If you suffer from stress or anxiety, there's a good chance your brain serotonin is low.
In this case, you might want to consider taking 5-HTP for anxiety.
There are different types of brain biochemical imbalance involved in anxiety, not just serotonin... so how can you tell if your brain serotonin is low?
Here are some indicators to look for:
- If you feel depressed as well as anxious, most likely you have low serotonin levels.
- A drop in brain serotonin is almost always associated with carbohydrate craving. So if you find yourself going for something sweet (or starchy food such as bread, potato chips, or crackers) then your serotonin level is probably in need of a boost! Reaching for a glass of something alcoholic is also often a sign of low serotonin.
- Is your anxiety associated with a constant nagging worrying about things, feeling pessimistic & unable to stop thinking about what might happen? These sorts of feelings are characteristic of low serotonin levels.
You can find out more about how to tell if you have a serotonin deficiency here.
Anti-depressants and anxiety
If you've been to a doctor for anxiety, there's a good chance you were prescribed some anti-depressant medication such as Prozac or Zoloft. They are less addictive & habit-forming than the older anti-anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax, so doctors prefer to prescribe them, and many people prefer to take them. (And they are often more effective too... though not always... for anxiety as well as depression.)
These types of medications work by knocking out the enzymes in your brain that break down serotonin, so your serotonin level is artificially boosted.
If you've tried anti-depressants and found them helpful at all, you might want to try a natural serotonin boost without the unpleasant side effects by taking a serotonin supplement such as 5-HTP or St John's Wort.
Boosting serotonin naturally
Whether or not you want to try a natural serotonin supplement, you'll probably benefit from doing things to increase your serotonin naturally. Here are some easy ways to start:
- Eat serotonin boosting food. Although serotonin is made in your body from an amino acid (tryptophan), the way to get more of this into your brain is to make sure you eat some carbohydrate. Now... I know that indulging in a carb binge is NOT a good thing! (for your mood or your weight...). But a small amount of carbohydrate will help. And make sure you eat plenty of protein, and other generally healthy foods, and less junk food... Yes, there is good solid evidence that junk food makes you more depressed.
- Get regular daily exercise - just walking for 20 minutes will help boost your serotonin naturally. It also helps boost all the other brain chemicals (such as endorphins) that you need to think & feel your best.
- Get out in the sun.. yes, sunlight is a great serotonin booster, and especially important if you get the winter blahs.
Should you take 5-HTP for anxiety? Will it help?
If your serotonin levels are low, you will almost certainly find that 5-HTP is helpful for anxiety as well as for depression.
Here are some comments from people taking 5-HTP:
I have taken it since November 2012. It has greatly improved my mood and made my anxiety very manageable. I do not have any side effects. It has really done wonders for me.
And another comment:
I love 5-HTP and melatonin 1 hour before bed. I sleep like a baby. I feel like I am floating on clouds as I drift off to sleep. I used to have anxiety attacks and this has helped a lot.
If you are already taking anti-depressant medication (or any other prescribed medication) you should speak with your doctor before taking 5-HTP or St John's Wort, because you could end up boosting your brain serotonin too high and get serotonin syndrome. (This is a serious but rare condition, usually caused by taking a combination of different prescribed anti-depressants.)
On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with BPAD (Bipolar Affective Disorder) you should not take 5-HTP or any other serotonin booster at all.
Many people have used 5-HTP to wean themselves gently off anti-depressants and avoid the unpleasant withdrawal effects. People typically don't experience withdrawal from stopping 5-HTP, so this is an extra benefit from choosing the natural approach.
Alternatives to 5-HTP for anxiety
While some people find 5-HTP helps their anxiety, others feel it hasn't helped them. This depends mostly on the type of anxiety you have!
If your anxiety is the wired-up type, you will probably get better results from trying a GABA booster. GABA is another natural brain chemical that helps anxiety by damping down the speed at which your neurones fire. It's the way your brain calms itself, so it's 100% natural.
Read about GABA for anxiety here.
For most people, it's best not to take a mixed GABA booster and serotonin booster supplement, because most of the time you only need one or the other. If you want to try a GABA supplement, this one includes a couple of different natural GABA boosters, together with some herbs, and magnesium and B Vitamins, which are all needed for brain balance.
Big plus: it's one of the few anxiety remedies I know that doesn't sedate you! (Most contain natural sedatives such as valerian - which are ok for night-time use, but will make you sleepy if you take them in high enough doses to relieve anxiety.)