5HTP is useful if you need a little help boosting your serotonin levels. You’ve heard me talk before about serotonin, ‘the happy hormone’ which you normally synthesise from the amino acid tryptophan in food via a complex chain of chemical reactions. Serotonin has a role in how you feel in yourself, what you want to eat (and how often), and how much you sleep – all of the things which go awry when you have PMS.
Boosting serotonin using 5HTP tablets (sometimes also sold as Serotone) is also useful to even out the ups and downs of perimenopause – because when oestrogen levels drop, so too, I’m afraid, does serotonin.
What is 5HTP and how does it work?
5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an extract of the seeds of an African shrub called griffonia. It’s what’s termed a precursor to the neurotransmitter made in your brain called serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, headaches and PMS.
As luck would have it, we women generally have lower levels of serotonin than men – which may go part of the way to explaining why we tend to suffer more from conditions like depression.
5HTP for Mood
A number of properly designed (i.e. double-blind placebo-controlled) clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of 5-HTP in the treatment of depression, making it an effective natural alternative to antidepressant drugs. After all, antidepressants such as Prozac are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), meaning that they too work by increasing the amount of serotonin available to the brain. 5HTP can also help if you suffer from panic attacks.
5HTP for Appetite Control
Low serotonin (or poor metabolism of serotonin) leads to increased sugar cravings – which I’m sure you’re familiar with during PMS. Eating simple carbs like white bread or chocolate actually does boost your brain’s serotonin levels (that’s why it feels so good) and food cravings are often your body’s way of telling you need a serotonin ‘hit’.
But getting relief in this way is only temporary and leads to the vicious cycle of blood sugar levels going up and down – leaving you feeling worse than before. So by balancing serotonin using 5HTP – together with all my other PMS tips, of course (at the bottom of this post and throughout PMS Warrior) – you can control appetite and beat food cravings.
5HTP for Sleep
5-HTP helps with relaxation, and is also converted into melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates your sleep cycle.
How to use 5HTP
5-HTP can make you feel a bit drowsy or ‘floaty’, so it’s best taken at night, with a small carbohydrate snack.
Start with 50mg a day, and see what how you feel. That dose may be enough. However, a dose of 100mg a day – if you need it – is also safe. But whichever dose you take, be sure to take a break from taking 5HTP from time to time to prevent the build-up of tolerance, which will make it much less effective.
Do NOT take 5HTP if pregnant or taking antidepressants or tranquilisers, and take medical advice if you are considering taking 5HTP with any other prescribed drugs.
Remember that 5HTP is just one tool in an holistic programme to synthesise serotonin and beat PMS by naturally balancing hormones. So for a knock-out anti-PMS plan, add 5HTP into a programme which includes as many of the follow recommendations as you can manage:
- Eat complex carbohydrates for natural serotonin sythesis
- Eat a healthy breakfast to prevent your blood sugar levels crashing later in the day
- Choose healthy snacks
- Choose plant-based foods which are full of fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients to balance your hormones
- Get regular and varied exercise – preferably in the fresh air
- Get enough exposure to light – whether from natural sunshine or a lightbox / lightmask
- Do whatever you can to reduce stress (because it raises cortisol levels) – whether that’s meditating, dancing, painting or having sex!
Have you tried 5HTP? How did it work for you?
Thanks for reading!