Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a non-essential amino acid that serves as a neurotransmitter in the brain whereas 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body produces from tryptophan. Tryptophan is also a non-essential amino acid present in meats and dairy products. These 2 products act differently in the brain and if these two supplements are taken together, they may interact in a harmful way. Therefore it is necessary to consult your physician first before taking a combination of GABA and 5-HTP dietary supplements. Also, it is advisable to consider the following facts about these two.
All about GABA
GABA is produced naturally in the body with the assistance of vitamin B6 and is present abundantly in the brain. This chemical inhibits the central nervous system and prevents the cell in the brain from over firing. This leads to a calming effect and prevents hyperactivity too. Insufficient amount of B6 can cause GABA deficiencies.
All about 5-HTP
5-hydroxytryptophan is not a food derivative. The body converts tryptophan into 5-HTP then to serotonin which is another chemical. Serotonin affects sexual function, sleep and mood. Zoloft and Prozac are examples of antidepressants which can treat depression by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain. This increase in serotonin reduces appetite and produces feelings of well-being at the same time.
The Difference between GABA and 5-HTP
GABA is helpful to anxiety because of its calming effect on the central nervous system. It is also said to be beneficial in treating insomnia. The fact that 5-HTP is converted to serotonin means that it regulates both mood and appetite. Therefore it is applicable for controlling appetite and is essential for mood enhancement.
Pharmacological Overlap of GABA and 5-HTP
These 2 elements affect the body in different ways. For example, GABA cannot cross the brain-body barrier while 5-HTP can pass by it. Once they are in the brain, GABA and 5-HTP overlap with their activity. This has proven by a study in 2003 which is published in the “Neuropharmacology” journal, while GABA enhanced the pain-killing effects of morphine, 5-HTP effectively blocked them.
There are some dietary supplements that combine GABA or GABA precursors with 5-HTP derived from Griffonia simplicifolia. Such supplements can raise GABA levels in the brain which means that the combination is beneficial. When you experience mixed symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleepless nights, tenseness and agitation then this is true. If you follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions and your doctor’s advice, then the combination of the actions of GABA and serotonin will be safe and effective.
Mental Impairment Risks
GABA and 5-HTP supplements have both relaxation and calming effects which lead to drowsiness. Although they have different routes, they cause depression to the central nervous system. Being taken together can intensify each other’s sedative effects. This effect can cause danger especially if you engage in some activities that need mental and physical alertness.
GABA can exasperate symptoms of agitation and anxiety. 5-HTP can cause heartburn, nausea and gas and may also interact with antidepressant medications. The U.S. FDA, although recognizes the use of GABA and 5-HTP as generally safe, it is still necessary to consult your physician before deciding to take these two supplements.