The chemical 5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a key component of serotonin production. Serotonin is the body's primary mood-regulating chemical. When your body is low on serotonin, the brain does not get the right signals it needs to function properly, which can lead to depression and mood swings.
How it Works
If you are serotonin-deficient you may consider taking a 5-HTP supplement. Tryptophan is the amino acid present in food that the body uses to make 5-HTP, which it then uses to make serotonin. 5-HTP is not present in foods, but it is a chemical stage between the consumption of tryptophan and the production of serotonin. By taking 5-HTP you can bypass the tryptophan stage and provide your body with the necessary chemicals to make serotonin.
Mood disorders are often caused by a deficiency in one of the amino acids. Feelings of depression are most closely linked to inadequate levels of serotonin in your body. If you experience mild to moderate depression, adding a 5-HTP supplement may help to regulate mood and provide your brain with important chemical transmitters.
Not only does serotonin regulate mood, it also regulates sleep and appetite. Trouble sleeping or excessive appetite may indicate low levels of serotonin. Taking a 5-HTP supplement can help to induce sleep by stimulating the production of melatonin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies show that 5-HTP can help regulate appetite. So, if you are struggling with weight loss, you may consider adding a 5-HTP supplement to your diet.
No food source contains 5-HTP. But tryptophan, the amino acid from which 5-HTP is made, is available in poultry, milk, sunflower seeds, collard greens, seaweed and potatoes. Often, simply increasing your dietary intake of tryptophan-rich foods is enough to raise your levels of serotonin. If you are still deficient you can add a supplement. Supplements containing 5-HTP are made from an African tree called Griffonia simplicifolia. To make 5-HTP, the seeds of the tree are harvested and processed into tablets.
Taking amino acid supplements is not without risk. High doses of 5-HTP can cause nausea, stomach upset and heart palpitations. Taken in quantity, 5-HTP can cause dangerous toxicity levels in the brain and liver. If you have a medical condition or are taking any medications, talk to your doctor to avoid dangerous interactions and side effects.