5-Hydroxytryptophan (5 HTP) for Fibromyalgia Pain

5 htp

You know how fibromyalgia tends to keep you up at night? You’re lying in bed, hurting and in desperate need of sleep. You’re beyond exhausted and can barely move a muscle. The one thing you need more than anything is sleep. Of course, everyone and their mother has given you all the best tips on how to sleep. Because everyone is an expert. Yet, not one of them has lived a single moment in your skin. So, they just don’t get it.

I know what I’m talking about here. I’ve been dealing with insomnia for more than half my life. And I actually am an expert when it comes to understanding the vicious cycle of pain and sleeplessness. I’ve tried many things, from prescription and OTC medications to herbal supplements and meditation techniques. I’ve come across some decent options. But I wasn’t expecting the results I got from taking 5-HTP. A dear friend told me about it many years ago. It turned out to be somewhat of a life-changer. And even though I know it may not work for everyone dealing with fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and insomnia, it’s bound to be effective for some. But first, the basics.

What in the World is 5 HTP?

Let’s start with the stuff that’s familiar. Do you recognize anything in the whole word: 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)? How about tryptophan? That’s that buzzword we’re used to hearing at Thanksgiving. You know the one. It’s the chemical in turkey that supposedly makes you fall asleep. While it’s true that tryptophan is a natural relaxant, there’s actually more of it in chicken than turkey. What’s making you so darn tired at Thanksgiving are all the carbohydrates and lounging. But at least you’re on the right track in understanding 5 HTP when you think about its relaxing qualities.

The University of Maryland Medical Center explains it this way: “5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that you get from food). After tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, the chemical is changed into another chemical called serotonin (a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells). 5-HTP dietary supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain. Since serotonin helps regulate mood and behavior, 5-HTP may have a positive effect on sleep, mood, anxiety, appetite, and pain sensation.”

And there’s another buzzword: serotonin. You see, 5-HTP is a building block of serotonin which is thought to play a significant role in fibromyalgia pain. In fact, low serotonin levels are also associated with insomnia and depression. See where we’re going with this?

Does 5-HTP Really Help with Fibromyalgia?

Obviously 5 HTP is not a cure for fibromyalgia. But it has been shown in a number of studies to improve symptoms. And yes, there are people for whom it has no effect at all. This could be due to variances in serotonin levels, hormonal differences, or something else entirely. I can tell you what I noticed: taking 5-HTP regularly helped me finally sleep through the night, which in turn decreased my pain. It also lowered my anxiety and depression levels significantly. Indeed, some studies show that 5-HTP is as effective as antidepressants. But again, that is dependent upon the individual. So, don’t take that as a call to stop your medication and switch to 5-HTP. Rather, continue to do your homework and speak to you healthcare practitioner about it. There are actually some pretty severe reactions possible if you mix 5-HTP with certain medications like antidepressants.

A study in the Alternative Medicine Review “reported that supplementation with 5-HTP may improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fibromyalgia pain. However, there are some contradictory studies that show no benefit with 5-HTP.”

More Benefits

Remember that fibro symptoms tend to be intertwined. That is, one leads often leads to another, which fuels the first one, and so on. So, your body ends up in this awful loop of pain, depression, anxiety, and so forth. Taking a supplement like 5-HTP tends to target the potential source of some of the big problems associated with fibromyalgia. In other words, instead of simply treating just one of your symptoms, using 5-HTP to address serotonin levels can lead to the treatment of several symptoms at once.

In addition to fibromyalgia, depression, and insomnia, the University of Maryland adds that 5-HTP can also help with general headaches, migraines, and obesity. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that studies are inconclusive still on whether it also helps with Alzheimer’s disease, nervous system disorders, menopausal symptoms, schizophrenia, and much more.

While I don’t need it anymore, I can’t deny the benefits I gained from using 5-HTP. Have you ever used it? Did it work for you? Tell us your story.



  • Katelyn Collins

    What are your thoughts on the research on CoQ10 supplements and fibro?

    • Tiffany Vance

      I wrote about that too. It looks pretty phenomenal. Here’s what I said about it: http://www.fibromyalgiatreating.com/q10/

      • Katelyn Collins

        Fantastic article! Will share with others. I take a water and fat-soluble form of CoQ10 for better absorption.

        • Tiffany Vance

          Oh, thank you for saying that and for sharing! Just curious…what brand do you use? And do you notice an actual difference? In what ways? (If you don’t mind sharing. No pressure at all!)

          • Katelyn Collins

            Sure! I take Qunol Liquid. I definitely feel more energy after a few weeks of taking it and notice that it drops off when I don’t take.

          • Tiffany Vance

            Then I’m going to give that brand a try. Thanks for sharing and really glad it helps you! Fingers crossed it will do the same for me.