Are medications effectively stabilizing bipolar disorder if each day still feels different? Is this the best you can expect? As someone suffering from rapid cycling bipolar disorder, even when I’ve been at my most stable, I have experienced debilitating fluxes of mood that are significant enough to be unacceptable, but not quite bad enough to begin the frightening process of tinkering with my medications. And that is where 5-HTP comes in.
Benefits of 5-HTP for Bipolar Disorder:
- It can be taken only as needed. You do not need to build up to a therapeutic dose or maintain a daily dose.
- You can vary your dose depending on the severity of your symptoms.
- You can find it at nearly any drugstore with the vitamins and supplements.
- The effects are, in my experience, gentle and peaceful. I do not feel medicated, but relaxed and content. Because of that, I have found it to be effective not only at improving depressive feelings, but also at mellowing out manic episodes.
Some negatives to consider:
- Depending on how often you need it, it can get a bit pricy.
- It can cause nausea. If I wait to take it until after I’ve eaten, I have no problems.
- It has been reported that it can cause drowsiness. I have not noticed this, but consider trying it when you can be at home and resting at first to test for that side effect.
I was told about 5-HTP when, in a moment of desperation, during a particularly bad spell, I made an appointment with my primary care physician with the notion that maybe something was wrong with a different bodily system that was impacting my mood. Hormones? Thyroid? Anemia? He didn’t think so. But he did recommend that I attempt to stabilize my behavior and feelings with a supplement I had never heard of: 5-HTP.
- 5-HTP helps your body produce serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters (brain messengers) that induce feelings of calm and happiness.
- By adding more 5-HTP, you encourage your body to produce more of those messengers, giving your brain the right chemicals to brew contentment.
- 5-HTP has been tested and has been shown to be effective at helping ease symptoms of depression.
- In many European counties, 5-HTP is administered by doctors as a prescription.
- 5-HTP is safe enough to be sold over the counter in the United States.
This article is not intended to be medical advice and you should always check with your doctor before taking any medications or supplements. DO NOT stop your psych meds and therapy when trying 5-HTP. This is intended to compliment your current treatment, not replace it. But please do consider discussing 5-HTP with your medical providers. I want to leave you with the knowledge that this gentle, effective option is out there if you, like me, are struggling to maintain a steady mood, even while using other, more traditional treatments.
For additional information, please follow the links below to the sources I utilized for this article:
1) Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD (2011). “5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)”. University of Maryland, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide (Online).
2) Swiss Pharmaceutical Society (2000). Index Nominum 2000: International Drug Directory (Book with CD-ROM). Boca Raton: Medpharm Scientific Publishers. (as found online, referenced in Wikipedia)
3) Shaw K, Turner J, Del Mar C (2002). “Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan for depression”. In Shaw, Kelly A. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Online)