April 16, 2013

Could Boosting Seronin Offset Dopamine Losses and Alleviate Parkinson's Non-Motor Side Effects?

The answer to that question is a resounding YES for me, based on my experience using the supplement 5-HTP, a serotonin booster. When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nearly four years ago, I started using 5-HTP for my depression, insomnia, and constipation, all of which are common side effects of PD.

My very positive experience is the primary reason I started this blog, originally titled "5-HTP, Parkinson's and Me." I was convinced I'd discovered an over-the-counter supplement that would greatly enhance the quality of life for many PD patients dealing with these side effects.

I also touted 5-HTP to my Parkinson's support group, friends and family. Several tried it, and I soon learned that no one in my circle -- or on the internet, for that matter -- shared my positive results. I did find reports that carbidopa (which is mixed with the dopamine-enhancer levodopa so that it can better cross the blood-brain barrier) has the same effect when mixed with 5-HTP. Carbidopa also helps the serotonin get past the blood-brain barrier. See http://bit.ly/11jmCyC.

This information supported my theory. 5-HTP boosts serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep and appetite. Levodopa boosts dopamine, which Parkinson's destroys. Carbidopa is combined with Levodopa, the key Parkinson's med,  to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Since carbidopa plays the same enhancing role with 5-HTP, the 5-HTP should promote better sleep and mood for those with Parkinson's who are taking carbidopa-levodopa.

My experience substantiated the theory. But since I didn't hear of others sharing the experience, I didn't tout it as a "magic pill" for Parkinson's.

Several recent developments have renewed my interest in the interconnection between serotonin, dopamine, and Parkinson's. I decided to write the following letter to my neurologist:

Letter to Dr. Bahroo
Dear Dr. Bahroo:

I've had some recent developments in connection with my use of 5-HTP along with levodopa that have reinforced my belief that, at least for me, this combination of medications works very effectively in dealing with several of the most common non-motor side effects of Parkinson's Disease -- depression, insomnia, anxiety, and constipation. I have new evidence that this combination is effective for me not only in alleviating these problems but also in generating creative ideas and problem solving.

As you know, after my initial burst of enthusiasm for 5-HTP as something that could help everyone with PD, I began to think that my positive results were somewhat unique. But my recent experience, which I'll detail in a moment, has prompted me to do some more research. I found recent studies exploring whether boosting serotonin levels to offset dopamine losses might benefit people with Parkinson's. I'm not knowledgeable enough about brain chemistry or adept enough at research to explore this much further.

But it occurred to me that I should inform you of what's been going on in case it might be useful information to relay to those who are researching the interrelationship of dopamine, serotonin and Parkinson's. I would be delighted if my experience could help in that research.

When I began working with you regarding my Parkinson's nearly 4 years ago, I was taking 100mg or more of 5-HTP, along with the carbidopa/levodopa for Parkinson's. The 5-HTP dealt effectively with my Parkinson's-related depression, insomnia, and constipation.

I also began to notice that I was experiencing bursts of creativity and problem-solving thoughts in the morning. When I upped the 5-HTP, this creativity spiked and my mood became euphoric, bordering on manic, but what I didn't realize at first was that my blood pressure also was spiking. I became aware of this when I took my blood pressure one morning when I was having a 5-HTP high and got a systolic reading over 200 followed by a fainting spell and my calling 911 and ending up in Sibley Hospital's emergency room.

After this experience I reduced my bedtime 5-HTP dosage to 25mg (which required cutting a 50mg pill in half, since 50mg was the lowest dosage available). I also began monitoring my blood pressure several times a day. The readings were somewhat erratic because I also had to change my long-time blood pressure medication which was causing a chronic cough and I was having trouble finding a new drug that would work without side effects.

Every so often I would try going back to 50mg of 5-HTP and it invariably resulted within a few days in spikes in blood pressure above 175. So I would return to the 25mg.

Then a month or so ago I began  getting some unusually low systolic readings when taking my blood pressure. At the same time, my mood began to darken. So I decided to try taking the full 50mg 5-HTP at bedtime.

Here's what happened after I went from 25 mg of 5-HTP to 50 mg:
  •  My blood pressure readings have stabilized with virtually all of the systolic readings in the 130's or 140's, which is optimum for someone my age.
  •   My mood and energy level are much improved.
  •   My sleep, which had averaged about 7 hours a night, now is averaging closer to 8 hours and the vivid dreams that I'd experienced 3 years ago when I first was taking levadopa with 5-HTP have returned, indicating a deeper sleep.
  •  Constipation which had been a minor problem remedied by bedtime Metamucil and prunes no longer is a problem.
  •  I've lost 3 or 4 pounds in weight.
  •  And I'm experiencing an even greater flood of early a.m. creative ideas and problem solving. (The idea for this letter came to me immediately on waking a few days ago.)
My theory is that I was experiencing a worsening of my mood and low blood pressure because the level of dopamine in my brain was waning and that boosting the serotonin level by increasing the 5-HTP dosage resulted in offsetting the dopamine decline. But that's a guess from a layman.

Please let me know if you think this warrants further study by more knowledgeable experts.  

1 comment:

ldq1997 said...

His name would indicate that your doctor is an Indian. Parkinson's has been treated in India for over 5,000 years with mucuna bean, the original source of dopamine. Lately there has been renewed interest in the mucuna bean (velvet bean) for Parkinson's because it has no toxic effects over long term use as does the synthetic dopamine used in the standard treatment of Parkinson's. I am surprised that Dr. Bahroo has never mentioned mucuna bean to you and that you have never tried it.