Like the oft-used phrase from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Just turn on the news and you’ll be bombarded with negativity. The Covid pandemic, lockdowns, restrictions, the economy, interest rates, the stock market, inflation, job security, bills, taxes, the war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza, and the list goes on. There are enough problems in the world to discourage even the most optimistic and positive person. Anxiety, fear and worry are common.
Up to 50% of diseases seen in general practice are influenced by stress and anxiety. High blood pressure, heart disease, arrhythmias, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, digestion, headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and fibromyalgia are all affected by stress to some degree. Additionally, poor immune system, frequent infections and colds are also affected by stress.
There are many effective natural healing strategies that help reduce the negative effects of stress and anxiety. It is important to eat healthy. Excessive use of stimulants such as coffee, caffeinated energy drinks and tea can increase stress and anxiety. Increased sugar intake can have a negative effect on the adrenal glands which help deal with stress. Eating regularly and consuming whole foods can help the stress glands and nervous system function better.
Seven to eight hours of good quality sleep is recommended for rest and recovery. Regular exercise, especially outdoor aerobic exercise, can help the body cope with and recover from stress.
B vitamins and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium can help nerves function better.
Helping maintain GABA levels in the nervous system may help deal with excessive stress and anxiety.
GABA is short for gamma amino butyric acid. It is a small amino acid found throughout the human body. It is made from another amino acid called glutamate. GABA acts as a neurotransmitter that affects the brain and nerves. It is the major inhibitory amino acid. It relaxes the muscles and nerves of the entire body and brain. Chronic stress can reduce GABA levels.
Many of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety artificially increase GABA levels. Benzodiazepine medications such as Ativan (lorazepam), Rivotril (clonazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam) are used to treat severe anxiety. These are considered “controlled” drugs in Canada because they are highly addictive and habit-forming. Sleeping pills such as Imovin (Zoplicone) and Sublinox (Zolpidem) also artificially increase GABA by blocking the breakdown of the hormone at the nerve receptor endings. And finally, painkillers such as Neurontin (gabapentin) and Lyrica (pregabalin) are used to treat both acute and chronic nerve pain by affecting the function of GABA in the brain and nervous system.
GABA also exists as a free-form amino acid and is available for supplementation from natural health food stores and complimentary pharmacies. It was originally thought that GABA did not cross the blood-brain barrier, but recent studies show that it can reach specific areas of the brain.
It can have a calming and relaxing effect on the entire body. It can help calm an overactive mind. It can reduce high levels of anxiety. It may promote relaxation of muscle tension. It may help reduce nerve pain in conditions. It can be used to treat insomnia by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and maintaining sleep throughout the night. It can be safely combined with other natural sleep medicines like melatonin, valerian, and magnesium.
It is also important to note that many other sedative herbs work by stimulating and increasing GABA levels to some degree. Herbs such as valerian, passion flower, hops, skullcap, and kava kava are believed to interact at various levels on GABA receptors throughout the body. Another amino acid called L-theanine is believed to interact with the GABA receptor and increase its activity.
GABA is not as strong as prescription drugs that artificially increase its levels. But then again, it’s also not as addictive or habit-forming as many of these RX medications. It can be safely discontinued without fear of unusual withdrawal symptoms.
I have used GABA in various doses or in combination with other nutraceuticals for additional effects.
It is considered safe for use in adults and adolescents but should be used with caution and with medical advice in infants and young children. Its use by pregnant women is strongly discouraged because GABAergic medications may reduce fetal heart and breathing rates.
The side effects associated with its use are minimal. Nausea, stomach upset, and skin rashes have occasionally been reported. For some, contradictory reactions have been reported. GABA may be stimulating for a small subgroup of individuals. It increases agitation and anxiety instead of promoting sleep. Unusual sleep patterns and dreams have been reported.
Additionally, consuming large amounts of GABA powder directly may cause mouth and skin tingling and bronchial irritation in some individuals.
The information provided in this article is not and is not intended to be medical advice. All information and content is for general information purposes only.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.
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