Out of Africa
While we may all be ‘the same’ on the inside, these insides of ours have many different ways of letting us know when something is out-of-balance with our biochemistry. For instance, if you had a Serotonin imbalance (a gut and brain chemical) some people may exhibit issues like stress, anxiety, or depression. Others may suffer from weight gain, muscle pain, headaches, ‘sweet’ cravings, or insomnia. Some, may even suffer from a combination of a number of these complaints.
To treat these conditions, most people respond positively to minimising (or eliminating) sugar, caffeine and alcohol from their diet. They also respond well to eating regularly throughout the day, and by following a diet that focuses on adequate amounts of protein, good fat, fresh veggies and fruit, and filtered water. Regular exercise of mild to moderate intensity is also extremely helpful for good health.
If you don’t respond well to dietary changes (and to exercise) then it is important to correct any underlying nutritional deficiencies with a good quality multi-vitamin and some extra magnesium and/or calcium.
If you still remain unresponsive to these adjustments then it would pay to look at additional measures:
While these words may sound like a magical incantation that Harry Potter might utter, it’s actually the botanical name for something else ‘out of Africa’ – a type of shrub with a seed that contains 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is a pre-cursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is an important gut and brain chemical which can help to regulate things like mood, hunger, sleep and pain.
When to consider using 5-HTP
- You’ve tried eating better and taking nutritional supplements but nothing’s really working.
- You’re struggling to eat better or to take your nutritional supplements because you feel like you need support to get started.
- You’re experiencing a combination of the health conditions above – not just one or two issues.
How to take 5-HTP correctly
- Take 5-HTP on an empty stomach
This means taking it first thing in the morning (15 minutes before breakfast) or last thing before bed.
Alternatively, if you want to take it during the day, then take it either one hour before eating or two hours after eating.
- Take 5-HTP with a small glass of (real) fruit juice
Carbohydrates help this substance be absorbed more effectively.
- Always take a multi vitamin/mineral in conjunction with this supplement
5-HTP requires cofactors (e.g B6 and magnesium) in order for it to correctly convert to serotonin. (Note: Take this ‘multi’ everyday, straight after breakfast)
- Start on the lowest dose possible of 5-HTP
50mg per capsule is preferable. And, only increase your dosage by one capsule every two weeks (as required).
Taking a small dose and gradually increasing 5-HTP is important so that you don’t find out the hard way that:
a) This substance makes you feel nauseated or upsets your gut, or that
b) Too much 5-HTP makes you feel over-stimulated.
Do that voodoo that you do so well
If you find that 5-HTP works magically for you – that it makes you feel better and makes life seem more manageable (and fun) – then great!
However, if you decide that you no longer require 5-HTP, it is important to be aware that you will also need to wean down off this supplement. Reduce your dosage by one capsule every two weeks.
It is important to note that if your symptoms persist it is important you seek the advice of a trained health professional, who can also assist you with your dosage. 5-HTP is contraindicated with anti-depressant medication and is only recommended to be used temporarily.
Lisa Fitzgibbon, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
Lisa Fitzgibbon is a qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath + Medical Herbalist. She draws on her professional training + experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice. Lisa writes the popular health blog: www.lisasaid.so.
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