxiety and/or depression with 5-HTP supplementation.  5-HTP supplementation has been known to restore normal sleep patterns and help an individual not only feel good about themselves but feel energized as well.