Sunday, December 4

What is 5-HTP for and in what strange circumstances can you need it


What does a supplement sold at the herbalist have to do with weekend drugs? In the case of 5-HTP, the association is clear, but only if you’re a user of the recreational drug (and soon-to-be-approved drug) MDMA, also called ecstasy.

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The formula 5-HTP is short for 5-hydroxytryptophan. It is a natural amino acid and chemical precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is where we get to the interesting part.

Serotonin is involved in a wide range of functions in the human body, including mood, appetite, and sleep. Low serotonin levels have been linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. On the contrary, taking MDMA greatly increases serotonin and dopamine levelscausing a feeling of happiness and euphoria.

The party of ecstasy is paid with a tremendous neurochemical hangover the next day. The serotonin rush from the night before has depleted the stores of this neurotransmitter, its levels drop and you have a feeling of depression and lack of energy. Taking 5-HTP pills can help with this hangover.

5-HTP, a safety net for serotonin

The body makes its own serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that we need to get from the diet, and which is found naturally in cheese, chicken, egg whites, fish, milk, sunflower seeds and peanuts, among other foods.

To make serotonin, the body first converts tryptophan into 5-HTP. In situations where we need to replenish serotonin quickly, a 5-HTP supplement ensures that there is enough raw material to manufacture it. In tests with mice it has been possible to verify that, in effect, 5-HTP helps replenish serotonin levels lost after administering MDMA.

But having low serotonin levels is common in people with such common diseases as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases. Suffer stress, especially in the first years of lifecan affect serotonin levels, as well as alterations of the intestinal microbiotalack of sunlight and the use of certain medications.

5-HTP supplementation could help counteract these enemies of our serotonin. Here are some of the studies on its effects:

  • Weightloss: One of the effects of depression is increased appetite. Supplementation with 5-HTP in people with early diabetes achieved regulate their appetite and consume about 400 kcal less up to date.
  • Depression: Although it can help prevent depression, 5-HTP alone is not a sufficient treatment for depression. However, a recent review of studies has proven its value as support for other interventions for resistant depression to treatment.
  • migraines: research is currently under way that migraines, severe headaches often accompanied by nausea and visual disturbances, could be related to a lack of serotonin. The available trials with 5-HTP supplementation are from the 1980s, but they are controlled (the highest quality) and all of them observed that helped to some extent to reduce the frequency of attacks.
  • Sleep: By itself, 5-HTP is not effective in treating insomnia. However, the body uses serotonin to make melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep, so it makes sense to think that it can help. And indeed, it has been found that the combination of 5-HTP with GABA (the relaxation neurotransmitter) improves the quality of sleep in animals.

In general, 5-HTP is safe (which is why it is sold without a prescription) but it can interfere with or potentiate medications such as sleeping pills or antidepressants. As in other cases, supplements do not confer superpowers, but their effect is noticeable especially when there was a previous deficiency.

A healthy and fit person, with a diet rich in protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, who sleeps well and sunbathes, should not have this deficiency. Unfortunately, that definition does not apply to everyone.

* Darío Pescador is editor and director of the quo magazine and author of the book your best self Posted by Oberon.

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