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What are 5-HTP Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2016
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5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as either 5-HTP or as oxitriptan, is a form of alternative medicine. It is a dietary supplement that can be used as a weight-loss aid, sleep aid, or a depression treatment. This supplement works on a metabolic level and increases the body’s production of serotonin. Due to how the body absorbs the supplement, 5-HTP side effects will differ slightly for each person, but can include heartburn, excess gas, and minor stomach upset.

5-HTP is what is known as a serotonin precursor. The body naturally produces an amino acid called tryptophan, which aids in the production of 5-HTP. There are some instances where tryptophan levels are low which leads to low levels of serotonin production. 5-HTP supplements help correct this problem by helping to increase serotonin levels.

Low levels of serotonin can cause a variety of problems. Some people suffer from trouble sleeping, mood swings, and irritability. Other people suffer from widespread pain sensations and depression. When problems like these are caused by low serotonin levels in the body, the benefits of increasing serotonin may outweigh any potential 5-HTP side effects.

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5-HTP has shown it can be an effective treatment for many common problems. It can be used to treat insomnia, excessive weight gain, and anxiety. Depression is a common problem that many people suffer from, and is often related to a decrease in serotonin levels. 5-HTP can help treat depression because it works to increase serotonin production. For people who suffer from fibromyalgia and have not had results from other medications, 5-HTP may help reduce the pain experienced.

Taking 5-HTP supplements does not come without risk, and has been known to interfere with prescription medicines, as well as some types of herbal supplements, which treat depression or alter the brain's chemistry in any way. 5-HTP can also cause complications for people who have cardiovascular disease. It should not be taken by pregnant or nursing mothers. One of the serious 5-HTP side effects that can occur is serotonin syndrome, which happens when serotonin levels are too high.

Generally, 5-HTP side effects are minimal and will subside after the body adjusts. Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are more common. Rare side effects include confusion, increased blood pressure, and sometimes coma. People who take 5-HTP supplements should take precautions with any other medications, whether they are prescription or over the counter. A doctor’s care is necessary to watch for dangerous side effects.

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