Stress, worry, concern, unease, mood disorder or nervousness – call it by whatever name you want, but anxiety can have a devastating mental and emotional impact on a person. Mild as it may relatively sound when you think of it as a medical condition, anxiety is not something you can really afford to ignore. Continued stress or anxiety can, in fact, manifest itself as many different kinds of physical problems, some of them severe. Lack of concentration, fatigue, tension in the muscles, weight gain, nausea and headache are some of the physical health effects of anxiety. In extreme cases, anxiety can also affect the heart, lungs, stomach and sex drive.
Unfortunately, most antidepressants have detrimental side effects on the user, triggering suicidal tendencies in some cases. That’s where amino acid therapy comes into play. And 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an effective amino acid that occurs naturally. In the natural environment, it is produced by the seeds of an African woody shrub. It’s also manufactured by the body when it breaks down I-tryptophan – another variety of amino acid. It is sold as a prescription drug in Europe, and as an over-the-counter supplement in other Western countries.
How it Works
Apart from its other health benefits, which include insomnia treatment and weight loss, 5-HTP has been found to be useful in tackling anxiety. This amino acid works through conversion into two key chemicals, known as melatonin and serotonin, which contribute in a major way to addressing various health disorders. Since serotonin is more effective when used in conjunction with vitamin B6, many of the 5-HTP supplements contain vitamin B6. Similarly, vitamin B5 is also a component of many 5-HTP supplements as it facilitates the functioning of melatonin.
5-HTP Side Effects
Like most allopathic medications, 5-HTP can also cause uncomfortable or harmful side effects. Such effects may be related to your physical or mental health. Among the common physical side effects of this supplement are nausea, insomnia, vomiting, drowsiness, headache, muscle pain or deterioration, sexual problems and problems of the heart.
On the mental side, the effects can range from mood changes to the more serious mental disorders. Schizophrenia is one of the mental effects that 5-HTP is seen to cause in certain cases. Mood changes may include anxiety, irritability, restlessness, agitation, aggressiveness and even problems in taking decisions. It may, fortunately, be possible to keep the milder side effects, such as nausea, at bay by splitting your 5-HTP dose through the day, instead of taking it as a single, one-time dose.
Precautions in Use
Some, if not all, of the possible side effects of 5-HTP are avoidable. Necessary precautions in its use can help avert some of the problems related to the supplement. These include:
- Not taking 5-HTP up to two weeks before a surgery
- Avoiding its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Not using it to alleviate the depression triggered by Ecstasy drug
Apart from these precautions, it’s also advisable not to use 5-HTP in conjunction with antidepressants or sedatives. The mix is heady enough to shoot your serotonin levels beyond acceptable limits, triggering serious side effects, including Serotonin Syndrome.
And when using 5-HTP, do strictly follow the instructions on the label to avoid any unhealthy side effects or dangerous interactions. In fact, be sure to check the label for the manufacturer’s credentials; you shouldn’t ever use 5-HTP that’s not from a reliable source.
Finally, do not use it as anxiety reliever without a proper prescription from your doctor. Instead, use a holistic method that is safe to use and brings results quickly.
The seriousness of the potential side effects of 5-HTP makes it imperative to use this drug in moderation, with due consideration to proper dosage prescribed by a doctor. In the absence of any concrete scientific evidence of its benefits in relieving anxiety symptoms, one can only depend on the guidance of medical experts. According to expert evidence, consumption of up to 30 mg of 5-HTP every day, along with carbidopa, can help reduce anxiety. And evidently, this medication is best taken orally.
Only a Temporary Solution
One thing that needs to be kept in mind before taking recourse to 5-HTP to reduce anxiety is that the impact of this medication is not permanent. Long-term use of the drug can, in fact, have a detrimental impact on your mental health. That happens because 5-HTP, while enhancing your serotonin levels, can bring down some other important neurotransmitters which your body needs for its overall health and well-being. The result can, in some cases, be a worsening of the anxiety condition in the long run, despite initial positive signs of improvement.
Given the temporary nature of the 5-HTP benefits, it’s best to use it sparingly, only in the initial stages of your anxiety problem. Using it in the short term, along with natural sources to keep your brain healthy, is more effective than making yourself dependant on this medication, which really doesn’t have any long-lasting healthy effects. The natural ways to enhance your brain serotonin include a proper diet, along with exercise.
A good diet for brain health involves selective consumption of fats and proteins. Probiotics, either occurring naturally or as supplements, can be taken to ensure that your brain gets the food it needs to produce serotonin. Exercise may be coupled with meditation to boost serotonin in the brain. Sun rays are also said to be beneficial in this regard. Exposure to natural light during the day, along with reduced exposure during the night, has been found to be helpful in the production of melatonin.
So, if you or your loved one is suffering from anxiety, 5-HTP can help alleviate the symptoms of the problem if taken with adequate caution, and backed by a holistic method to naturally curb anxiety, as well as inducing healthy diet and lifestyle changes.