Serotonin Supplement 5-HTP in Migraine Headache Health

How 5-HTP May Help Your Headaches and What to Watch Out For

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Some people prefer to treat their migraines and headaches naturally, under the guidance of their doctor. One supplement sometimes utilized for migraine and headache therapy is 5-HT, which increases the levels of serotonin in the body and brain.

Let's investigate this supplement, including how it works, potential side effects, and what to do if you are considering taking it.

The Link Between Serotonin and Migraines and Headaches

Migraineurs and people with chronic headache disorders commonly have low levels of serotonin — a chemical in the brain that regulates pain, sleep, and mood. In addition, serotonin levels become even lower during a migraine or headache attack. So scientists hypothesize that by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, migraines and headaches will be less likely to be triggered, in addition to improving mood and sleep.

While there are a number of ways to increase serotonin in the brain, like through exercise or certain antidepressants, some people prefer taking natural supplements — and 5-HTP is one example.

Of course, it's extremely important that you discuss taking any supplements with your doctor first to ensure they are safe for you and do not interact with your other medications. Remember, dietary and herbal supplements have not undergone the same scrutiny and testing as medications — meaning studies proving their effectiveness and their safety are limited or have not been done.


What is 5-HTP and Its Side Effects?

5-HTP is an amino acid produced by the human body from the essential amino acid L-tryptophan, which is found in foods like seeds, soybeans, turkey, and cheese. L-trytophan is then converted into serotonin by nerve cells and the liver. 

The dietary supplement 5-HTP is made from the plant Griffonia simplicifolia, a West African medicinal plant

Possible side effects include:

These side effects generally go away with time and are mild to moderate. They can usually be decreased by taking the supplement with meals. 

It's important to note that 5-HTP may interact with certain medications, especially carbidopa, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease. It may also affect triptan therapy, a common migraine therapy that alters the levels of serotonin in the brain.                        

What Does This Mean for Me?

When considering 5-HTP or any "natural" supplement, it's important to understand that you are putting something into your body that may do some good, but also has the potential for harm.

While the pain of your migraine or headache may be overwhelming and you may frustrated by the lack of effectiveness of your current medication, be prudent and avoid being impulsive.

Speak with your doctor about your concerns so together you can devise a treatment plan that works for you.  

View Article Sources
  • Taylor FA, American Headache Society. (2011). Serotonin and Headache: Using L-Tryptophan, 5-HTP, and Other Methods to Increase Brain Serotonin Levels. Retrieved November 27th 2015.