Amino acids are something we’ve all heard about in science class, but how often do we really retain information delivered in monotone lectures devoid of passion? Many facts go in one ear and out the other, so try not to beat yourself up too much because of a flunked biology exam from ten years ago.
What’s important is the here and now, and that just so happens to consist of you reading this article about 5-HTP supplements. There’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of 5-HTP before (that may or may not have something to do with your less than ideal science grades), but if you’re an adult diagnosed with bipolar disorder, then you may want to pay attention.
Managing a mental disorder is never a walk in the park, and that sentiment certainly holds true when it comes to those who go throughout life with bipolar. What’s interesting, though, are the seemingly positive effects that 5-HTP supplements have on reducing certain symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Now, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. It’s important to acknowledge that supplements do not exist to take the place of medicine, but to enhance specific areas of your life with natural properties.
5-HTP supplements may be able to do a lot of good for those who struggle with managing their symptoms of bipolar disorder, though before we draw any kind of thoughtful conclusion we must get all of the facts straight about 5-HTP supplements.
Continue reading to learn more about the following:
- Mood disorder and mental health treatment
- What research reveals about using 5-HTP to treat bipolar symptoms
- Additional steps you can take to manage your mental health
The Reality of Mood Disorders
Mental Health and Bipolar Facts You Should Know
If you’ve made it past the first few paragraphs of this article and still feel compelled to keep going, there’s a good chance you know a thing or two about bipolar disorder. However, if you’re a bit ignorant of the subject, know you’ll face no judgment from me; in fact, part of my job is helping others better understand their own health, mental and physical.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings that can last long durations of time and range from depressive lows to manic highs. Mania episodes consist of an elevated or irritable mood that starts euphoric but ends in impulsivity or exhaustion, leading to possible social, financial, sexual, or even legal consequences. Depressive episodes are accompanied by feelings of despair or a loss of hope, brain fog, cognitive issues, and potential suicidal thoughts or ideations.
Data collected from a survey estimates that 9.7% of adults over the age of eighteen in the United States reported having a mood disorder in the past year, and a striking 21.4% are estimated to experience some type of mood disorder within their lifetimes. Mood disorders can be debilitating and severely affect the quality of living for many individuals across various regions. More than sixty million people report being affected by bipolar disorder, and that does not even take into account those who live undiagnosed with the disorder.
Social stigma and a general negative association with mental health treatment are both contributing factors to the populace’s reluctance to seek treatment. There is also the possibility of clinicians being unable to offer a proper diagnosis due to a number of obstacles, such as a disorder’s presentation, unpredictable prognosis, and the varied response to treatment.
The Problem with Medication
There are many individuals living with bipolar who seek out treatment for their disorder, and while some do find the assistance they need to improve their mental health, many remain unsatisfied with contemporary treatment options.
Medication plays a huge factor in the treatment of mental illness and mood disorders, but there is enough mounting evidence to see that more medicine alternatives must be available to patients. The modern world of healthcare needs safer and more effective treatment methods, and to become less reliant on medication as a cure-all remedy.
I say all this with the utmost faith in responsibly administered medication, which definitely plays a major role in managing mood disorders. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that medication cannot fix everything on its own. There is mixed data on how effective medication is during depressive and manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and the potential side effects may only end up worsening your symptoms.
Taking 5-HTP For Bipolar Disorder
Why It Works and the Role of Amino Acids
There is reason to believe that supplementing with 5-HTP can help manage certain symptoms of bipolar disorder, since 5-HTP is the chemical precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which does quite a lot of good for our brains. Your body naturally produces 5-HTP from L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid obtained from food.
Amino acids are the building blocks for all life and act as the chemical basis for all proteins, which build everything in the body from muscles and skin to internal organs and fluids. They even play an active role in the nervous system by functioning as neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that enable your cells to communicate with each other.
It’s important to know the distinction between essential and nonessential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the amino acids your body cannot synthesize, meaning you must acquire them from your diet. Nonessential amino acids can be manufactured by your liver and, despite their misleading name, are as vital to your good health as essential amino acids.
The specific amino acids that have been linked with bipolar disorder are tryptophan, tyrosine, and taurine. Bipolar disorder has been linked with a deficiency of taurine, an amino acid made in the liver that produces a calming effect in the brain. For an individual struggling with managing bipolar, a lack of taurine can cause an increase in the number of manic episodes they experience.
Tryptophan and tyrosine are both essential amino acids that play a major role in mood regulation. Tyrosine is a factor in brain chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine; tryptophan is vital in the process of serotonin synthesis. Lacking one or both of these amino acids is often associated with periods of low mood, aggression, and anxiety.
Supplementing with L-tryptophan or 5-HTP can help reduce the intensity of manic episodes experienced with bipolar disorder when taken at recommended doses (25 to 100 mg up to three times per day). Keep in mind that a medical professional may want you to take one of these supplements in combination with an approved medication to get the most out of your treatment.
A Quality 5-HTP Supplement
There’s no point taking a supplement that isn’t going to work the way you wanted it to, and while you can’t control the outcome of every situation, you do have the ability to make thoughtful decisions concerning your health. One of the smartest moves you can make is to thoroughly research the 5-HTP supplements available to you.
Knowing what you’re about to put into your body is vital to staying in good health, and quality ingredients are a key component of effective, health-boosting supplements. My own 5-HTP Plus supplement is made from a formula that contains natural ingredients designed to enhance brain function and increase serotonin synthesis. This improves overall mood and reduces anxiety, which are both major factors of bipolar disorder.
Each bottle of my 5-HTP Plus supplement contains sixty 100 mg capsules for a thirty day supply on a dosage of 200 mg. While different people may prefer adjusted doses, I’ve developed my formula to be best taken as instructed, and 200 mg is a well balanced amount that gets you the most mood enhancing potential.
Popular Vitamins and Supplements
I have always promoted a holistic approach to health in my practice, one that seeks to enrich the many facets of your life that contribute to personal wellness while also accepting the reality of individual experiences. People are not built the same, and it is presumptuous to assume health is any different, so while one medication might work for one person, it is also possible that the same medication is completely ineffective on another.
The same logic should be applied to supplements and additional treatment methods for mood disorders. Supplements aren’t magic, but they can aid efforts to effectively manage mental health in combination with appropriate medication usage and psychiatric treatment.
There’s no doubt 5-HTP supplements have the potential to improve symptoms of bipolar disorder due to the amino acid being directly involved in the biosynthesis of serotonin, though it is ignorant to assume that means all individuals diagnosed with a mood disorder will get the same results using 5-HTP supplements. Everyone’s brain chemistry is different, which is why it’s important to have an array of suitable options to pull from.
In addition to the possible benefits you might gain from 5-HTP supplements, there are many alternative supplements and vitamins available on the market that may produce similar or even better results. Finding what works best may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Fish Oil
Fish oil has become one of the most popular supplements on the market due to the omega-3 fatty acids they contain. These naturally occurring nutrients can be found in the forms EPA and DHA in foods like tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout. A third form of omega-3 fatty acids known as ALA is present in plant foods like spinach, flaxseeds, common plant oils, walnuts, and other dark green leafy vegetables.
In regards to bipolar disorder, there is reasonably strong evidence supporting the supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of manic or depressive episodes in comparison to other supplements. Fish oil has an antidepressant effect, which can help manage certain symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Our brains produce melatonin in reaction to ambient light, which helps us regulate our circadian rhythm. Individuals who experience bipolar disorder may have abnormal circadian rhythms as a result of insufficient melatonin production. Supplementing with melatonin at bedtime can increase sleep duration and even reduce symptoms of mania.
Vitamin B12 is known for its energizing effects and may be helpful in reducing feelings of fatigue brought on by depressive episodes of bipolar disorder. Vitamin B1 may ease symptoms of anxiety and irritability that are also common in the disorder.
What Are the Side Effects of 5-HTP?
Yes, 5-HTP supplements can significantly improve your life by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, but what about the not so great part? Are there any outstanding side effects you should be made aware of before beginning supplementation?
As with any medication, supplements carry potential side effects. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before rushing to make any final decision. Some side effects that you may experience consist of the following:
- Stomach pain
Though these side effects are relatively minor, it is important to communicate openly and honestly with your doctor about your experience with taking 5-HTP supplements.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be gained from taking 5-HTP supplements for managing symptoms of bipolar disorder, but there is always more research to be done. Try talking to your doctor about possibly taking 5-HTP supplements and experience firsthand all the good they can do for you!