April 18, 2013

Coconut Oil, Alzheimer's & Dr. Newport vs. 5-HTP, Parkinson's & Me -- Part One

Americans spent over $30 billion on dietary supplements in 2011, much of it based on anecdotal reports from a few people rather than solid scientific evidence. After writing two days ago about my experience with 5-HTP and its beneficial impact on my Parkinson's, I thought again about Dr. Mary Newport and her claims of coconut oil's miraculous impact on her husband's Alzheimer's.

I want to highlight the difference between my reporting and hers. I'll start today. Tomorrow, Dr. Newport.

5-HTP, Parkinson's, and Me
When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the fall of 2009, I was also dealing with the depression and insomnia that often accompany PD. My neurologist at the time prescribed the old-line antidepressant Elavil. But after a few months, I switched to a different neurologist, Dr. Laxman Bahroo at Georgetown University Hospital. He expressed concern about the possible cognitive side effects of Elavil.

I had a good experience with 5-HTP during an earlier episode of insomnia. With Dr. Bahroo's approval, I replaced the prescription Elavil with over-the-counter 5-HTP. My internet research suggested that the serotonin-boosting power of 5-HTP might be enhanced when combined with the carbidopa I was taking for my Parkinson's. Carbidopa is used to help levodopa, the drug that boosts dopamine, cross the blood-brain barrier and thus replace the dopamine lost to Parkinson's. Carbidopa appears to provide the same assist to 5-HTP.

It sure worked for me. Taking 5-HTP at bedtime gave me a good night's sleep. My depression disappeared. It also took care of the problem I was having with incontinence. And it resulted in my losing the weight I had gained on Elavil . . . and a few extra  pounds as well.

What's not to like?

My Attempt at 5-HTP Hype
I was delighted with my experience. Moreover, my research on carbidopa and 5-HTP suggested that other people with Parkinson's would also find 5-HTP to be a wonder drug. I started this blog, which originally was titled "5-HTP, Parkinson's and Me," as a way to lead others with PD into this serotonin-enhanced New World.

I touted 5-HTP to members of my support group and to friends and family. Several people tried it. Nobody else's experience was anything like mine. One person said it helped with constipation. That was it.

While my internet research had found some support for my theory about 5-HTP and Parkinson's, I couldn't find reports that others with PD enjoyed the results I was experiencing.

At about the same time, I was beginning to realize how increasingly difficult it was to figure out whether adverse health experiences were due to Parkinson's or aging. I was also getting bored limiting my blog research and writing to Parkinson's only.

So I dropped 5-HTP from the title and substituted "Aging."

Bottom Line Now
I've continued to report on my experiences with 5-HTP. Each time, I carefully note that others who have tried 5-HTP have not experienced the same positive outcome.

The new experiences I've had with 5-HTP -- and the new research I've found -- have reactivated my interest in this supplement. I'm particularly fascinated by the creativity that seems to be sparked by combining bedtime 5-HTP with my 5am "joy of quiet" time. I wish I were young enough and bright enough to get more deeply involved in all the new research on brain chemistry and mapping.

Enough about me and 5-HTP. Tomorrow it's Dr. Newport and coconut oil.

1 comment:

Tink said...

Re:5HTP. I started taking care of my Father who has non tremor Parkinsons DX. He did not sleep, or had a very restless sleep. Through trial and error I have found 200 mg of 5HTP and 500 mg of GABA help him (and me) sleep.