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Combined treatments of 5-HTP and SSRI seem to have strong synergistic effects on serotonin levels in rats and humans so that some clinicians recommend the use of slow-released 5-HTP in combination with SSRIs (R, R2, R3). However, additional clinical trials are required to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of this approach, and combinations of 5-HTP and medications should only be used under medical supervision.
Oxytocin is known as the hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding and well-being. It's even being tested as an anti-anxiety drug. But new research shows oxytocin also can cause emotional pain. Oxytocin appears to be the reason stressful social situations, perhaps being bullied at school or tormented by a boss, reverberate long past the event and can trigger fear and anxiety in the future. That's because the hormone actually strengthens social memory in the brain.
How would that work? Feldman thinks that these types of behaviors are intimately linked with oxytocin in a positive feedback loop. “Oxytocin can elicit loving behaviors, but giving and receiving these behaviors also promotes the release of oxytocin and leads to more of these behaviors,” she says. She thinks that talk therapy alone can boost the oxytocin system, but admits that in some cases it might help to jump-start the feedback loop by administering oxytocin. If Guastella’s results support his hypothesis, talk and hormone therapy together might be the best recipe for breaking down dysfunctional communication between partners, especially in cases where the behaviors have been learned in childhood.
But Carter and other scientists are concerned by reports from the physicians and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder who say that they are already using oxytocin off-label — before it has been thoroughly tested. “We do not understand how the hormone works yet, or have enough information about what happens when it's given repeatedly,” Carter says. “This is not a molecule that people should be self-administering or playing with.”
A: 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan is sold as a dietary supplement for "anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches and other conditions." Because dietary supplements (e.g., 5-HTP) have not been thoroughly studied in the clinical setting, possible side effects and interactions with other drugs are not well known. However, 5-HTP does interact with prescription antidepressants, taking them together can lead to serotonin syndrome which is a rare but potentially fatal condition. Also, because herbs and supplements are not strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these products are not required to be tested for effectiveness, purity, or safety. 5-HTP has not been proven safe or effective for the treatment of depression or bipolar disorder. There are many prescription medications that have been proven safe and effective for these conditions. In general, dietary supplements should only be taken under the supervision of your health care provider. Laura Cable, Pharm.D., BCPS
Serotonin appears to be associated with panic attacks. Although studies that have used tryptophan depletion techniques in humans do not necessarily induce a panic attack it appears it may sensitize the body by an increase in neurovegetative panic symptoms and increased anxiety which suggests that serotonin is protective against panic attacks, at least acutely. A study in 24 unmedicated panic disorder patients and normal participants given 200mg 5-HTP prior to a 35% CO2 test (used to induce a panic attack-like response) noted that the test was able to induce panic attack in both panic disorder patients and normal persons and that 200mg 5-HTP was protective in both conditions but to a greater degree in persons suffering from panic disorders. This has been replicated with cholecystokinin-4 induced panic attack with 200mg 5-HTP in otherwise healthy persons.
Indeed, the findings that progenitor cells of some form exist both in the regenerative zebrafish heart, and in the hearts of less-regenerative mammals supports this idea. Zebrafish have ostensibly found some method to optimize the activity of progenitor cells, perhaps either by maintaining more cells, or by harboring a more cultivating environment for regeneration. Also, both mammalian and nonmammalian hearts contain an epicardial cell layer, yet zebrafish have found some way to activate the epicardium after injury, a process linked with essential neovascularization of regenerating muscle (Lepilina et al., 2006. This result points to the adult mammalian epicardium as a potential cellular source to assist myocardial regeneration or survival. Indeed, mammalian myocardial infarcts typically show poor or insufficient neovascularization, a response that many are trying to improve experimentally. Recent findings have indicated that the G-actin sequestering protein, Thymosin-ß4, may influence the mammalian epicardium. Treatment of adult cardiac explants with Thymosin-ß4 induced the migration of fibroblasts, endothelial and smooth muscle cells as assessed by gene expression and cellular morphology (Smart et al., 2007). In addition, in vivo Thymosin-ß4 treatment could partially restore cardiac survival and function following coronary ligation (Bock-Marquette et al., 2004). Notably, Thymosin-ß4 expression is induced in the injured zebrafish heart, suggesting that fish naturally release this epicardial stimulant on injury (Lien et al., 2006).
In a 2-week long clinical trial involving 25 overweight diabetic subjects given no dietary restrictions, subjects who received 5-HTP had reduced caloric, carbohydrate, and fat intake compared to placebo. Subjects who received 5-HTP also have reduced body weight, blood sugar, insulin and HbA1C levels after 2 weeks, possibly due to changes in the diet (R).
Treatment of patients with hyperbaric oxygen has been shown to improve the healing of chronic lower extremity wounds of diabetic patients (Londahl et al., 2010). In a pilot study, this treatment has been shown to more than double the number of circulating vascular stem/progenitor cells in these patients by a mechanism that elevates platelet NOS activity and to stimulate recruitment of vascular progenitor cells to wounds made in their abdominal skin (Thom et al., 2011). This treatment might be combined with topical agents for even greater efficacy in healing chronic wounds.
High and low oxytocin levels are possible, but research has not yet found any implications of these conditions. Men with high levels of oxytocin sometimes develop benign prostatic hyperplasia, or the enlarging of the prostate gland. This condition can cause urinary complaints. A lack of oxytocin can prevent the milk letdown reflex and make breastfeeding difficult. Low oxytocin levels have also been linked to depression, but using oxytocin to treat mental health conditions has not yet been studied sufficiently.
Johansson, A., Westberg, L., Sandnabba, K., Jern, P., Salo, B., & Santtila, P. (2012). Associations between oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphisms and self-reported aggressive behavior and anger: Interactions with alcohol consumption [Abstract]. Psychoneuroendocrinology 37(9), 1546-56. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22421562
Oxytocin in a nine amino acid peptide that is synthesized in hypothalamic neurons and transported down axons of the posterior pituitary for secretion into blood. Oxytocin is also secreted within the brain and from a few other tissues, including the ovaries and testes. Oxytocin differs from antidiuretic hormone in two of the nine amino acids. Both hormones are packaged into granules and secreted along with carrier proteins called neurophysins.
But we have to be just as good at recognizing who we can trust, so the system needs fine-tuned control. That’s apparently where oxytocin comes in. The amygdala, that critical organ for our biological risk response, has a high concentration of receptors for oxytocin. In the second set of those gambling experiments with the volunteers and the trustees, researchers used fMRI to watch the brains of the volunteers as they made their choices. As the levels of oxytocin in the brain went up compared with the placebo group, activity in the amygdala went down! Oxytocin diminishes the amygdala’s ability to send out the message “Warning! Warning! I don’t trust this guy.”
5-HTP is sometimes taken by people coming down from MDMA to relieve post-MDMA dysphoria. As 5-HTP is a necessary precursor for the brain to produce more serotonin, and MDMA use depletes a person's natural serotonin levels, it is believed that taking 5-HTP after consuming MDMA will speed up serotonin production. DanceSafe claims that the anecdotal evidence is widespread and that the theory is physiologically reasonable. Backing up this approach is research conducted by Wang, et al. in 2007, which observed that MDMA-induced depletions of 5-HT (serotonin) were restored in rats after administration 5-HTP, and suggested that this approach might be clinically useful in abstinent MDMA users.