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Side Effects of 5 HTP

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5 HTP is a common over-the-counter dietary supplement used to increase serotonin levels in the body. Even supplements do have side effects. Read on to find out the side effects of 5 HTP.

Side Effects of 5 HT

Although 5 HTP has very few side effects on its own, the side effects of 5 HT can be ascribed to it since 5 HTP is directly converted to 5 HT.

Most of the side effects of 5 HTP are gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Serotonin is naturally produced in the body at the needed levels. As with most processes in the body, the production, secretion, action, metabolism, and excretion of naturally produced 5 HT is efficiently regulated in the body. However, when the regulation of 5 HT becomes inefficient, it can easily cause some side effects.

Therefore, most side effects of serotonin are caused by drugs that either supply serotonin to the body, increase its normal production in the body, or prolong its action.

For example, SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and MAOI or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (these stop the enzymes that break down monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin) prolong the action of 5 HT in the central nervous system and, therefore, can cause serotonin side effects.

Another group of drugs that can cause serotonin side effects are 5 HT receptor agonists.

Although 5 HT receptor agonists are not serotonin, they are structurally similar and produce the same effects when they bind to serotonin receptors.

In summary, the drugs that can cause serotonin side effects are those that:

  • Promote the release of 5 HT from nerve endings
  • Prolong the action of 5 HT at nerve endings by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter
  • Mimic 5 HT by binding to serotonin receptors and eliciting similar pharmacological responses

Most of the medications that produce these effects are antidepressants, appetite suppressants and psychedelic drugs.

Neurological Side Effects

The neurological side effects of serotonin are caused by the action of serotonin on the central nervous system.

All the subclasses of 5 HT receptors are found in the central nervous system where they control different neurological outcomes from mood and appetite to learning and memory.

The neurological side effects of 5 HT include headache, lethargy, fatigue, insomnia, and restlessness.

The set of side effects experienced vary between individuals and also depends on the type of serotonin drugs taken. For example, when too much serotonin binds to most 5 HT receptors, it results in anxiety, nervousness, and restless but on the serotonin receptors known as 5 HT5A, too much serotonin cause insomnia, and restlessness.

Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Although the effects of serotonin on the central nervous system are the most profound, there is actually more serotonin released from the gastrointestinal tract than in the brain.

Therefore, the side effects of too much 5 HT in the gut include diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting reflexes.

However, even from the central nervous system, serotonin can produce gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea and changes in appetite which may lead to weight gain or weight loss.

Sexual Dysfunction

Drugs that increase the levels and activities of serotonin have also been known to cause sexual dysfunctions. This is especially true of SSRIs.

Side effects grouped under sexual dysfunction include reduced sex drive, difficulty reaching orgasm, and difficulty getting and maintain an erection in men.

Serotonin Syndrome

Serotonin syndrome is an adverse drug reaction that results from the hyperactivity of serotonin receptors in the central and peripheral nervous system. It is potentially lethal and usually caused by drugs that increase the levels of serotonin or its activity at these receptors.

Serotonin syndrome is more accurately described as serotonin toxicity.

Although serotonin syndrome has a known set of symptoms, it is still commonly mistaken for other medical conditions because there are no laboratory tests to guide its diagnosis.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome range from mild ones such as sweating to serious ones such as seizures. They usually set in rapidly and may need urgent medical attention.

Classification of Serotonin Syndrome Symptoms

Somatic – Twitching, tremor and overactive reflexes

Cognitive – Headache, confusion, hallucination, mania and coma

Autonomic – Hypertension, high body temperature, sweating, nausea, and diarrhea

Serotonin syndrome can be caused by a number of drugs including medicinal herbs. The syndrome can be triggered by high doses of these medications or a combination of two or more such medications.

Examples of medications that cause serotonin syndrome are antidepressants (including tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs), opioids (such as tramadol, oxycodone and fentanyl), psychedelics (such as LSD), central nervous system stimulants (like cocaine), 5 HT1 receptor agonists, herbs (including St. John’s Wort, nutmeg, and Panax ginseng) as well as other drugs such as levodopa, lithium, chlorpheniramine, and dextromethorphan.

Serotonin syndrome can be treated by withdrawing the drugs causing the set of symptoms; by administering serotonin antagonists such as cyproheptadine; by preventing the serotonin drug absorption in the gastrointestinal with activated charcoal; and by treating the urgent and serious symptoms of the syndrome.





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