5-HTP: Can It Help With Depression?

5-HTP is one of the supplements that has been gaining popularity in recent years, especially as a way to boost serotonin levels. In this blog post, I’m looking at the evidence behind 5-HTP and whether it’s a good bet for treating depression and other health problems.

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is made from an amino acid called tryptophan, which your body converts into serotonin. This has led to an interest in whether 5-HTP can be used to treat health conditions that are linked to serotonin levels. This includes depression but also extends to many other areas of health and wellbeing.

Is There Evidence That 5-HTP is Effective for Depression?

The effects of 5-HTP on depression has been researched a fair bit but the results are fairly mixed.

Some clinical research suggests that oral 5-HTP supplements can help to treat depression symptoms. A few small scale studies have pointed to this, including one study that used a combination of 5-HTP and creatine to treat women whose depression was resistant to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI) medications. However, these studies didn’t use placebos, which makes their findings less strong.

Other research has indicated that 5-HTP alone isn’t enough to tackle symptoms of depression but that there may be potential for using 5-HTP in treating depression.

Can 5-HTP Improve Other Areas of Your Wellbeing?

The evidence is even more mixed when it comes to anxiety. Some studies have indicated that relatively high doses can potentially make anxiety symptoms more intense.

Insomnia may potentially be improved by boosting serotonin levels so that more of it can be converted into melatonin. According to the results of one study, a combination of 5-HTP and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) helped people to fall asleep more quickly and experience better quality of sleep. Several animal studies have backed this up but there haven’t been a lot of human studies to confirm whether 5-HTP alone is effective for insomnia.

Although experts aren’t entirely sure what causes fibromyalgia, it’s thought that low levels of serotonin may play a part. Researchers have therefore been curious as to whether 5-HTP can boost serotonin levels and offer some relief from symptoms. A few studies have suggested that taking 5-HTP in combination with other medications (especially antidepressant medications known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors) can improve pain levels for some people with fibromyalgia but there’s still a lot of research to be done to determine whether 5-HTP can be a viable treatment option for fibromyalgia.

As with fibromyalgia, it’s thought that low serotonin levels may be a culprit for tension headaches and migraines.

The jury is still out as to whether 5-HTP can prevent or treat tension headaches and migraines. In one study, it had similar effects to prescription medications, while another study showed it to be much more effective than placebo treatment. Other studies have shown no change in symptoms.

Are There Side Effects to 5-HTP?

Some people experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache when taking oral 5-HTP supplements. Generally speaking, higher doses are more likely to cause negative side effects.

5-HTP can interact with some medications, especially ones that also increase serotonin production. This can lead to “serotonin syndrome”, whereby there are high levels of serotonin in your body. This can potentially be fatal. If you’re thinking about taking 5-HTP supplements, speak to your doctor about the chances of interactions.

Hypnotherapy and Serotonin

If you’re concerned about the side effects of 5-HTP, you may be wondering if hypnotherapy can be beneficial for naturally increasing your serotonin levels.

Hypnosis involves a sense of deep relaxation, which enables the production of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine to change quite significantly. This can continue after a hypnotherapy session has ended, largely due to the effects of positive suggestions.

According to the results of a study examining the effects of “self induced” emotions, serotonin levels can improve as a result.

Other Natural Ways to Increase Serotonin Production

Eat foods that help to produce serotonin. Eggs, cheese, soya products such as tofu, salmon, nuts, seeds and turkey are all thought to boost tryptophan production, which has the knock on effect of boosting serotonin.

Get out in natural sunlight. Exposing yourself to natural light is an easy way to increase serotonin levels. This is one reason why some people are more prone to developing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter months, when natural sunlight isn’t as readily available.

Get moving. Exercise helps to improve serotonin levels. Research has suggested that aerobic exercise can be particularly useful for this.

Get a massage. Studies have indicated that massage can be a good way to boost serotonin levels.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how hypnotherapy could help to increase serotonin levels naturally, get in touch with me today!