Natural Mood Lifters: Nature's Blues Busters
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In 1995, 5-HTP the metabolite of tryptophan, a step further along in the metabolic pathway became available as an extract from seeds of the African shrub Griffonia simplicifolia. Like L-tryptophan, it is converted into serotonin, inducing relaxation, elevated mood, and sleep. It may be even more useful than tryptophan, because much of the tryptophan we eat is processed along different biochemical pathways. 5-HTP is a direct precursor of serotonin and also enters the brain more easily. Unlike tryptophan, it can be taken with food and other supplements, including amino acids, with no interference. It still needs vitamin B6 as a cofactor for conversion to serotonin.
Not surprisingly, results in treating depression with 5-HTP have proven more effective than with tryptophan. For example, a double-blind trial headed by Dr. Poldinger at the Basel University of Psychiatry gave thirty-four depressed patients 300 mg of 5-HTP and twenty-nine patients fluvoxamine (Luvox), an SSRI antidepressant. Each patient was assessed for his or her degree of depression using the widely accepted Hamilton Rating Scale, plus his or her own subjective self-assessment. At the end of the six weeks, both groups showed a significant improvement in their depression. However, those patients taking 5-HTP experienced a greater improvement in each of the four criteria assessed depression, anxiety, insomnia, and physical symptoms as well as the patients' self-assessments. 5-HTP had outperformed the best antidepressant. Given that 5-HTP is less expensive and has significantly fewer side effects, it is extraordinary that it is almost never prescribed by psychiatrists.
The dose of 5-HTP is one-tenth that of L-tryptophan. It is available in both 50- and 100-mg capsules. For anxiety or depression, the dose is 50-200 mg a day, taken in divided doses. Some people report drowsiness if they take 5-HTP during the day, so use caution to determine your best daytime dose. In fact, especially if you're having trouble sleeping, you can take 50-200 mg of the daily dose at bedtime. Since there are few studies on the long-term effects, it is best taken for a month or two at a time only, with a few weeks off before restarting.
How it works: Direct precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Positive effects: Induces relaxation; elevates mood and sleep; suppresses appetite; promotes healthy sleep-wake patterns and emotional stability, dreaming, and creative imagination.
Cautions: Some people report nausea, anxiety, and agitation at very high doses. Rarely, sensitive individuals may feel anxious at even normal doses, in which case they should stop. Do not take 5-HTP with SSRI antidepressants except under medical guidance.
Dosage: For daytime use, 50-100 mg two to three times daily. For sleep, 50-200 mg one hour before bedtime. Take about 50 mg a day of vitamin B6 as a cofactor.
Phenylalanine And Tyrosine: Dynamic Duo
Phenylalanine and tyrosine are amino acid precursors to noradrenaline, adrenaline, and dopamine.
Phenylalanine is converted to tyrosine, which is then converted to dopamine, and then to noradrenaline. They require as cofactors the vitamins niacin, B6, B62, folic acid, and C, plus the minerals zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese. The most effective form of phenylalanine for mood enhancement is DLPA, which has proven as effective as tricyclic antidepressants.
Most of the research on people's moods is conducted by pharmaceutical companies while they are developing new drugs. Experiments are first run on laboratory animals. Then people suffering from depression are recruited as their test subjects. As a result, we don't have much "official" information on the effects of these substances in "normal" people, who want to take products simply to boost their mood. But our own clinical experience shows us that these are great mood boosters, even when there is no obvious problem.
From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright © Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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