GABA: Blood brain barrier controversy, concerns, best forms and how to do a trial for eliminating anxiety
- Dispelling the blood brain barrier and the leaky brain myths
- The newest research on GABA effectiveness
- The best forms of GABA and why I have concerns about phenibut
- Results from clients and feedback from practitioners using GABA
- How to do a trial for the best results in eliminating anxiety
Here are some snippets from my presentation:
Worry and anxiety can be a result of low GABA and also low serotonin, so you may check off anxiety in both sections. Low GABA tends to result in a more physical anxiety, while low serotonin tends to result in more anxiety in the head and ruminating thoughts etc
With low GABA you have physical anxiety
- Anxiety and feeling overwhelmed or stressed
- Feeling worried or fearful
- Panic attacks
- Unable to relax or loosen up
- Stiff or tense muscles
- Feeling stressed and burned-out
- Craving carbs, alcohol, or drugs for relaxation and calming
The targeted use of individual amino acid supplements like GABA will balance brain chemistry to alleviate anxiety, fear, worry, panic attacks, and feeling stressed or overwhelmed. They can also be helpful in addressing other problems that contribute to or exacerbate anxiety, such as sugar cravings and addictions. In addition, they can help with depression and insomnia, which often co-occur with anxiety.
Here is the amino acid questionnaire with all 5 sections including GABA
Here is the blog that discusses urinary neurotransmitter testing and why I don’t use it
Here are the list of amino acid precautions
the main precaution with GABA is low blood pressure but I have yet to see it as an issue, liver/kidney issues – watch, GABA has not been studied in pregnancy or breastfeeding
Many individuals tapering from benzodiazepines find using GABA and other nutrients help the taper while others can’t tolerate GABA and other supplements. If you’re new to the ill-effects of benzos do watch this webinar I did for Hawthorn University last year: Say NO to Benzos
The blood brain barrier controversy and the fact that so many people say GABA only works if you have a leaky brain
Does a GABA supplement have to cross the blood brain barrier to be effective? A nutrition seminar I have been to, said it does not and GABA supplements are ineffective
The 1960 paper published by Eugene Roberts, the scientist who discovered GABA mentions the failure of GABA to penetrate the blood-brain barrier readily: Metabolic and Neurophysiological Roles of GABA
The 2015 zonulin intestinal permeability/leaky gut and possible blood brain barrier disruption paper: Gluten Psychosis: Confirmation of a New Clinical Entity
Zonulin is a tight junction modulator that is released by the small intestine mucosa upon gluten stimulation. Interestingly the zonulin receptor, identified as the precursor for haptoglobin-2, has been found in the human brain. Overexpression of zonulin (aka haptoglobin-2) could be involved in the blood brain barrier disruption similarly to the role that zonulin plays in increasing intestinal permeability.
NY Times article: Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections?
A virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age
GABA – other possible mechanisms of action:
The microbiome and the bidirectional gut brain communication: Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve
Is the blood brain barrier more dynamic than assumed? A 2015 study discusses this Oral GABA supplementation allows better prioritizing of planned actions: new research
In the literature, there are controversial findings about GABA entering the brain through the blood brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a tightly sealed layer of cerebral endothelial cells that form continuous tight junctions and prevent most solutes from entering the brain on the basis of size, charge, and lipid solubility. However … recent studies have demonstrated that the BBB is much more dynamic than assumed in the past, and some passage of solutes can occur by transcytosis, carrier-mediated transport, or simple diffusion of hydrophobic substances.
GABA’s relaxing effect may be due to peripheral effects rather than the effect on/in the brain. Here is an excerpt from this paper: GABA-receptors in peripheral tissues
GABA and its receptors are found in a wide range of peripheral tissues, including parts of the peripheral nervous system, endocrine, and non-neural tissues such as smooth muscle and the female reproductive system
The possible peripheral effects are also mentioned in this paper – Psychological stress-reducing effect of chocolate enriched with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in humans: assessment of stress using heart rate variability and salivary chromogranin A
it has been considered that GABA may act on the peripheral nervous system of the digestive organs and not the central nervous system
The newest research on the mechanism of GABA was published just last year in October 2015 – Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior
There is some evidence in favor of a calming effect of GABA food supplements, but most of this evidence was reported by researchers with a potential conflict of interest. We suggest that any veridical effects of GABA food supplements on brain and cognition might be exerted through BBB passage or, more indirectly, via an effect on the enteric nervous system. We conclude that the mechanism of action of GABA food supplements is far from clear, and that further work is needed to establish the behavioral effects of GABA.
Here is other GABA research I mentioned:
- A paper published in Life Sciences reports that a combination of GABA (?-aminobutyric acid) and 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) improved sleep and sleep duration more than the use of either of the two amino acids alone.
- Research published in November 2015 – Study of GABA in Healthy Volunteers: Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics shows potential benefits for diabetes
- The 2006 research on oral GABA being a natural relaxant for 13 subjects who crossed a suspended bridge as a stressful stimulus
- The Improvement of Sleep by Oral Intake of GABA and Apocynum venetum Leaf Extract
I voiced concerns about how with phenibut physical dependence can develop and withdrawal symptoms can be similar to benzodiazepines
Here is the blog post: how to do an amino acid trial for anxiety
I get valuable feedback about GABA’s effectiveness from other practitioners. Here are a few (and more here):
Dr. Josh Friedman, integrative psychotherapist uses amino acids and other nutritional approaches in his practice:
[GABA] is definitely something I use. I am not a biochemist, so I actually don’t really know whether it crosses the blood/brain barrier, nor do I care actually. The first question should be, is it harmful? Are any of these things going to cause harm? And the answer with all the amino acids are no, they’re not going to cause harm, especially when compared to psychiatric medicines. The second question is, does it work? Is it helpful for our patients that we see in our practice?
Jonathan Prousky, ND, MSc, editor of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine and author of Anxiety: Orthomolecular Diagnosis and Treatment shares this in our season 2 interview: Tapering off psychiatric drugs so they do not ruin your life
I have found GABA to be invariably helpful and I don’t really know exactly how GABA works but I know it to be very, very safe and, to me, that is fundamentally important. It’s not associated with any withdrawal, with any tolerance, with any habituation, so people can try it without a lot of concern.
And it seems fitting to end with a quote from my mentor Julia Ross
On a scale of zero to ten, zero is not an unrealistic goal when it comes to anxiety. It’s really the human potential and GABA gives us access to it.
And some feedback from real people who’ve used GABA (more here)
Dee likes the instant calm from a product that contains 500mg GABA and 200mg Theanine:
I have taken Xanax in the past for panic attacks. My functional medicine doctor suggested this product as I wanted a natural product. I was amazed how it works just like the Xanax did – instant calm feeling within 10 mins of taking 2 capsules. I use them as needed when I am having heightened stress and anxiety.
Melissa likes a product that contains GABA, taurine, glycine, inositol, niacin and vitamin B6
After my first panic attack I thankfully found Julia Ross’s work. I began taking 250 mg GABA every night. That really helped! Now a few years later I don’t need it every day, and I take a half pill during my cycle anxiety – more like uneasiness and over worried now, just as needed. I then heard you speak Trudy and share more info, bought your book, and put into place supportive lifestyle changes, and I have my life back. GABA is a great supplement for some of us!
Gina chewed two 100mg pharma GABA tablets and said this:
It changed my life in minutes! Take it every day now. No more hopelessness!
Do the amino acid questionnaire, review the precautions and do a GABA trial and let us know how it worked for you? If you’re a practitioner I’d love feedback too.
I’d also love to hear if you notice any difference opening a capsule or using something like GABA Calm instead of swallowing a capsule.
Here’s to hope and calm!
If you are not already registered for the Anxiety Summit you can get live access to the speakers of the day here: www.theAnxietySummit.com
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