January 17, 2011
3. 5-HTP has greatly enhanced the quality of my life and has had some interesting side effects
Before I start touting how great 5-HTP has proved for me, I want to emphasize the "for me" aspect. Parkinson's is a very idiosyncratic disease, and the reactions to any drug or supplement, whether prescribed or over the counter, varies greatly among individuals. So don't rush out and buy some 5-HTP based on what follows. For example, 5-HTP should not be used if you already are on an antidepressant unless your doctor says it’s OK.
Several friends have tried 5-HTP upon hearing my raves but without a lot of success. However, all but one of these friends, did not have PD. And the jury is still out with the one who has PD. I have a theory, substantiated by some studies, that 5-HTP works particularly well when combined with carbidopa/levadopa. One of the reasons I started this blog is to see if others with PD also are having a similar experience to mine.
If you do an online search on 5-HTP's interaction with other meds, you will find reliable information at sites like www.WebMD.com. You may be concerned by warnings you'll find about using 5-HTP and levadopa, but I've done further research on this, which you can find in two blog posting on Nov. 27, 2010, that show no basis for concern if you are taking carbidopa/levodopa. Some studies have shown an actual beneficial interaction.
Now back to me and 5-HTP. What is 5-HTP? It's basically a serotonin booster. Serotonin is allied with dopamine as two of the three major neurotransmitters in the brain. PD, of course, causes depletion in dopamine.
I started with the smallest available dosage of 5-HTP (50 mg) and found that it worked almost as well as the Elavil for insomnia and even better for depression. 5-HTP did not produce the morning grogginess that always bothered me when taking Elavil or Ambien. And instead of gaining weight, I lost 10 pounds within the first few months on 5-HTP. (5HTP is often used by those seeking to lose weight, but usually in much higher doses than I could handle.) 5-HTP also has alleviated the periodic constipation I've had that has always seemed to be tied to sleep difficulties. (I intend to do research and a posting later on possible links between constipation and insomnia).
After six months on the 50 mg dosage, my sleep was becoming increasingly fragmented so I upped the dosage to 100 mg. I experimented a couple of times with taking an extra 50 mg when my bathroom scale showed my weight ascending yet again. But I've found this pushes me over the border into manic hyperactivity.
A particularly strange -- and seemingly unique (a Google search found no other reports) -- side effect I've experienced with 5-HTP is that I often wake up in the morning with a blast of creativity -- ideas come flooding in for solving problems that had been bothering me or for undertaking new ventures. When this happens at my usual 4 to 5 a.m. wakening, it sometimes is difficult to get back to sleep. But thanks to my current practice of meditating at that time, I’ve come to see that early awakening period as one of my favorite times of the day. (See the entry below on meditation.)