5-HTP stands for 5-Hydroxytryptophan, which is an amino acid that converts into serotonin within the body with the help of Vitamin B6. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is heavily found in the gut. Lack of serotonin could play a part in many different problems, not just IBS. People most often see serotonin mentioned in ads for anti-depressants. SSRIs, which stands for “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor”, are a class of anti-depressants that are sometimes used for the treatment of IBS. They work by blocking the body’s ability to reabsorb released serotonin. Why they work for IBS is not yet completely understood & many with IBS do not see benefit as far as their IBS symptoms go, but may find relief for anxiety or depression.
5-HTP is a natural supplement that can easily be found online or in vitamin stores locally(watch the price though). It is generally regarded as being safe. It has been studied and found effective for things like depression, anxiety, insomnia, fibromyalgia, weight loss & more. There do not appear to be any direct studies of it’s effects on those with IBS. Given the knowledge of the guts extensive use of serotonin, coupled with the fact that some anti-depressants give benefit for IBS symptoms, it leads one to think that 5-HTP might be of benefit for some with IBS.
Most 5-HTP supplements come in 50mg or 100mg dosages. Sometimes 5-HTP is marketed with a mix of other herbs or supplements. This is not desirable as these additives may have unwanted side effects so make sure you are buying 5-HTP only. It’ll probably also be cheaper to just buy regular 5-HTP.
Those who are already on an anti-depressant should not use 5-HTP without consulting their doctor first. You should not stop taking an anti-depressant cold turkey to start taking 5-HTP.