5-HTP, Weight Control, and Sleep

Q. Dear Dr. Dean,

I am 58 years young and going through menopause (hot flashes, night sweats). I have been put on Citalopram tablets, 10 mg a day, by my physician, for low serotonin. Since starting these tablets I have gained 15 lbs, and have developed major issues with sleeping. I do not think that I am benefiting from this drug. I’ve read one article in your publication about 5-HTP five times, and I believe 5-HTP can help me—but have no idea which product to take. Can you please assist me with my choice? Will I need to stop taking the medication before starting a 5-HTP product?

DEE, Berlin, NJ

A. Dear Dee,

I’m not sure which one of our many articles on 5-HTP you were reading—but among our products with 5-HTP, I recommend either 5-HTP itself, or 5-HTP SeroTonic.

As you have experienced, Citalopram (and other drugs in this class) often results in weight gain. Paradoxically, Italian researchers reported that obese patients who took 5-HTP (900 mg/day) lost a significant amount of weight, consumed fewer carbohydrates, and consistently became satisfied earlier than a similar group taking a placebo. They concluded that since 5-HTP was well-tolerated, it could be safely used to treat obesity.1

Sleep disturbances are also a common side effect of the SSRI drugs (which include Citalopram). In this regard, French researchers have found that 100 mg of 5-HTP promoted restful sleep, and resulted in significant improvement in people described as “mildly insomniac.”2

Consequently, it appears that 5-HTP should be appropriate for you, for its anti-depressant, weight loss, and sleep-inducing effects. I recommend 200 mg at bedtime on an empty stomach. For daytime use, 50–100 mg once or twice daily may be helpful.

I agree that 5-HTP should not be taken with Citalopram—and recommend that Citalopram dosage be reduced or discontinued completely as you incorporate 5-HTP into your supplement program.

For hot flashes, I recommend a combination of DHEA (25 mg every morning), and topical Progesterone cream (20–40 mg per day). In addition, I also often prescribe low-dose bio-identical estrogen, if the DHEA/progesterone combination alone is ineffective in eliminating the hot flashes.

Another non-hormonal approach to eliminating hot flashes is the anti-seizure drug, Gabapentin (Neurontin). Gabapentin is an analog of the infamous and wrongly demonized “date rape drug,” GHB. GHB is actually the safest, most non-toxic, non-habit forming sleep-inducing substance known. It exists (in small doses) in every cell in your body, and is metabolized into carbon dioxide and water. When ingested, GHB enhances all four phases of sleep, and is one of the few substances known to actually enhance normal sleep.

Gabapentin shares many of the benefits of GHB, including enhancing sleep. Many clinical studies have shown that Gabapentin will also alleviate menopausal hot flashes. I often prescribe 600–1200 mg of Gabapentin to be taken at bedtime to enhance sleep and alleviate menopausal hot flashes. 5-HTP can be taken with Gabapentin without any adverse side effects.

Ward Dean, M.D.


  1. Cangiano C, Ceci F, Cascino A, et al. Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56:863-8.
  2. Soulairac A, Lambinet H. Action du 5-hydroxytryptophane, precurseur de la serotonine, sur les troubles du sommeil. Ann Med-Psychol. 1977;135:792-8.

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