We all want to give our children the best start in life ensuring that their health and nutrition is primary, so checking nutritional labels becomes a bit of a habit. There are numerous ingredients that are supposedly prohibited for children, such as e-number this is due to scientific evidence suggesting so.
However, certain supplements such as 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been given a bad reputation despite the lack of evidence to support this.
What is 5-HTP?
5-HTP is extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia Simplicifolia. It is common to West Africa where it is also known as Kajya and Atooto. It a versatile plant that is able to grow in a variety of climates from lush forests to coastal areas. It is a tall-growing plant that produces green pods and seeds which is where 5-HTP is extracted from. The seeds are ground into a powder and used in tablets worldwide.
In its endemic land the locals chew the root to treat nausea, diarrhoea, sickness, pelvic, kidney and bladder problems. However, in the Western world 5-HTP has been extensively studied in adults which have revealed its therapeutic use in many disorders, including, ADHD, Obesity, Night terrors, Migraines and Anxiety.
The seeds of the Griffonia Simplicfolia is the most potent natural source of 5-HTP. 5-HTP as a chemical component in the body that is the precursor molecule to Serotonin. Serotonin is used for sleep cycles, mood and appetite control. Typically, our body will convert amino acid dietary Tryptophan to 5-HTP. This is then converted to 5-HTP, which then goes on to make Serotonin. Naturally supplementing our Serotonin levels has been proven beneficial for numerous areas of health by supplementing any dietary deficiencies that are the building blocks for in vivo Serotonin production.
What should it be used for in children?
There has been strong clinical evidence for the use of 5-HTP for the treatment of children’s night terrors and ADHD among other disorders. It has been concluded that 5-HTP in children is “possibly safe”. The problem lies in the fact that very few studies have been conducted on its safety in children, but the ones that have been conducted have shown promising results. Medical advice suggests that use of 5-HTP from the age of 3 years to 12 years at a child permitted dose is safe.
Sleep terrors are a reasonably common problem in children, between 1-6% of the child population will experience symptoms at one point in their lives. As the name suggests the disorder causes persistent feelings of terror and anxiety during sleep which can cause disruption to the REM sleep cycle and induce fatigue associated symptoms. One study took 31 children and administered daily doses of 5-HTP (2mg/kg of body weight) to see its effect on night terrors. At their 1 month review 93.5% of the children showed a strong positive correlation to sleep without symptoms of night terrors when taking 5-HTP. Whereas a control drug group only showed a positive result in 28.6% of the children. After 6 months on 5-HTP 83.9% of the children were sleeping terror-free.
ADHD is a well studied behavioural disorder found in 3-7% of children, more commonly in males. In recent years it has been found that the primary cause of ADHD may be a malfunction in brain chemistry. It is thought to be linked to brain chemicals Dopamine and Serotonin. Additionally, ADHD has co-morbid disorders including mood disorders and depression. ADHD has been proven to benefit from the use of 5-HTP.
Why are there contraindications?
However, there are many articles that would actively discourage the use of 5-HTP in children, due to lack of evidence and rare side effects. As previously mentioned, there is a current lack of substantial evidence, but what there is, is positive for its use in children.
On the other hand, there are side effects that come with every drug, tablet, vitamin or medicine you can take. These side effects are usually unique to the person taking it and do not occur in all. Sadly, this is unavoidable. Moreover, like any supplement, you are advised that if any side effects occur you do not continue using the supplement. The following symptoms are associated with 5-HTP use:
- Drowsiness and altered sleep cycles
- Muscle ache.
What dosage should children take?
The proposed safe dose for children is thought to be 5mg/kg of body weight. For example: A 30 kilogram child would require a daily dosage of 150mg a day. It is advised that this is split to multiple doses in the day, i.e. 50mg, 3 times a day.
If your child suffers from ADHD or co-morbid disorder such as anxiety, OCD or Depression then 5-HTP is a complete and natural herbal remedy that may be the Serotonin boost that they require.
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- Gale. (2003). Night terrors. Available: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/psychology/psychology-and-psychiatry/night-terrors.
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- Pellow.J, et-al. (2011). Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Children with Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutics. 16 (4), Pg. 323-337.