Using 5-HTP for Autism

Using 5-HTP for Autism

5htp pic 10The term autism can refer to a group of disorders involving impaired communication, repetitive or restricted patterns of behavior, and limited social interaction. Dr. Jeremy Parr of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom says that most cases of autism stem from genetics. It had also been found out that in most autistic patients there is a disturbance in the metabolism of serotonin and 5-HTP. There is not much detail about the nature of the disturbance.

Serotonin in the body

Serotonin is involved in some physiological and neurological processes such as mood, appetite, sleep, motivation, sexual behavior, digestion, and even blood clotting. There are two serotonin pools in the body, one in the brain and one in the peripheral tissues. In these pools, the amino acid L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP and then to serotonin. The serotonin from the peripheral pool doesn’t cross the brain pool, but it can cross the blood brain barrier.

How serotonin affects autism

There are microscopic spaces called synapses located between nerves. As an electrical impulse travels through a nerve, serotonin is released into synapses and the impulse is passed on to the next nerve. While the impulse passes, serotonin is absorbed to the upstream nerve and stored until a new impulse comes. This is called serotonin turnover. A healthy brain has the ability to maintain turnover. Belgian scientists found out in 2007 that autistic patients have deficiencies in serotonin turnover in the brain. This deficiency seems to have a role in the symptoms of autism.

5-HTP for treatment of autism

In March 2011, Swiss researchers mentioned genetic abnormalities which caused accelerated reabsorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin into the central nervous system of an autistic child. This led to a decrease in the serotonin levels in synapses. The study has been published in the issue of Molecular Genetics and Metabolism and presumes that 5-HTP increases serotonin levels in the brain. The same study explains that upon the use of 5-HTP for treatment, there was an improvement in the child’s autistic behavior. However, 5-HTP should not be used for treatment of autism without the supervision of a physician.

Despite all these, there are still a lot of things unknown about autism and the genetic influences that play a role in it. However, it cannot be denied that 5-HTP has helped improve studies about serotonin abnormalities in autistic individuals and that its use as a treatment has helped improve symptoms of autistic behavior in certain patients. But for now, more study about the clear effects of using 5-HTP in treating autism need to be done.

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