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Doctors Report
How Their Patients are Doing on 5-HTP
By David Jay Brown
David Jay Brown interviewed several physicians and other health practitioners about their patients’ experiences with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Various problems discussed included: sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, migraines, fibromyalgia, and weight management.

have suffered from Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome (SDS) for many years. From 1988 until 1996 I needed to drink – virtually every night – a half-quart of cow’s milk (which has relatively high levels of the amino acid tryptophan) to help me sleep, enhance my mood, and reduce anxiety. Drinking milk was necessary for me because the FDA banned the sale of tryptophan in 1988. I had previously used tryptophan with great success to treat my SDS. My brain simply craved serotonin. Large quantities of milk helped, although I got awfully sick of drinking milk. But the tryptophan supplements had provided exquisite relief.

During two periods of significant depression I tried the pharmaceutical compounds Prozac® and Zoloft®. Like tryptophan, these drugs increase the activity of serotonin in the brain, but I found the side effects intolerable. With both drugs I found it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to reach orgasm during sex. Both drugs dampened my creativity, which being a writer, is my life-blood. And, while the drugs raised the floor on my emotional lows, they also lowered the ceiling on my emotional highs. I felt as though my emotions were trapped in a box. I never had any of these side effects with tryptophan. This made sense to me since tryptophan is natural to the body and is simply the metabolic precursor to serotonin.

David Jay Brown earned his master’s degree in psychobiology at NYU, and researched learning and memory while in USC’s doctoral program in Behavioral Neuroscience. He is the author of Brainchild, and coauthor of Mavericks of the Mind and Voices from the Edge. His new science fiction novel, Virus, will be published this Fall by New Falcon, and he is currently working on a book with British biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, about the unexplained abilities of animals.

The FDA prohibition resulted from a single contaminated batch of tryptophan. It was synthesized by a Japanese manufacturer who used a new and untested raw-material source and skimped on filtering. Several people suffered serious adverse reactions due to the contaminated batch. For the FDA to universally and permanently ban all tryptophan – which is found naturally in mother’s milk – seems extremely questionable to me. Aside from two exceptions, infant formulas and parenteral care IVs, the moratorium on the use of tryptophan continues to this day to the extent that it can only be obtained by prescription. The ban is not based on FDA ignorance, since the Center for Disease Control’s reports acknowledge the adverse effects were due to a contamination by one manufacturer. This simply gave the FDA their perfect excuse to exile the natural tryptophan for their vested interest in pharmaceutical companies, who are unable to patent naturally-occurring substances such as tryptophan. The FDA/prescription company alliances don’t want tryptophan competing, however effective and safe, with their highly profitable drugs, such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil®.

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