As the oft-used idiom of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities goes, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Just turn on the news and you are bombarded by 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 goes on and on. There are enough problems in the world to bring down even the most optimistic and positive person. Worry, fear and anxiety are common.
Up to 50% of pain seen in general practice is affected by stress and anxiety. High blood pressure, heart disease, arrythmia, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, digestion, headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and fibromyalgia are all affected, to some degree. , of stress. Additionally, a weak immune system, frequent infections and colds and flu are influenced by stress.
There are several effective natural strategies that can help to reduce the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Eating healthy is important. Excessive use of stimulants such as coffee, caffeine-filled energy drinks and tea can perpetuate stress and anxiety. Increased sugar consumption can negatively affect the adrenal glands which help deal with stress. Eating regularly and consuming whole foods will help the stress glands and nervous system work better.
Good quality sleep of seven to eight hours duration is recommended for rest and recovery. Regular exercise, especially outdoor aerobic exercise, can help the body deal with and recover from stress.
B vitamins and electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium can help nervous function work well.
Helping maintain GABA levels in the nervous system can help combat 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. This is the main inhibitory amino acid. It relaxes the muscles and nerves throughout the body and brain. Chronic stress can deplete 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. They are considered “controlled” drugs in Canada because they are highly addictive and habit forming. Sleep medications, such as Imovane (zoplicone) and Sublinox (zolpidem) also artificially increase GABA by preventing the hormone from breaking down at 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 complementary pharmacies. It was originally thought that GABA does not cross the blood-brain barrier, but recent studies suggest that it can reach specific areas of the brain.
It can have a calming and relaxing effect on the whole body. It can help calm an overactive mind. It can reduce high levels of anxiety. It can promote relaxation of muscle tension. This can help reduce nerve pain conditions. It can be used to treat insomnia by both reducing the time to fall asleep and maintaining sleep throughout the night. It can be safely combined with other natural sleep medications such as melatonin, Valerian and magnesium.
It is also important to note that many other sedative herbs work by stimulating and increasing GABA levels to some extent. Herbs such as Valerian, Passion flower, Hops, Skullcap and Kava kava are believed to interact to varying degrees with 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 potent as prescription drugs that artificially increase its levels. But then again, it’s also not as addictive and habit-forming as many of these Rx drugs. It can be safely discontinued without fear of abnormal withdrawal symptoms.
I have used GABA alone in various doses, or in combination with other nutraceuticals for additional effects.
Its use in adults and adolescents is considered safe but its use by infants and young children should be used with caution and with medical advice. Its use by pregnant women is strongly discouraged because GABAnergic drugs can decrease fetal heart and breathing rates.
The side effects associated with its use are minimal. Occasional nausea, stomach upset and skin rashes have been reported. For some, paradoxical reactions have been reported. GABA can be stimulating for a small subset of individuals. Instead of promoting sleep, it increases arousal and anxiety. Unusual sleep and dream patterns have been reported.
Also, consuming large amounts of GABA powder can directly cause tingling in the mouth and skin of some individuals and cause bronchial irritation.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content is for general informational purposes only.
This article was written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.
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