Thursday, December 20, 2007

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)
vs. Prozac (SSRIs) by Ward Dean, MD, James South, MA, and Jim English

Neurotransmitters are specialized biochemicals that nerve
cells use to 'talk' to each other. Serotonin is one of some
ten major brain neurotransmitters. Deficiencies of
serotonin in the brain have been linked to a number of
disparate conditions, including: depression (especially the
agitated, anxious, irritable type), (1-6) anxiety, (7) suicide,
(8) alcoholism, (9) violent behavior, (8) PMS, (10) obesity,
(10,11) compulsive gambling, (12) insomnia, (13)
carbohydrate craving, (10) SAD (seasonal affective
disorder), (10) and migraine headaches. (14)
Serotonin nerve circuits promote feelings of well-being,
calmness, personal security, relaxation, confidence and concentration. (15) Serotonin
circuits also help counterbalance the tendency of two other major neurotransmitters in
the brain — dopamine and noradrenaline — to encourage overarousal, fear, anger,
tension, aggression, violence, obsessive-compulsive actions, overeating, anxiety and
sleep disturbances. (15) Many people suffer from various degrees of brain serotonin
deficiency, leading to a host of mental, emotional and behavioral problems. To
understand why brain serotonin deficiency is becoming more common in modern
society, it is necessary to look at how the brain makes serotonin.
Serotonin Function
Serotonin (5HT), dopamine, and noradrenaline are the three main 'monoamine'
neurotransmitters — 'mono' because each one is made from a single, specific amino
acid. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, while dopamine and noradrenaline are made
from tyrosine and phenylalanine. Since the blood-brain barrier prevents serotonin from
being 'imported' from outside the brain, all serotonin used by our brain cells must be
made within the neurons. Normally the blood-brain barrier serves as a protective device
to prevent toxins from entering the brain. But this protection comes at a price — even
'friendly' molecules, such as amino acids needed by the brain, are limited by this barrier.
When nutrients are allowed to cross the blood-brain barrier they must be 'ferried' by
specialized transport molecules, much as passengers being transported on a bus. This
process creates a special 'bottleneck' for serotonin. Serotonin itself cannot pass through