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5 HTP Dosage

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Although 5 HTP is a common over-the-counter dietary supplement sold in pharmacies, there are not a lot of clinical studies involving this supplement. Therefore, there is no standard dosage of 5 HTP. However, available clinical evidence and patients’ experience can help determine the right 5 HTP doses.

What is 5 HTP?

5 HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid. Although it has no dietary sources, it is extracted from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant.

5 HTP is also produced in the body from L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid. It is an intermediate in the synthesis of serotonin. This reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme, 5 HTP decarboxylase, and vitamin B6.

5 HTP is formulated as a dietary supplement that is recommended for the treatment of medical conditions caused by low serotonin levels. Therefore, the chief use of 5 HTP supplements is to increase serotonin levels in the brain. For this role, 5 HTP is a better supplement than L-tryptophan.

What is 5 HTP Used For?

The major indications for 5 HTP supplements are in the treatment of depression, to suppress appetite, and to aid sleep. Therefore, 5 HTP can serve as an antidepressant and is also used to treat obesity, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.

Other uses of 5 HTP supplements include the management of fibromyalgia and anxiety disorders as well as in achieving weight loss.

5 HTP Dosages

5 HTP supplement is usually sold in 50 mg and 100 mg gelatin or vegetarian capsules.

Since 5 HTP is a dietary supplement there is not enough information to accurately determine what the right dose is. However, experts recommend that users should start with a low dose and, if need be, increase it.

The commonly recommended dose of 5 HTP is 50 mg taken 1 – 3 times daily.

5 HTP should be taken with lots of water, and it can be taken at any time of the day depending on what is being used to treat.

The dose stated above is the adult dose and the children's dose should be lower than this. However, some experts do not recommend 5 HTP for children even though the supplement has been successfully used in children and adolescents.

However, doses of 5 HTP higher than 50 mg have been used in clinical research. Also, specific doses may be recommended for some medical disorders used.

For example, in the treatment of depression, the daily dose of 5 HTP can range from 50 mg to 400 mg. Serotonin levels have a profound effect on mood. Therefore, it may take doses as high as 400 mg to increase serotonin levels to a point where the effect is significant enough to improve the symptoms of depression.

Also, daily doses as high as 600 – 900 mg are used to treat obesity through the suppression of appetite.

However, in all cases, 5 HTP dosage should start from 50 mg per day. When other drugs affecting the serotonin system are being taken, the starting dose should be lowered.

Patients should consult their physicians before increasing the dose of 5 HTP. Factors to consider before increasing the dosage of 5 HTP include the age of the patients, other drugs being taken, and other medical conditions present.

Precautions with 5 HTP

Care should be taken while using 5 HTP supplements. Like most natural supplements, they may be safe and well-tolerated by most people but they can also produce toxic reactions and even paradoxical reactions.

While tryptophan supplements were once shown to contain contaminants that caused toxic reactions caused by eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS) in some users, 5 HTP supplements have largely been free of such fatal side effects (only 10 cases of EMS was reported with 5 HTP use).

EMS was believed to be caused by bacterial contamination in batches of tryptophan supplements.

Since most 5 HTP supplements are obtained from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, an African plant, it is unlikely that they may be contaminated.

However, some experts believe that EMS was caused by sustained high levels of serotonin and the attendant rise in histamine production in the body rather than bacterial contamination of tryptophan batches.

Therefore, low starting doses of 5 HTP are recommended to reduce the risk of EMS. Also, users should report unusual side effects to their physicians immediately.

Since 5 HTP (through serotonin) affects the cardiovascular system and also the level of insulin, hypertensive and diabetic patients should consult their physicians before taking 5 HTP supplements.

The liver is responsible for metabolizing and detoxifying serotonin before it is eliminated. Therefore, 5 HTP supplements are not recommended for people with liver disease.

These supplements should also be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is because there are no safety studies done on the 5 HTP supplementation in this group of patients.

People with Down syndrome should also avoid 5 HTP supplement or at least take them under strict medical supervision. This is because there are reports of seizures in people with Down syndrome following 5 HTP supplementation.

In one study, 15% of Down syndrome patients on long-term 5 HTP supplementation experienced seizures.

Side Effects of 5 HTP

5 HTP is generally well tolerated and its side effects are mild.

Common side effects of 5 HTP include drowsiness, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation, gas, and diarrhea. The gastrointestinal side effects are caused by the action of serotonin in the gut.

Interaction with Other Drugs

5 HTP can interfere with other drugs being taken and cause some serious side effects.

One drug that is sometimes combined with 5 HTP is carbidopa. Carbidopa reduces most of the gastrointestinal side effects of 5 HTP by preventing the conversion of 5 HTP to serotonin outside the central nervous system.

However, the combination of 5 HTP and carbidopa can cause a skin reaction resembling scleroderma. The presentation of these side effects includes hardened and inflamed skin.

The more dangerous side effect of 5 HTP drug combinations is serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin syndrome can happen when 5 HTP is used along with the drugs listed in the table below

Drugs That May Cause Serotonin Syndrome
  • Antidepressants including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Zoloft and Prozac; MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) and tricyclic antidepressants
  • Tramadol
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Triptans used to treat migraines

All of these drugs either increase the production of serotonin or amplify the effect of the serotonin released in the brain. Therefore, when 5 HTP is also co-administered, it may lead to serotonin toxicity or serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin syndrome is a potentially fatal medical condition.

While it may present with mild symptoms such as headache, sweating, shivering, and flushed skin, it is the serious side effects that are potentially dangerous.

The mild symptoms of serotonin syndrome usually resolve within 24 hours of stopping 5 HTP and the other serotonin drugs but the serious side effects require immediate medical attention.

These other side effects of serotonin syndrome include hyperactivity, hyperthermia, hypertension, mania, confusion, hallucination, ataxia, and coma.

When 5 HTP must be combined with any of these serotonin drugs, it should be done under medical supervision and the doses of the drugs in the combination should be reduced.





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