For brain calming: Gotta hava GABA!
Our lifestyles today are full of frenzy, high-speed images, constant stimuli, stress and worries that can easily overwhelm the brain. We are often cruising through our days in hyper-drive and causing a whole plethora of central nervous system disorders. Our whole society from birth to the grave is riddled with diagnoses of anxiety disorders, panic attacks, depression, addictions, hyperactivity, headaches, seizures, Parkinson’s Disease, essential tremors, cognitive impairment accompanied, of course, with all the Big Pharma drugs prescribed to suppress all the associated symptoms.
And this is where GABA comes to the rescue. Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (AKA-GABA) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in your brain that inhibits nerve transmission and calms nerve activity. GABA functions to normalize brain waves and bring the whole nervous system back to a calmer and more stable state when we are over-stimulated by different challenges in life.
How GABA works
GABA was first documented as an amino acid in the year 1863. It wasn’t until 1950 when it was discovered that GABA works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA is produced right in brain and nerve cells from the ubiquitous glutamate found in food and GABA works by blocking and conditioning nerve impulses. Glutamate basically does the firing of nerve impulses and GABA does just the opposite by telling the nerves not to fire.
GABA receptors open cellular chloride channels to diffuse chloride into the cell and hyper-polarize the cell membrane to inhibit the excitability of the cell. When In the event of high internal chloride, GABA causes an efflux of chloride and depolarizes the membrane. Either action still inhibits neuronal flow by creating a “current shunt” for excitatory neuron currents (Kuffler and Eyzaguirre, 1955). In a case where someone has a GABA deficiency, nerve cells fire too easily and too often.
Quality GABA supplements can act as a natural tranquilizer with no known side effects other than a possible drowsiness, mild tingling and increase in heart rate when first used. Supplemental GABA can work wonders for ADHD and other hyperactivity disorders as GABA helps modulate brainwaves to flow in calm rhythms. GABA does naturally what Ritalin and other drugs do chemically—just without all the nasty and sometimes deadly side effects.
What else does GABA do?
GABA has many other wonderful benefits as it can enhance normal sleep cycles and improve blood pressure numbers. GABA can also be an effective pain killer by providing relief from back pain, neuropathies, arthritis, headaches and more. GABA actually stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and helps with weight loss by burning fat and increasing the body’s muscle mass. GABA helps depression and anxiety by producing endorphins that provide a sense of well-being—much like the feelings that come after a good physical workout or sexual intercourse.
Along with calming the brain and central nervous system, GABA is required to make muscles relax and reset posture. GABA is responsible for making a normal wave of motion when walking, running or swimming. GABA stimulates the enteric muscles for intestinal peristalsis and feces elimination and in a state of GABA deficiency, the intestines fail to contract properly and the gut becomes bloated with food.
In addition to bowel trouble, other problems that GABA deficiencies cause are carbohydrate cravings, trembling, twitching, hyperventilation, flushing, tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, cold or clammy hands, paresthesia, chest pain or discomfort, restlessness, blurred vision, abnormal sense of smell, abnormal body odors, lump in throat, butterflies in stomach, allergies, anxiety, hypertension, cystitis, gastrointestinal disorders, tinnitus, and PMS.
How to get enough GABA
GABA supplementation is more of an as-needed thing for most people. Taking 500mg once or twice a day helps most cases but some people find higher rates help even more. The very first time you take GABA use caution! GABA just may might relax you so much that it could impair your mobility, thinking, driving and even put you to sleep. But GABA is basically food and it is very hard to overdose on it—that is, after the first day taking GABA and the body quickly acclimates to this new and easy source of GABA.
After you find out how you react to GABA, it can be taken to buffer you just before a high-anxiety event or gently bring your body down from an excitement high.
Safe for children
GABA is considered safe for children and adults alike. You can find it in most health food stores. Its food! In reasonable amounts your body will simply burn excess GABA as fuel or use it to build other amino acids.
Natural GABA helpers
Vitamins B6 and methylcobalamin B12 are essential nutrients used for the synthesis of many neurotransmitters including GABA. Natural sources of GABA are foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as molasses, whole grains, brown rice and oats. Foods that are rich in the GABA precursor glutamine, glutamic acid and glutamate (NOT monosodium glutamate–EVER), include bananas, beef liver and other organ meats, broccoli, citrus fruits, halibut, lentils, and nuts.
Sources for this article
- David E. Golan, Armen H. Tashjian, Ehrin J. Armstrong. (2011). Principles of Pharmacology: The Pathophysiologic Basis of Drug Therapy.
- George Siegel, Scott Brady, R. Wayne Albers, Donald Price. (2011). Basic Neurochemistry: Principles of Molecular, Cellular, and Medical Neurobiology.
- Florey, E. (1991). GABA: history and perspectives. Can J Physiol Pharmacol.
Read more in-depth about GABA with this book series: Fixing The Brain by Craig Stellpflug
Authored by cancer nutritionist Craig Stellpflug NDC, CNC, Dayspring Cancer Clinic Scottsdale, AZ. Copyright 2012 Craig Stellpflug© Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this article but only in its entirety