Discussions By Condition: Sleep disorders

Too much 5-HTP?

Posted In: Sleep disorders 0 Replies
  • Posted By: noonej
  • November 23, 2007
  • 10:35 PM

Hi, all you kind and generous people --
My question is if I should lower my 5-HTP intake. It's currently at 600 mg./nightly. As you'll soon see, this isn't a post from a relatively healthy person who is just finetuning. I have VERY serious health problems and while I know they all won't be solved in this thread, I'm just hoping that getting the 5-HTP matter resolved might provide some much-needed relief (no matter how tiny). I've created one other thread on here some of you might recognize about my health problems (http://forums.wrongdiagnosis.com/showthread.php?t=19507&highlight=noonej) but I would urge people not to read it as much of the information in there is now outdated.

Anyways, recently a test showed my 5-HIAA levels being so high that it fooled both my psychiatrist and a GI doctor into believing I had a carcenoid when (further testing revealed) I didn't. I've researched 5-HTP quite a bit, but there's so much conflicting info on it that I'm confused and my pschiatrist knows next to nothing about it. Is there a way to test if you're taking too much? Is having extremely high levels of 5-HIAA even a bad thing if you don't have a carcenoid?

Hopefully, some of you will read on so I can elucidate my circumstances to give you more to work with. I'll try to avoid a Tolstoy-length explanation, but be warned that it's a complex case and I want to avoid leaving out details that might be important. Those of you who are looking for a challenge have come to the right place.

In 2003 (when I was 20) I started having all sorts of symptoms (impotence, loss of libido, depression, and then anorexia). I recovered from the anorexia, but the rest has remained the same and around 2004 things just started going haywire with my brain (anhedonia, chronic insomnia, inability to concentrate, extreme jumpiness, complete loss of appetite, near inability to read, understand what I was watching on TV, or function socially, etc.). I had extensive testing for 1/2 year (even flying to Mayo in Arizona) but no physical cause could be determined. So...late 2004 it was decided I had a psychiatric disorder (which one was a moot point). For two years I was treated (pills and psychotherapy) for depression and also briefly for ADHD (or ADD, I forget) but there was no change. Then I moved to Los Angeles in April this year and ended up with a wonderful psychiatrist. He, too, believed I had psychiatric problems but that they weren't the full story. A test revealed I had adrenal fatigue. That's still a symptom and not a cause, but it was easily treatable and I felt better after supplementing with DHEA and Cortef (synthetic Cortisol).

His greatest gift to me, though, was 5-HTP which I took daily at bedtime. We started at 50 mg./nightly but slowly worked up to 600 mg./nightly after finding it had a "the more the merrier" effect on me. See, at the time I arrived to him, I had serious insomnia and had been having that problem since that second dip in my health in 2004 (There were once 6 months straight that I averaged around 8 hrs sleep/week!). Doctors had prescribed me pills to help (Ambien, Zyprexa, Baclofen) but (with the exception of Baclofen) I'd describe their effect as knocking me out, not putting me into restful sleep. Baclofen was a miracle drug the first month I used it, but just stopped working and didn't respond even when I upped the dosage. I knew that regardless of the root problem, my insomnia was a major cause of my symptoms. He agreed and, hence, recommended the 5-HTP. The 5-HTP didn't make me sleepy or give me that "good night's sleep" feeling, but it acted in the way I'd hoped the anti-depressants would have: making me feel more "up" throughout the day, helping me slouch less, allowing me to speak and think more clearly, and making my eyes less sensitive to sunlight. Don't worry, I'm basically through with background info.

This September I moved to Oregon and switched psychiatrists. Again, I had good luck and landed with someone kind and knowledgeable. He's actually taken me on for free because he considers me such a medical anomaly and is devoted to cracking the case. Again, he wasn't convinced my problems were purely psychiatric, but we had several meetings before he ordered labwork. In the meantime, he put me on Xanax. I use 3.5 mg./day (2x1 mg. throughout the day and 1.5 to put me to sleep). Xanax had an immediate positive impact on my health, making it the first psychiatric med to have helped. It boosted energy, lowered anhedonia, improved memory, confidence, helped with clearer thinking and speaking, and (much to my relief) allowed me to drop my Baclofen/Ambien nightly knock-out combo. There were no changes in libido, impotence, or reading abilities, however. Anyways, it was after about two weeks of Xanax that I had blood and urine tests. They yielded three interesting results:

1. No cortisol deficiency. I attribute the improvement to Xanax's relief of much of my stress, gladly discontinued Cortef, and lowered my daily DHEA to 30 mg. (while I wait to get it actually tested).
2. A very serious Vitamin D deficiency. This wouldn't qualify as an interesting result if it weren't for the fact that I am one of the healthiest eaters on the planet (no, seriously) and ingest WAY more than the necessary amount of Vit D as well as the fact that I run 50 miles a week outdoors, getting plenty of sunlight.
3. I have extremely high levels of 5-HIAA. A second test revealed I don't have a carcenoid.

Thanks SO, SO much to all you troopers who stuck it out to the end. E-hugs all around! For you, I have the additional question, though, of if it's possible that the relief I've received from Xanax has made such a high dosage of 5-HTP unnessary (or possibly harmful) in the same way that it's allowed me to discontinue supplementing Cortisol because that was making me get too much.

(Also, for the record, I know the horrors of Xanax dependence and bad withdrawals. I'll get off it ASAP. Just wanted to let you know this isn't an area of ignorance for me.)

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