Anti-depressant and dietary supplements are widely used to help manage various conditions. For instance, 5-HTP is typically used to treat major depression in addition to be aiding patients handle sleep disorders. Also used for suppressing appetite, 5-HTP, acronym for 5-Hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid that is produced in the body naturally. It is taken as a dietary supplement when individuals seek to improve certain functions and actions in the body. By virtue of being a supplement, there are chances of the OTC supplement being used without proper caution, resulting in 5-HTP side effects.

Here is a look at the common side effects of the supplement and the various methods to mitigate/prevent the side effects from turning serious. Extracted from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a woody shrub native to Africa, 5-HTP in capsule form is recommended as a dietary supplement for individuals who have lower levels of serotonin. Due to the lower serotonin levels, individuals are known to experience mental health issues, with an impact on emotional well-being. We will focus on 5-HTP side effects as adequate material is already available about the benefits of 5-HTP.

Commonly reported 5 HTP side effects

Here is a look at commonly reported 5 HTP side effects. The manner in which these side effects impact different categories of individuals may vary. For instance, adults, young children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women may experience varying effects.

#1 Effects from high levels of serotonin

As a result of high levels of serotonin, there is a possibility of individuals experiencing symptoms that could end up as life threatening in nature. The chemical that is required in the brain and nerve cells, could cause serious adverse effects when levels cross beyond the desired levels. Certain symptoms are indicative of the onset of the “Serotonin Syndrome”. For instance, individuals may experience confusion, a certain degree of anxiety for no reason and abnormal muscle twitching and spasms. Additionally, individuals are likely to sweat profusely, while shivering is a possibility. Bouts of diarrhoea are also a likelihood in certain cases as a result of 5-HTP side effects. It is necessary to understand that the condition could be the result of various serotonin drugs. For instance, individuals may have been prescribed SSRI or SNRI as part of medication. When this is combined with other medications that boost serotonin levels such as other anti-depressants or 5-HTP, there is a possibility of a sudden increase in serotonin levels, resulting in “Serotonin Syndrome”.

Individuals on medications that boost serotonin levels are to avoid taking other medications that increase serotonin levels. While the symptoms listed above are relatively moderate in nature, certain symptoms are severe and serious and require medical attention. In certain rare instances, the condition could be life threatening in nature. For instance, individuals who experience high fever, or lose consciousness, with irregular heartbeat need medical attention. Similarly, patients experiencing seizures also require treatment. Other 5-HTP side effects related symptoms that need to be monitored closely include changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and dilation of the pupils.

#2 Effects as a result of depleted levels of neurotransmitters

5 HTP results in a reduction in levels of certain neurotransmitter – dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. As a result of this reduction, certain changes manifest in the individuals. Belonging to the category of catecholamines, these neurotransmitters have specific functions which end up getting impacted. The depleted levels of these catecholamines result in visible changes in mood and certain functions of the body. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are vital for mood and mood related actions and the impact of 5-HTP on these catecholamines could affect routine actions.

#3 Effects of 5-HTP on gastrointestinal functions

5-HTP is known to have an impact on gastrointestinal functions. For instance, individuals have reported certain symptoms as a result of 5-HTP side effects, including heartburn, formation of gas, and a full feeling int eh stomach not attributed to other reasons. Additionally, individuals have also experienced rumbling feelings in the stomach that is not clearly linked to any other dietary issue. Gastrointestinal problems are typically attributed to diet, other medical reasons. As a result of side effects of 5-HTP, individuals may experience the above symptoms despite not having any other dietary or medical related problems.

#4 Effects of 5-HTP on blood vessels and the heart

The impact of 5-HTP on blood vessels and the heart include a narrowing of the blood vessels. Attributed to serotonin, the narrowing of tiny blood vessels is vital to halt bleeding, when injuries are sustained. However, when blood clots occur for no reason, this can turn into a life-threatening condition. Individuals with specific medical conditions such as high blood pressure are advised to avoid 5-HTP to prevent complications. Similarly, individuals who belong to the category of high cardiovascular risk are also expected to consult treating specialists prior to taking 5-HTP. This is necessary to ensure that unforeseen complications from 5-HTP side effects are avoided.

#5 Effects of 5-HTP : osteoporosis

Among the other issues attributed to 5-HTP side effects, osteoporosis is another condition that merits attention. For instance, high levels of serotonin may result in weakening of the bones, and the cause for worry is the apparent lack of symptoms. The condition onsets without any visible symptom and individuals learn of the condition only in advanced stage. For instance, most individuals learn of the condition only when a fall or injury results in a broken bone. Individuals with known conditions of osteoporosis are advised to discuss the issue with treating specialists before taking 5-HTP.

#6 Effects of 5-HTP on white blood cells

5-HTP results in a sudden increase in white blood cell count, resulting in a condition that is typically rare in nature. Known as eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, the condition refers to the high levels of eosinophils in the body. As a result of this, individuals are likely to experience pain in the muscles, cramps, and unusual weakness. Additional visible symptoms include rashes on the skin that is not attributed to any other skin condition. Observed side effects include difficulty in breathing, which is also not associated to any specific medical condition or reason. Individuals have also reported fatigue as a result of taking 5-HTP. EMS can manifest to severe levels and in rare cases can result in organ failure and eventual fatality. Multiple organ failure is a possibility and this is one of the reasons why it is a serious condition.

#7 Effects of 5-HTP that result in allergies

Allergic reactions to 5-HTP are a possibility and reports of rare, yet severe allergic reactions to 5-HTP exist. Anaphylaxis has been reported in individuals taking 5-HTP and experts advise urgent medical intervention when specific symptoms are observed. For instance, rashes on the skin, hives and abnormal swelling on the face are indications of severe allergic reactions. When swelling on the lips, tongue and throat are experienced, it is necessary to seek medical intervention. Similarly, shortness of breath, or any difficulty in breathing are also indications of possible allergic reactions. Individuals experiencing pain in the stomach or cramps in the abdomen need to monitor the condition or seek specialist attention when on 5-HTP. Other possible indications of allergic reactions attributed to 5-HTP side effects include vomiting, diarrhoea and unusual negative feelings.

Care and precautions that need to be taken when on 5-HTP

Precautions are necessary when on 5-HTP. This is especially in the case of certain categories of individuals. For instance, pregnant women and breastfeeding women are expected to exercise a degree of caution when on 5-HTP as a complete and scientific evaluation has not been performed. As a result, the exact impact on pregnant women and breastfeeding women is yet to be ascertained. Till a clear picture emerges, it is necessary that 5-HTP be avoided by these two categories of individuals.

Similarly, individuals on certain medications such as anti-depressants, are advised not to take 5-HTP till the time the treatment is continued. This is because of the potential increase in serotonin levels and possible serotonin syndrome. Similarly, individuals on medication to treat migraine are also advised to stay off 5-HTP till the duration of the treatment. Finally, certain pain killers are also likely to interact with the supplement. It is therefore necessary to seek medical advice before taking the supplement to avoid 5-HTP side effects. It is important to remember that certain pain killers are available as over the counter options and it is hence necessary to consult a doctor before taking the supplement.

How much of 5-HTP is safe and what needs to be done in the case of overdose?

Medications are often prescribed with approved dosage. However, by virtue of 5-HTP being classified as a supplement, there is no approved dosage, but what is known as typical dosage. For instance, 5-HTP is available as 25, 50 and 100 milligram capsules. Many formulations are known to include 5-HTP along with multivitamins. Therefore, the actual usage depends on various factors. Typically, individuals commencing 5-HTP are known to start off with a low dosage of around 25 mg and continue the dose for a week before moving to the next higher dosage. This helps in preventing the onset of 5-HTP side effects suddenly, offering a cautious approach. The maximum dosage that is generally taken is 100 mg per day, and the progress to 100 mg may take about three or four weeks, in a staggered manner. Regardless of the slow increase in dosage, it is always essential to check with the family physician or consulting specialist before taking supplements. Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA it is all the more important to choose a good brand and to diligently follow the instructions on the label. Products that are regulated by the FDA have uniform standards and classification and this effectively improves the standard. In the absence of such uniform standards, more caution is required on the part of users.

Tips for individuals on 5-HTP

Individuals on 5-HTP are advised to follow a few tips that will help prevent or mitigate undesirable side effects. The first step is to consult a doctor before taking 5-HTP supplements. This will help identify possible drug interactions or adverse 5-HTP side effects due to pre-existing conditions. The second caution is the need to stick to the ideal and safe dosage. As high doses can be lethal due to the serotonin syndrome, it is necessary to start off with the right dose and gradually increase dosage. The third tip is the need to seek medical advice the moment any adverse side effects are experienced. For instance, serious or severe side effects that have been highlighted above need to be treated with extra care.

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