5HTP Regulates Mood, Sleep and Appetite

5HTP can be useful to improve mood and sleep

5HTP can make your world that bit sunnier

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

It's a good idea to take 5HTP with a small carbohydrate snack for absorption

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:

Have you tried 5HTP? How did it work for you?

Thanks for reading!

PMS Escape and the serotonin connection

PMS Escape – Clinically Proven to work in a PMS crisis

I’m not keen on the remedies and supplements which are targeted at women with PMS but which are not backed up by science.  But when I find a product I like, I stick with it and spread the love.

Ready-made anti-PMS cocktail. Now all SOLD OUT

Several years ago, I discovered a powdered drink from America specifically designed for women with PMS called PMS Escape.   It had been developed by Dr Judith Wurtman while she was Director of the Program in Women’s Health at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Clinical Research Center and was a clinically tested and patented blend of carbohydrates and vitamins. 

Having come out of an academic institution, it’s not surprising that PMS Escape was supported by research papers which provided evidence of its effectiveness in double blind trials.  These showed that it successfully boosted serotonin levels and thereby reduced the PMS symptoms of sadness, tension and anger (as well as cravings for sugar and carbohydrates) compared with a placebo. 

I’ve already written about how carbohydrates are essential to managing PMS symptoms, but the great advantage of PMS Escape was that it served up a balanced mix of carbs in a quickly digested convenient form, giving almost instant relief.  Taken on an empty stomach, PMS Escape would have a calming, soothing effect within 20 minutes or so.  The effect was rapid and astonishing, and a lifesaver in a crisis – for example, when you had to get it together to face a challenging day at work despite your PMS.

I’ve kept a little stockpile of PMS Escape in my cupboard and it has bailed me out on several occasions.  Just yesterday I had an unexpectedly ratty day after I let my blood sugar levels plummet by forgetting to eat from breakfast till 3pm.  Fatal.  I got shaky and irritable, impatient and muddle-headed, but nonetheless I needed to get myself together to meet someone.  Due to very poor planning, I didn’t have the time or the ingredients to prepare and eat a sensible carbohydrate-rich plant-based meal which would have got me back onto an even keel.  So I reached for the PMS Escape – the sticking plaster solution.  And it worked a treat.  I was able to face the world and get on with my day.  It also saved me from the potato crisps and chocolate fingers – which would have given me a short-lived energy and mood boost but would have left me feeling worse in the long run. 

I’ve only used PMS Escape occasionally but when I have, it’s been very effective.  So as far as I could see, the only downside was the cost – about £12 for enough for 3 days’ usage (a month’s supply) – and the fact you could only order it online.

Well, I don’t need to worry about either of these any more, as it’s now been discontinued.

I’m sorry to drop that bombshell – especially if you’ve got excited because I’ve just waxed lyrical about it – but you have to understand … I’m grieving too!  PMS Escape is now showing ‘out of stock’ or ‘sold out’ pretty much everywhere.  What a shame that the one thing that has been proven to be fast-acting, safe and effective, has been withdrawn. 

PMS Escape Withdrawn – So Now What Do We Do?

At first I suspected that PMS Escape had stopped being imported into the UK because of new health food regulations, but I see that it’s the American side of the operation that has withdrawn it.   So that seems pretty final.  (If anyone knows exactly why it’s been discontinued, I’d be interested to know.  I’ve tried emailing the manufacturer / distributor, Enzymatic Therapy, and got no response). 

But as the saying goes, perhaps it’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.  It’s time to move on and find an alternative PMS emergency fix.  But first a little about how and why PMS Escape worked so well. Continue reading

The good, the bad and the ugly of vitamin supplements for PMS

I’m Not Easily Convinced By Pillsvitamin supplements - a pill for every ill?

Whether people know you suffer from PMS or not, you’ll probably have heard from friends, media pundits and women’s magazines that you should be taking vitamin supplements, either as a remedy for something specific or as a form of ‘just in case’ health insurance. 

Perhaps iron (for blood), vitamin C (for immunity), calcium (for bones), fish oil (for your heart) or a multi-vitamin (to cover all eventualities!)

I certainly bought into that thinking for many years.  I voraciously read all the health promotional literature and spent a shedload of money adding to my vitamin supplements stash.  I even convinced my friends to do likewise.  Not any more. (With a few exceptions).

I’m not really a fan of vitamin supplements any more – even though this feels like swimming against the tide where the holistic and alternative health community is concerned.  Yet I’m healthier than ever and largely PMS-free.  I take a small number of very targeted, evidence-based supplements (which are based on herbs or dehydrated foods rather than laboratory-synthesised vitamins) and spend most of time and money on making sure I eat well and live well.

Why have I changed my views?  Well, I think it’s easy to get sucked into popping a handful of vitamin supplements without really knowing whether you need them.  Or if they’re actually doing you any good.  Vitamin supplements are not foods (which are nature’s natural vitamin supplements) and they probably should be thought of more as medications.  In which case, why would you take a medication if you didn’t know that you really needed it, didn’t know how long you should take it for, and couldn’t say if it was making a difference?

Vitamin Supplements Aimed at Women with PMS

I know from experience that when you’re enduring PMS over endless months and years, you seek out any remedy going and try whatever you can.  And vitamin supplements promise all manner of solutions in a convenient (though usually not cheap) package.  These claims are very seductive and offer a lifeline to women who are often at the end of their tether.  But a few words of caution:

  • Getting a vitamin supplements ‘habit’ can quickly become a money pit – there may be better and more enjoyable ways of investing in your health
  • Every woman is different so random off-the-shelf supplementation based on a ‘one size fits all’ ideal is unlikely to be effective
  • Vitamin supplements may only be treating the symptoms of PMS or any other imbalance, rather than going to the root cause

Continue reading

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