Gamma-aminobutyrate (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter found in the CNS and, as such, is important for balancing excitatory action of other neurotransmitters. High levels of GABA may be a result of excitatory overload, or a compensatory mechanism to balance the surplus excitatory neurotransmitter activity. These high levels result in a ‘calming’ action that may contribute to sluggish energy, feelings of sedation, and foggy thinking. Low GABA levels are associated with dysregulation of the adrenal stress response. Without the inhibiting function of GABA, impulsive behaviors are often poorly controlled, contributing to a range of anxious and/or reactive symptoms that extend from poor impulse control to seizure disorders. Alcohol as well as benzodiazepine drugs act on GABA receptors and imitate the effects of GABA. Though these substances don’t cause an increase in GABA levels, understanding their mechanism can give us additional insight into the effects of GABA.
Research on urinary levels of GABA is scarce, however in individuals with anxiety and depression, GABA levels are low in the blood, in cerebrospinal fluid and in the brain (Mann, et. al. 2014; Goddard, 2016).
The neurodegenerative condition, Huntington’s disease, also manifests as lowered levels of GABA as neuron loss proceeds. Vitamin B6 deficiency impairs GABA formation, offering one option to help assist patients with inadequate GABA production.
Low GABA levels have been found in:
- panic anxiety
- bipolar disorders
With low GABA, supplementation with:
- cofactor support (e.g. B6),
- growth hormonereleasing hormone,
- Ginko biloba,
- Valerian root,
- Melissa off. (lemon balm),
- Scutellaria sinensis (skullcap),
- Gotu Cola,
- Magnolia and Phellodendron bark,
- and probiotics may be helpful
- Alramadhan et al., 2012;
- Awad et al., 2007;
- Alexeev et al., 2012;
- Dhakal et al., 2012.
Additionally, yoga (Streeter et al., 2012) and meditation (Guglietti et al., 2013) increase brain GABA levels.
High levels of GABA may be a result of excitatory overload, or a compensatory mechanism to balance the surplus excitatory neurotransmitter activity. These high levels result in a ‘calming’ action that may contribute to sluggish energy, feelings of sedation, and foggy thinking.
High levels may reflect decreased ability to convert to succinate for use in the Krebs (citric acid) cycle for energy generation. Cofactors here are α-KG and vitamin B6.
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