Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a critical component to the function of the brain and the body that it’s hard to know where to start when describing the positive effects that a strong supply of it can have on your overall health. Fundamentally speaking, GABA is a neurotransmitter which regulates nerve impulses throughout the body. This means that it has an impact on everything from relieving stress to lowering blood sugar and regulating growth hormones.
Considering the fundamental role that GABA plays in a wide variety of bodily functions, it’s not surprising that it is naturally synthesized in the brain from an amino acid known as Glutamate. However, failures in the synthesis process are common and GABA deficiency is often thought to be at the root of numerous health concerns ranging from feelings of anxiety and depression to gastrointestinal complications.1 Thankfully, for those who may be deficient there are a number of solutions on the market; both for ingesting it directly and for improving the production of it from within the brain itself. If you’ve had complications with sleeping, anxiety levels, or even gut health you may very well find that increasing GABA levels will provide lasting support to your body and brain in their struggles against these difficulties.
Oral GABA Supplements and the Blood-Brain Barrier
The problem with directly ingesting GABA is that the molecules need to pass through the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a membrane which allows molecules to pass from the bloodstream into the brain, while filtering out potential neurotoxins.2 Critics of GABA supplements claim that the GABA they contain is always filtered out by the BBB. When ingested orally, it is broken down by the digestive system, where some of the potency is thought to be lost. The remaining amount is absorbed into the bloodstream, but it often doesn’t make it past the BBB and into the brain, thus failing to achieve its intended effects. While this is the case with many low-quality GABA supplements, the advent of liposomal encapsulation has provided a solution for oral intake, a solution which can work wonders for those who are GABA deficient.
But how does this new liposomal technology actually function? The liposomes are spherical membranes made of lipid bi-layer. They are manufactured to encapsulate nutrients and serve as a delivery system to carry those nutrients past the digestive system and directly into the bloodstream undiluted.3 After passing through the digestive system with their nutrients fully intact, the small liposomes have displayed impressive efficacy at working their way past the tight junctions in the capillary walls of the BBB and releasing their nutrients directly to the brain. This advanced technology has given consumers a strong edge in the fight to get orally administered GABA past the BBB, greatly improving their overall bioavailability and usefulness in the brain and the body. An example of a supplement which features this advanced new liposomal delivery system would be the Life Vitality Ultra Bliss in either a pill or powder form.
Improving GABA Production with l-theanine
In addition to choosing a GABA supplement with liposomal technology, there is also the option to pair it with l-theanine. An amino acid commonly found in green tea, l-theanine has been shown to help improve the synthesis of GABA in the brain. The reason for this improvement is that l-theanine is a structural analog to glutamate, the main component of GABA synthesis.4 Another very favorable aspect of l-theanine is that it has no problem passing the BBB when ingested orally and absorbed through the small intestine. In addition to all this, l-theanine is thought to support the brain and body in coping with stress and anxiety outside of its ability to up-regulate the production of GABA.
For those who are severely GABA deficient and have struggled to increase their supply through oral intake, even with the help of liposomal delivery, increasing the rate of synthesis with l-theanine is a sure way to help balance out GABA levels.
GABA as a Safe Alternative To Xanax — Naturally Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety
Xanax or generically known as Alprazolam, has been on the market since 1981 and used to treat panic disorder, which has made it a “block buster drug” in the United States. This particular drug falls into the benzodiazepine “benzos” class, which enhances the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at the GABA receptor. This causes a sedative effect that allows the body to relax. It is sleep inducing and may cause anterograde amnesia and dissociation.
There is no doubt, that “benzo” drugs are powerful and can even be addicting, which is why they are generally used for short-term situations, and not for the daily management of anxiety and stress.
So, what does a person do when they need to management their anxiety on a daily basis, but they don’t want to be under the influence of heavy narcotics or prescription drugs? Along with prescription drugs comes a laundry list of side effects and drug interactions. Prescription drugs may not be the best choice for those who want a more natural approach to managing their anxiety while remaining productive and energetic, not sleepy and dysfunctional.
Fortunately, there are some supplements on the market today that have an effect on the GABA receptor which have been proven to improve mood, anxiety, depression, PTD, social phobia, and even enhance neurological function. A few brands that have excellent research and reviews are Life Vitality Ultra Bliss, Pure Life Gabatrol, and Pure Life U4ea.
Other Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally
- Hunger and Anxiety – Low blood sugar levels can cause an outpouring of adrenaline. Don’t let yourself go hungry for long periods, as this can spike anxiety levels and even lead to a full blown panic attack. Avoid caffeine, sugary foods (they will leave you feeling bottomed out after a few hours after your sugars suddenly drop).
- Nutritional Therapy – Eat sensibly with a good combination of carbohydrates to protein in order to stabilize the body’s energy levels and to keep from unnecessary sugar rushes and drops. Keep protein snacks on hand. Don’t skip breakfast! I keep protein packed Metagenics Peanut Butter Bars in my car, in my lunch box, and in my desk at work for when I need a little something to hold me over between meals. I also keep bananas on hand to give me a sensible and nutritious carbohydrate boost.
- Vitamin Deficiency – Be sure to get adequate amounts of complex B vitamins (especially B1 – Thiamine), and magnesium. Cortisol, a stress hormone, depletes our bodies of magnesium, which in turn causes an increase in our flight-or-fight response, creating additional anxiety. A classic symptom of magnesium deficiency is an increase in the ability to become startled quite easily for no apparent reason.
Eating a healthy diet, avoiding sugars and caffeine, and getting the adequate B12 vitamins and minerals that your body requires will assist in the management of stress and anxiety levels. Also, don’t forget to get a little daily exercise and sunshine in there too!
Thank you for taking the time to read Getting GABA through the Blood Brain Barrier
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P.S.- At the end of the day, we are health-nerds and pet-lovers here at DR Vitamin Solutions. We recommend you discover our Life Vitality Ultra Bliss as a safe and natural alternative to stress reduction! Or browse our Protein Bar Store to balance your carbohydrate to protein ratio.