Ask The Herb Lady

With Cathy Schram

What Is 5-HTP and are Antacids Unsafe?

Q: What exactly is 5-HTP and how does it compare to tryptophan?

A: 5-HTP is the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan. It is the step between tryptophan and the brain chemical called serotonin. 5-HTP is better used because tryptophan must be converted to 5-HTP before it can be metabolized to serotonin. The conversion is made more difficult if someone has high cortisol levels due to stress; insulin resistance or lack of certain vitamins such as B6 and magnesium. 5-HTP easily crosses the blood brain barrier thereby increasing serotonin levels. It can also increase endorphines and other neurotransmitters in the brain.

5-HTP is used to help with the following: depression, obesity, carbohydrate craving and insomnia. This is a great natural way to help treat mild depression.

Q: I have been taking antacids for years. My friend thinks that is unhealthy? Your thoughts?

A: It seems more and more people are complaining about heartburn these days. I’m afraid this is one of the areas where there are many disagreements on how to treat the problem. Holistic healers believe the cause of heartburn is not excess stomach acid, but not enough stomach acid. At around age 40, we don’t produce hydrochloric acid (HCI) like we used to and need to add some in order to digest our food. If we don’t have enough acid in our stomach, our food just sits there and ferments, causing bloating, gas and yes, heartburn. We have to be able to break down the proteins in our stomachs and can do this by simply taking enzymes containing HCI and pepsin before we eat.

HCI is a very essential antibiotic. What if we had no stomach acid production and ate a salad. We would not be able to destroy any bacteria from the raw vegetables. If we take an antacid we are rendering it ineffective to do its job. When used continually, you block the natural production of stomach acid or basically shut off all stomach acid. This can cause bacteria and yeast to enter the stomach.

Talk with your health care professional about which type of enzyme would be appropriate for you.

This herb information is for health education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the services of licensed health practitioners. Consult with a physician for any condition that requires professional care.

Do you have questions about herbs or vitamins? Send them to Cathy Schram, CNHP and Certified Herbalist. Write to: Herbs & More, 16021 Manchester Rd., Ellisville, MO 63011.