The amino acid GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) helps to raise GABA neurotransmitter levels and ease the physical symptoms of anxiety: stiff and tense muscles as well as feelings of stress, overwhelm and often panic attacks and overthinking/unwanted thoughts too. It can also help with the visceral pain of IBS/SIBO and insomnia. GABA eases symptoms very quickly, often within 5 minutes but is most effective when taken sublingually, is chewed or is opened on to the tongue.
I often get feedback from individuals in my community saying GABA doesn’t work for them for one reason or another. Digestive issues are a common problem and one question I often hear is the one about chewable GABA and gas, bloating and/or diarrhea.
Rav asks this question on the blog:
What about individuals with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or Colitis who cannot take chewable tablets? I used to take the GABA-Pro by Bioclinic Naturals and it just made me run to the bathroom. Should those with digestive trouble steer clear from chewable forms of GABA?
This is an excellent question and something you always need to consider when having digestive upset: is it due to a new supplement I’ve recently added? You have to find a product that works for you and we’re all different. Just like we need to read labels with food we need to read and understand the labels of supplements too.
There are a number of factors to consider: sugar alcohols, natural flavors and plant-based cellulose ingredients.
Let’s look at sugar alcohols first
Many of the chewable or sublingual forms of GABA contain sugar alcohols which can be problematic and cause digestive upset and often explosive diarrhea. Sugar alcohols include xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol and erythritol. Your reaction will depend on the amount of sugar alcohols used, how many chewable tablets you use and how accustomed you are to sugar alcohols. You may get used to them and eventually be fine with consuming small amounts and yet for others the tiniest amount is an issue.
Many of the chewable forms also contain natural flavors which could potentially be problematic for you.
Let’s now look at cellulose and rice flour
I’m also starting to see more and more folks have digestive distress and gas from products with plant-based cellulose ingredients, especially when someone has IBS or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). For example, you may see hydroxypropylcellulose on the label. This helps the chewable keep its shape and stay intact longer when in the mouth.
With capsules you may see cellulose, methylcellulose or hypromellose on the “Other Ingredients” section on the label, with these vegetable-based ingredients replacing the gelatin capsule. This also often causes bloating and gas when IBS/SIBO is an issue.
The rice flour filler in many products can also be problematic for some folks with IBS/SIBO.
Reading the label
The product Rav mentions – GABA-Pro by Bioclinic Naturals – is not one I’m familiar with but a quick check shows these ingredients in addition to the GABA:
The xylitol is a sugar alcohol, the hydroxypropylcellulose is plant-based cellulose and there are many natural flavors in this product. Any one or all could be the issue.
Magnesium stearate, a bulking agent and lubricant, is often reported as being problematic but since it’s in so many products, it’s unlikely to be causing digestive distress in this case. If you’d like to learn more, Dr Josh Axe has a great blog addressing some of the hype around magnesium stearate concluding it’s safe to consume.
Interestingly, the product label says GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) when in actual fact it contains pharma GABA (a fermented form of GABA). It’s unlikely that this is the issue for Rav but I do find it a strange way to label a product.
Finally, it’s always important to check quality and make sure there are no artificial colors, preservatives, or sweeteners, no dairy, no gluten and no GMO ingredients in the supplement. This product passes this test.
What GABA do I use instead?
One option is to switch to another chewable such as GABA Calm. This is one of my favorite GABA products because it works so well, is a nice low dose of GABA, is convenient when you’re out and about and actually tastes good. This one does contain the sugar alcohols sorbitol and mannitol, as well as a natural flavor which may well also be an issue, although I’ve had few complaints from clients and those in my community.
The other option is to use a GABA-only product or a combination GABA and theanine product (such as NFH GABA-T SAP) opened onto the tongue. It’s not as convenient but if it gets you the calming results you’re looking for then it’s a non-issue.
And finally, you could do a trial of using the chewable during the day and the opened GABA capsule at night so you’re consuming less sugar alcohols overall (if that’s your issue).
You can find the GABA Calm, NFH GABA-T SAP and Enzymatic Therapy GABA on the supplements blog here. To be clear, I’m not saying the GABA-Pro product isn’t a good choice in general, rather that it may not be ideal for you, based on your unique needs and what is going on with your gut at any one time.
How do you do with these chewable GABA products (or others like this). Do you do well on them or do you end up running to the toilet or battle with gas and/or bloating?
Or do you prefer a GABA-only or GABA/theanine combination product (opened onto the tongue)?