Have you heard of 5-HTP? This is a natural substance produced in the body and it is needed to then produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. These substances, in turn, are important for a good mood and your sleep. So 5-HTP is very important, which is why in this blog we will go over what its benefits are and how to make sure you get enough of it.
What is 5-HTP?
The little substance with the cryptic name 5-HTP is nothing but an amino acid. An amino acid is a building material of proteins. Your body cannot get 5-HTP from food, but must form it from another substance, L-tryptophan. This is a precursor substance, which you can absorb from food. It is found in protein-rich foods, such as peanuts, milk, oats, bananas, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese and chocolate.
If you don’t get enough L-tryptophan, you won’t be able to make enough 5-HTP either. And that in turn leads to other problems, because your body is then less able to produce serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is needed to send signals between nerve cells. Low levels of this have been associated with sleep disorders, weight gain and depression and anxiety.
So it is very important to make sure that you can make enough serotonin and therefore also to pay attention to your intake of L-tryptophan. Only then can your body produce 5-HTP. The quickest way this works is to use a supplement of 5-HTP, because then you skip the step where your body has to convert L-tryptophan into 5-HTP.
The 4 benefits of 5-HTP
Thus, 5-HTP itself does not bring any benefits to the body, but it is of great importance for the production of other substances. These are important for your health, though. Below we list the 4 benefits of 5-HTP.
1. May help with depression
Depression is a common complaint, and 5-HTP may play a role in it. We still do not know exactly what causes depression, but it seems that an imbalance in serotonin levels can affect mood, leading to depression.
It is possible that supplements containing 5-HTP could help with depressive symptoms by helping to increase serotonin levels. For example, one study, in which 15 women participated, found that a combination of 5-HTP and creatine reduced depressive symptoms within 8 weeks.
While this sounds positive, there have also been many studies, like the one above, where 5-HTP was combined with another substance. It seems that 5-HTP then has more potent effects, than when used separately. More research is clearly needed.
2. Can relieve migraines
Another complaint where 5-HTP may be able to help is migraines. People with migraines suffer from a severe, throbbing headache that is often accompanied by nausea. Low levels of serotonin could also be the cause in this condition. It is suspected that this makes people more sensitive to pain. Possibly 5-HTP can help. However, not much research has been done on it yet, but if this natural remedy could help, it is worth trying.
An older study from 1986 involved 124 people who compared the effectiveness of 5-HTP with methysergide, a common migraine drug. The study found that after 6 months of daily use of 5-HTP, migraine attacks decreased by 71%.
3. Good for sleep
Another neurotransmitter that 5-HTP affects is melatonin. 5-HTP is required for serotonin production and this in turn is converted into melatonin. This substance is needed to sleep well. Levels rise as night falls, making you sleepy. And in the morning they drop again, waking you up. When you take 5-HTP as a supplement, it can provide higher levels of melatonin, which can have a positive effect on your sleep.
A study on the effects of 5-HTP and GABA was published in 2010. It turned out that this combination caused people to fall asleep faster and sleep through better. In addition, it also provided better quality sleep. GABA is a messenger substance that has relaxing effects. If you use it together with 5-HTP, these two substances work synergistically together. That means they have more effect when taken together than if you were to take each substance separately.
Looking for other natural remedies that can help with sleep problems? Then try one of our sleep supplements.
4. Can help with weight loss
Possibly 5-HTP can make losing weight a little easier. When you are trying to lose weight, you are often more hungry. This is because hormones are produced that cause feelings of hunger (ghrelin). This can make losing weight a lot harder. 5-HTP seems to be able to counteract these hunger pangs. It makes you feel full, allowing you to eat less and lose weight faster.
A 2009 study involved 27 overweight adult women. 14 of these received a drug containing 5-HTP; the remaining 13 received a placebo. The women who were given 5-HTP lost weight more easily, which was because they felt satiated more quickly. An older study also found that people who used 5-HTP for two weeks ate an average of 421 fewer calories compared with the placebo group. What also stood out was that the participants ate fewer calories from carbohydrates, which also had a positive effect on their blood sugar levels.
Reaping the benefits of 5-HTP
Want to experience for yourself now what 5-HTP can do for you? You can take this natural remedy daily as a supplement. It can sometimes cause side effects. Usually these are abdominal pain, nausea and intestinal discomfort. It often helps to lower the dose. You may also possibly suffer from heart problems or anxiety. This is because 5-HTP causes your serotonin levels to get too high too quickly. To avoid this, it is recommended to build up the dose slowly.