February is heart health month so of course we start to see more posts on heart-healthy recipes and natural ingredients. One thing you might notice is that many of these natural compounds fall into the category of antioxidants. This is a broad term that includes any substance that that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are produced in our bodies as results of normal cell energy production or from external damaging influences (i.e. UV radiation, chemicals etc.). The cardio-vascular system is especially sensitive to the effects of free radicals.
GABA is a supplement worth taking for dealing with issues of anxiety. I have been using it in my clinical practice for many years for this very reason.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter made from the amino acid glutamate. GABA acts as a main inhibitor to the brain and nervous system, functioning as an “engine brake” on the system in times of stress. Low levels of GABA in the brain have been associated with restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and poor mood (1).
GABA has been shown to inhibit the excitatory impulses in the brain, including those responsible for panic, alarm, anxiety, worry and fear. Classically, those who experience these symptoms are prescribed anti-anxiety medications like Ativan or another benzodiapene, for example. While they can be clinically effective, these medications often create unwanted side effects. This is where a supplement like GABA can shine as it delivers the deficient neurochemical to help balance the brain and nervous system, without the related side effect concerns.
GABA has also been shown to promote a shift in the brain frequency by moving the brain out of a “beta state” (brainwaves associated with anxiety and stress), and into an “alpha state” (brainwaves associated with relaxation). This makes GABA a great consideration for those who have issues with insomnia (often part of the anxiety picture) as the alpha brain waves are the ones present at the start of a healthy sleep cycle. Again, to use GABA here instead of a conventional sleep medication is often a good option, as you will avoid any potential side effects.
Do you feel overwhelmed by daily stresses? What do you do to cope with anxiety? Comment below or tweet us @AOR_Health!
As with all health concerns, liaising with your health care professional is a key component of the process.
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1. 1. Nemeroff, CB. The role of GABA in the pathophysiology and treatment of anxiety disorders. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2003:37:133-146.