If you are prone to laryngospasm, “choking” episodes and swallowing problems (also known as dysphagia), it makes sense to keep GABA powder on hand (and in a number of locations) and to find the ideal dose for your unique needs since what works for one person may be too little or too much for you. In today’s blog, I share Shawna’s experience with choking episodes, stridor and panic, and how GABA helped her very quickly. She applied some of what she had read about in this recent blog post: Paroxysmal laryngospasm with low GABA physical-tension-type-anxiety: Is GABA powder rubbed on the inside of the cheek a solution?
Her results were profound (as you’ll read about below, and in her own words) but she could have been better prepared with GABA powder and her dosing was not ideal. I share my insights and advice for her and for you if you are prone to similar episodes.
This is how she describes her choking episodes:
I too experience “choking” episodes/laryngospasm. For me it seems my throat reflex doesn’t kick in quick enough and liquid (often just saliva) will go down the wrong way. It can even happen just as I’m falling asleep. Then my throat seems to close and stridor ensues where I can barely wheeze any air in. It definitely sets off panic in me. The length of the episode is likely only a few minutes but it feels much longer. I’d say it can happen 4 or 5x/year for me.
Shortly after reading the above blog post, Shawna had an episode. She shares this:
This situation actually just happened again to me today, I was sitting on the couch and had a bit of a reflux burp and then all of a sudden … “I can’t get air in.” Luckily I had read Trudy’s article (and am so glad I did! It was good to know I am not alone, and there were possible solutions. It is more common than I thought).
When the stridor happens my adrenaline kicks in, and I really can’t think straight. I did know I needed to go to the kitchen and get my GABA though. Initially I could only find the lozenge, so I rubbed that inside my cheek as I was searching for the capsule.
Once I got the capsule open, I shook some on my finger and rubbed it into my cheek, then I just dumped the rest of the 750 mg GABA capsule right under my tongue.
In a matter of seconds (literally just a couple!) the stridor released, and I could get air in!!! WOW! It really works! I have never had an episode clear that quickly before. I am literally amazed and so very grateful. I will carry GABA powder with me wherever I go now. Thank you SO much Trudy! <3
I am eternally grateful for you sharing this trick, it feels almost life-saving to me!
She also shared what she experienced 45 minutes after dumping 750mg GABA onto her tongue. It stopped the stridor and choking but she had a mild adverse effect:
Within 45 minutes after taking the GABA today, I felt so sleepy – like I needed to sleep, then a weird sensation of heartbeat irregularity and almost like an adrenaline rush that lasted about 5 minutes. Strange!
I thanked her for sharing and said how wonderful to hear about her very quick response. I also asked about sharing her success in a future blog post on this topic. She said yes. I appreciate this opportunity to share a powerful success story with GABA and to use some of her story as a way to educate my community and hopefully also help her further.
These episodes started over 15 years ago and she had mentioned this to the doctor years ago, saying she had stridor from choking. However, because it was so irregular, the doctor never suggested any testing.
She also shared that she does have symptoms of both low GABA (feeling worried/fearful, unable to relax, insomnia, overactive brain) and low serotonin (anxiety, perfectionism, anxiety that is worse in the winter, disturbed sleep, self-criticism, TMJ). More on this below.
Keep GABA powder handy
I shared that for folks who are prone to these kinds of episodes I recommend keeping GABA powder on hand in various places in the home and when out and about. This could look like little containers of GABA powder in the bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, handbag, gym bag and even in the car.
I also recommend telling family members about the GABA powder and where it’s kept so as to be prepared in the instance of a more severe episode. You can also demonstrate how they can help you – by tipping some GABA powder into the palm of their hand and holding it out for you or even putting some on the inside of your cheek if needed.
If you’re the parent or caregiver, you can also do this for your child or the person you’re caring for i.e. rub some GABA powder on the inside of the cheek.
Find the ideal dose for your choking episodes
The sleepiness and then weird symptoms (heartbeat irregularity and adrenaline-like rush) after the GABA is likely due to the very high dose of 750mg. I typically start clients on 125mg and there is a large variation in dosing, as explained in this blog.
Shawna’s adverse symptoms only lasted 5 minutes but they can be experienced for up to 30-60 minutes in some folks.
It’s important to find the ideal dose for your choking or swallowing episodes. You do this with the trial method, starting low and increasing based on your unique needs. This may mean you won’t get optimal results the first few times.
Another option is to do what Shawna did and use a relatively high dose initially and so you do get results. And then use less the next time if you get adverse effects from too much GABA.
I prefer the former approach – starting low and slow. Typical is 125mg GABA (and less for very sensitive folks) and increasing frequency and or dosing to 250mg after a week of tracking results. And continuing up from there or backing down if adverse effects are seen.
Consistent use for prevention and easing anxiety
Consistent use of GABA is key especially when there are other low GABA symptoms. Shawna mentions feeling worried/fearful, being unable to relax, experiencing insomnia, and having an overactive brain.
Being consistent with GABA – daily use and a few times a day based on your needs – will raise GABA levels and hopefully prevent or at least reduce future choking or swallowing episodes.
Shawna also shared that she currently takes 100mg of GABA in a sleep remedy. Based on my experience this isn’t enough for her needs. The fact that it is part of a sleep remedy makes it challenging to adjust up and down as needed. For this reason I like a GABA-only or GABA-theanine product.
She does have plans on ordering the GABA Calm lozenges for daytime use to “see if that has an overall decrease in my GABA symptoms.” She did however voice her concerns about Calm Calm not being GABA-only and how she’d respond to the taurine and tyrosine in them. This is a valid concern and a trial will provide the answer.
She also feels it’s difficult to find a GABA-only product in such a low dose. My feedback is to get a GABA powder and simply measure out the dose she requires with a tiny measuring spoon or use the 750mg GABA capsules she has, opened and divided into smaller doses.
GABA is always more effective as a powder or used by opening a capsule.
As always, a full functional workup is important to identify all possible triggers and address them.
And be sure to also get a diagnosis, keeping in mind that can be challenging. And keep your doctor informed about GABA and other supplement use.
Address low serotonin-type anxiety with tryptophan too
Shawna also mentions low serotonin-type symptoms: worry-type of anxiety, perfectionism, anxiety that is worse in the winter, disturbed sleep (this can be caused by low serotonin and low GABA), self-criticism and TMJ.
She would need to do a similar trial with tryptophan or 5-HTP to address these low serotonin symptoms. I recommend trialing one amino acid at a time.
She would also need to work with someone to investigate why she has low GABA and low serotonin and also address these triggers (such as gluten issues, leaky gut, low zinc, low B6, parasites, pyroluria, toxins, sugar/alcohol and so on).
In case you’re new to paroxysmal laryngospasm and stridor
If you are new to paroxysmal laryngospasm here is a good definition:
One type of reactive airway obstruction is paroxysmal laryngospasm, which is a rare laryngeal disease in adults. In this condition, the throat is completely closed due to some form of hypersensitivity or a protective laryngeal reflex causing a transient, complete inability to breathe. Paroxysmal laryngospasm onset in patients is often characterized by a sudden and complete inability to breathe, along with voice loss or hoarseness and stridor. Paroxysmal laryngospasm usually lasts from several seconds to several minutes and may be accompanied by obvious causes such as upper respiratory tract infection, emotional agitation or tension, and/or severe coughing.
I wrote about some of the research, hysterical stridor in adult females who are anxious and/or depressed, and my personal use of GABA during a laryngospasm episode in this blog – Paroxysmal laryngospasm with low GABA physical-tension-type-anxiety: Is GABA powder rubbed on the inside of the cheek a solution?.
I also share that stridor is “an abnormal high-pitched sound produced by turbulent airflow through a partially obstructed airway.”) It’s awful and scary to experience, and distressing to hear a loved one struggling with a partially blocked airway.
The following video offers a helpful illustration of “Laryngospasm and Vocal Cord Dysfunction.” It shows how the vocal cords should open and shows what happens when they don’t, and the accompanying stridor sound. I personally find the sound quite distressing so please use your own discretion when watching and listening.
Resources if you are new to using GABA as a supplement
If you are new to using GABA as a supplement, here is the Amino Acids Mood Questionnaire from The Antianxiety Food Solution (you can see all the low GABA symptoms).
If you suspect low levels of any of the neurotransmitters and do not yet have my book, The Antianxiety Food Solution – How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings, I highly recommend getting it and reading it before jumping in and using amino acids on your own so you are knowledgeable. And be sure to share it with the team you or your loved one is working with.
I don’t cover choking or swallowing issues in my book but there is a detailed chapter covering the amino acids.
The book doesn’t include product names (per the publisher’s request) so this blog, The Antianxiety Food Solution Amino Acid and Pyroluria Supplements, lists the amino acids that I use with my individual clients and those in my group programs.
If you don’t feel comfortable figuring things out on your own (doing the symptoms questionnaire and doing respective trials), after reading this blog and my book, you can get guidance from me in the GABA Quickstart Program (online/virtual).
If you are a practitioner, join us in The Balancing Neurotransmitters: the Fundamentals program. It’s an opportunity to interact with me and other practitioners who are also using the amino acids.
Have you experienced choking episodes/laryngospasm and problems swallowing? And do you have the low GABA physical-tension-type-anxiety symptoms?
If you’ve already been using GABA with success, have you noticed a reduction in these episodes?
Have you ever used GABA in the way Shawna did to stop an episode quickly? And how much helped? Have you done a trial to figure out your ideal dose?
Do you keep GABA powder on hand in various places in your home and when out?
Feel free to ask your questions here too.