When you have anxiety it can be confusing trying to figure out the root cause. I like to start by assessing for low GABA and low serotonin because when you address these with targeted individual amino acids you typically see results right away and feel hopeful (and now have time to look for other root causes like gluten issues, high cortisol, gut issues, dietary changes etc).
But there may still be some confusion about when to use GABA and when to use tryptophan and how much of each of these amino acids to use.
I’d like to share a question I received on this blog: I am on 5-HTP for anxiety and I am wondering about trying tryptophan instead and my response so you have a clearer understanding of this:
I have started with Source Naturals GABA Calm 125 mg, 2 on awakening and two in mid-afternoon, and 2 GABA Relaxer at bedtime. It has taken some anxiety edge away from me, but I still feel some anxiety on and off, not so severe as before. I used to feel very anxious on awakening. I want to improve more.
Today, I ordered Lidtke L-trytophan 500mg and am expecting to receive it in a week. I plan to take 2 Gaba Calm on awakening and 2 in mid-afternoon, then add one 500mg Trytophan mid-afternoon and one 500 mg trytophan at bed time.
Is this a good plan? Or shall I have 2 GABA Calm on awakening, 2 trytophan mid-afternoon and 2 trytophan at bedtime.
It’s an excellent question and this is my feedback (with some additional information here for this blog post)
Firstly I’m so pleased to hear the GABA products has taken some of the anxiety edge away.
I would expect this when someone has the low GABA type of anxiety and hear this all the time despite the fact I continue to be asked the blood brain barrier question and does GABA really work as a supplement.
There is also no specific formula to be followed because each person is different and when I’m working with someone we’re figuring out what is working and why and adjusting accordingly. If something is working we continue with that until no additional benefits are seen.
Ask yourself what low GABA anxiety symptoms (this is the physical anxiety) have improved with the GABA and how much (rate each one before – out of 10; and what are they now – out of 10).
From your question it sounds like they could improve more – so if we were working together I’d continue to increase GABA before adding something new. I’d do this until the low GABA symptoms are resolved or until no additional benefits are observed.
Remember when it comes to brain chemical imbalances and anxiety we have 3 anxiety types
- Low GABA anxiety type (physical anxiety, more stiff and tense muscles)
- Low serotonin anxiety type (mental anxiety, ruminations, negative self-talk, worry)
- Low blood sugar anxiety type (physical anxiety, but more shaky)
You need to figure out which type of anxiety you are experiencing and address that. It can be different for each person but it’s not uncommon to experience all of the above.
Once that has been done and we have the ideal amount of GABA and no more low GABA anxiety symptoms I’d then check what low serotonin symptoms my client has (these are the busy mind, ruminations type or worry anxiety).
If she does have some of these symptoms, we pick one or two symptoms and do a trial with 1 x 500mg tryptophan opened on to the tongue (or less if she’s super sensitive). She rates the symptoms out of 10 before the tryptophan trial and then after the trial. Depending on how she responds on the trial, we’ll decide if she needs 1 or 2 x 500mg mid-afternoon and evening. The bedtime dose also depends on how bad the insomnia is. We continue to increase as needed based on symptoms until she has no more low serotonin type symptoms or until no additional benefits are observed.
All the while we are starting to make other changes – like diet, eating for blood sugar balance (this and using glutamine helps with the low blood sugar anxiety type), no caffeine, no sugar, looking for high cortisol, no gluten, looking at gut health and for other nutritional deficiencies.
Here are some links to additional resources related to the above:
- The amino acid questionnaire to help you figure out which anxiety type you have: low GABA or low serotonin
- How to do an amino acid trial
- Targeted individual amino acids: what do we really mean?
- Anxiety and the amino acids: an overview
- In this blog I make the following recommendation: if you do not have my book The Antianxiety Food Solution, I highly recommend getting it and reading it before jumping in to taking amino acids
- Here are the supplements I use with my clients
I’d love to hear your feedback – do you/did you have the low GABA type of anxiety or the low serotonin type of anxiety or the low blood sugar type of anxiety or all three?
And feel free to share the before rating (from 1 to 10) and the after rating (from 1 to 10) once you’re taking the corresponding amino acid.
Additional Anxiety Resources