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What is 5-HTP?

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If you’re experiencing low mood, and you’ve been researching remedies to help with your symptoms, you may be thinking about trying the supplement 5-HTP. Before you do this, it’s important to talk to your GP.

Some people believe that taking 5-HTP supplements can be a treatment for low mood and anxiety. However, 5-HTP isn’t approved as a medical treatment by the NHS. You may find that it works for you, but you should consult your GP beforehand.

How 5-HTP works

5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a form of the essential amino acid tryptophan. We need tryptophan in our diet, because it helps our bodies make the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin has a number of “jobs” around the body, but it’s best known for regulating mood. It also plays a role in sleep, pain, digestion, and blood clotting .

Because we need tryptophan to make serotonin, some people believe that taking 5-HTP can be an effective treatment for conditions related to mood, sleep, and chronic pain.

However, there is little clinical evidence to support these claims, and more research needs to be carried out before it can be recommended. Please bear in mind that you should consult a healthcare professional before taking 5-HTP supplements and to continue to take any prescribed medication.

Because collagen isn’t considered a medical treatment by the NHS, not much is known about its side effects or long-term risks. For this reason, you should never use it as a substitute for NHS-approved medication that your GP has already prescribed.

Food sources of 5-HTP

Tryptophan is found in lots of different foods, including:

  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cheese and milk
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soya products 

If you follow the kind of healthy diet set out by the NHS Eatwell Guide, you should be getting all the tryptophan you need. Read our healthy eating guide for more advice. 

Remember: in addition to eating a healthy diet, it’s also important to exercise. Regular activity throughout the week can help you lose weight, improve your sleep, and boost your mood.

How to take 5-HTP

5-HTP normally comes in capsule form, and is designed to be taken every day.

To make sure it’s suitable for as many people as possible, 5-HTP supplements are usually made from seed extracts including Griffonia seed extract. However, if you follow a vegan diet, it’s always a good idea to check the label for any animal products before you buy a supplement.

You should always take 5-HTP in the dosage recommended on the bottle or the information leaflet that comes with the supplement. Taking too much may not be safe.

Where to buy 5-HTP

You can find 5-HTP supplements at LloydsPharmacy, as well as other high street pharmacies and health food shops.

It’s always a good idea to buy supplements from trusted retailers or pharmacies, and not from unregulated sources. You can check if a pharmacy is registered by visiting the General Pharmaceutical Council website and searching for the name of the pharmacy.

To find out more about buying from online pharmacies, read obtaining medicines online.

When not to take 5-HTP

Tryptophan is known to negatively interact with a long list of medications, and potentially cause health complications. This is why it’s important to talk to your GP before you try it.

You should avoid taking 5-HTP completely if you are already taking any other medication that increases serotonin production, such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Migraine medicines
  • Painkillers

Side effects of 5-HTP

There are a few potential side effects associated with 5-HTP, including the following:

NHS-approved treatments for depression and anxiety

If you’re interested in trying 5-HTP for depression or anxiety, remember there are plenty of medical treatments and techniques that have been approved by the NHS.

Your GP may want to refer you for counselling or a specific type of therapy, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). An alternative is to refer yourself for therapy without visiting your GP first – you can do this if you live in England.

Your GP may also be able to offer you some NHS-approved medication such as SSRIs. As with 5-HTP, SSRIs are thought to work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. The difference is that SSRIs have been rigorously tested and checked in clinical studies to make sure that they’re safe and effective.

For more information about getting help with your mental health, visit Mind, or the NHS.

Lifestyle changes to boost your mood

As well as seeking help from a doctor, there are some changes you can make in your lifestyle to improve your mood:

Lastly, try to make a bit more time for yourself through the week! Setting aside the odd hour here or there for a long bath or a catch-up with friends is a great way to stay happy and motivated. For more inspiration, check out self care ideas to get you started