Doctors Say You Need More Of *This* Amino Acid If You’re Feeling Down And Can’t Lose Weight

It’s an open secret among functional medicine physicians, but only slowly percolating to the general public: supplementation with naturally occurring amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan 5-HTP in short may be more effective at relieving depression than taking prescription antidepressants. Even better, 5-HTP doesn’t cause the weight gain that is the side effect of many antidepressants. In fact, according to a growing body of research, 5-HTP actively contributes to weight loss reducing food cravings.

The reason 5-HTP works so well has to do with its effects on serotonin, a brain chemical that has a dramatic impact on mood, sleep and food cravings. According to Aimee Duffy, MD, founder of Carolina Integrative Medicine in Clemson, South Carolina, when serotonin levels are depleted, sleep disturbances, fatigue and anxiety can occur.

And women are at a higher risk of serotonin deficiency. Research indicates that women produce 52 percent less of the feel-good brain chemical than men. Additionally, estrogen increases the production of serotonin, so the hormone surge that women experience, particularly during the menopausal transition, can cause levels to drop.

Fortunately, it’s easy to raise your serotonin levels. And while there are several ways to do this, experts and research are shedding light on the benefits of supplementing with HTP. Here’s what you need to know about 5-HTP.

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is a naturally produced amino acid in the body and is vital for the creation of serotonin. When the body lacks serotonin, a 5-HTP supplement, which typically comes from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia, can help. The supplement can increase serotonin stores, an effect that can have a number of health benefits.

5-HTP can lift blue mood

When many people hear the word serotonin, they think of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most common type of prescription antidepressant. As the name suggests, they raise levels of serotonin, the brain’s happy neurotransmitter, but in about half of people, the drugs aren’t effective, says functional medicine pioneer Susan Blum, MD. What solution do you recommend instead? A 5-HTP supplement. 5-HTP is a serotonin precursor and I use it often for patients who are not taking antidepressants.

And with good reason: In one study, 73 percent of people who supplemented with 5-HTP showed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms after two weeks, making it equally effective as prescription antidepressants.

For mood-enhancing benefits, Dr. Blum recommends taking 50 to 200 mg. of 5-HTP per day. (One option: NOW Foods 5-HTP, 50 mg., Amy Myers, MD, author of The autoimmune solutionis another staunch believer in the antidepressant power of 5-HTP: I use it in my clinic as I treat the root causes of depression.

Note: If you are currently taking antidepressants, talk to your doctor before making any changes.

5-HTP can accelerate weight loss

Supplementing with 5-HTP can also help you achieve your body weight. The amino acid is converted directly into serotonin, that dampens physical hunger as well as stress-related urges to eat, says integrative physician Taz Bhatia, MD, author of Super Woman Rx. In fact, in a 12-week study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 5-HTP curbed women’s carbohydrate cravings so effectively, they ate 42 percent fewer calories per day and lost four times more weight than people who took a placebo. To get the weight loss benefits, Dr. Bhatia recommends taking 100 mg. of 5-HTP three times a day, 30 minutes before meals.

5-HTP can improve sleep

The amino acid 5-HTP also increases time spent in restful sleep by up to 53%. To reap the benefits, psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD, author of Change your brain every day (Buy from Amazon, $18.99), suggests supplementing with 50mg. of 5-HTP 30 minutes before bedtime. Adds: You can take up to 300mg. every day, then if you don’t get results, increase the dose by 50 mg. every night until you find the right dose for you.

5-HTP can relieve headaches

In a study of 124 migraine sufferers, 71% of those who received 5-HTP experienced a significant improvement in the intensity and duration of their headaches. They also reported fewer side effects than those taking prescription migraine medications.

What are the side effects of 5-HTP?

Currently, side effects when taking a 5-HTP supplement include nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Scientists recommend not exceeding 800 milligrams per day for more than six weeks at a time.

How should you take 5-HTP?

5-HTP supplements often come in the form of an oral capsule (Buy at Amazon, $15) and are easy to find online and in health food stores.

As with any supplement, do your research before making a purchase and talk to your doctor before starting. That extra medical opinion is important!

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before pursuing any treatment plan.

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