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GABA Supplements For Anxiety Disorder

Is GABA an effective treatment for anxiety disorder? Many people believe so. When dealing with anxiety, everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for you. If you have tried therapy and talked to a psychologist, but cannot overcome anxiety on your own, you may seek out alternative types of treatment. One such treatment is GABA supplementation. It is believed that supplementing this substance can have a profound impact on increasing your ability to relax and stay calm instead of feeling anxious or worried.

GABA Supplements for Anxiety Disorder

If you are considering taking GABA supplement to help treat your anxiety, read below to find out how it works.

What is GABA and how does it work?

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a non-essential amino acid that is found in your brain and eyes. It is a neurotransmitter that works to inhibit the number of neurons firing in the brain. In other words, it helps calm down the brain when there are too many nerve cells firing – it reduces brain activity. It is considered a calming agent and helps to reduce anxiety, stress, tension, etc. and promotes relaxation.

GABA inhibits excess brain stimulation

Having a healthy amount of GABA in your brain helps to combat elevated levels of stimulating agents such as: epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It also aids in the production of natural endorphins – which makes us feel good. People with healthy amounts of GABA in their brain tend to feel calm, relaxed, and happy. Individuals with brains that do not have adequate amounts of GABA tend to feel on edge, tense, stressed, and anxious.

Basically if you are low on GABA, your brain doesn’t have anything to inhibit the excess activity – which will make you feel anxious. If looked at under an EEG, your brain would be showing a lot of beta brainwave frequencies. When GABA helps inhibit activity, the EEG would show increased slow wave alpha activity.

Knowing that GABA helps reduce anxiety and promotes calmness, it would make sense that taking GABA supplements for anxiety should help increase relaxation, right? Not so fast.

Does GABA cross the blood brain barrier?

Due to the fact that people are always interested in taking supplements, there are companies that manufacture supplements of GABA to help with anxiety issues. Most people claim that taking these supplements calms them down and helps in similar manner to the GABA in their brain. However, there is evidence that it is impossible for GABA supplementation to cross the blood brain barrier.

Theoretically, the majority of these GABA supplements shouldn’t really do much to alleviate anxiety in comparison to a placebo. By not crossing the blood-brain barrier, they aren’t directly targeting the anxiety inside of the brain. However, if you take the time to read accounts of individuals that have taken these supplements for their anxiety disorders, many will testify for the fact that it did help calm them down.

For some individuals there is no noticeable effect, while others tend to feel relaxed, less anxious, and mentally calm. Although majority of GABA supplements may not cross the blood-brain barrier, there are versions of phenylated GABA (e.g. Phenibut, Picamilon, etc.). Picamilon, for example, combines Niacin with phenylated GABA in order to cross the blood-brain barrier as a “prodrug” (inactives that cross the barrier and then become active).

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16971751
Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002839087190013X

Daily dose of GABA supplements to take for anxiety? 500 mg to 1000 mg

In general it is recommended to take 500 to 1000 mg of GABA in order to become more relaxed. Some individuals notice an immediate relaxing effect, while others need to take it for a couple weeks before it starts to kick in. If you are unsure as to whether or not you should be taking this supplement, make sure you consult your doctor and ask questions. The overall effect is going to depend on the potency of the supplement that you buy as well as the type you purchase.

I wouldn’t even waste time buying something that isn’t going to cross the blood-brain barrier. Do your research and find something that will give you the desired effect as a relaxing agent. If you take the proper dosage, you should feel less anxious and may feel slightly sedated. If the sedation is too powerful, make sure that you adjust the dosage accordingly so that you don’t feel too tired.

Consider taking L-Theanine to increase GABA

Certain medical professionals that don’t buy into the GABA supplementation crossing the blood-brain barrier recommend using an amino acid called “L-theanine.” This is known to help boost production of GABA throughout the body and is known to have crossed the blood-brain barrier.

GABA: Safety and drug interactions

In general, GABA supplements are safe up to 3g dosages. However, if you are planning on adding this to your regimen, you will want to make sure that there is no interaction or adverse effects. Always consult your doctor or a medical professional for a second opinion before starting. Since this is a relaxant and generally will reduce tension throughout your body and brain, it should not be combined with any other central nervous system depressant or anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Deane Alban June 10, 2015, 5:10 pm

    I totally agree that I wouldn’t spend my money on a supplement that doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. There’s some speculation that GABA can cross into the brain if the barrier is leaky. Obviously this is not a good thing! Dr. Datis Kharrazian, author of “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” goes so far as to say he uses GABA as a diagnostic tool. If a patient takes it and feels better with it, that’s a sign their BBB has become compromised.

    • Biff September 9, 2015, 6:35 pm

      Compromised how? Physical injury? Chemically? or ???. I take 2-3g GABA and have full on effects within an hour: Coughing, tingling skin, sometimes speech slurring, sometimes balance issues. I also get very calm and usually fall asleep as if drugged. [I’m an insomniac]. I have very high levels of circulating N.O., so I attributed GABA working well for me to that. Research backs that up: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11849830. BUT, I have also suffered 6 concussions… Compromised means that I am susceptible to what? Infections, poisonings?

  • Donovan September 22, 2015, 10:06 pm

    All I know is I took some once and it seemed to calm me, immediately. I don’t know what type it was but it wasn’t hard to find. Few things calm me like that… but I do notice that sea veggies are very relaxing. I’m less concerned with how a things works…

  • Suppslife December 23, 2016, 1:10 pm

    I don’t think that just because it doesn’t pass through the blood-brain barrier that it can’t produce a calming effect for the rest of your body. If your body feels relaxed, then it is easier for your mind to follow suit. I’ve been on GABA for about a month now.

    With my anxiety/OCD I generally feel like I have substances sticking to me. My muscles feel tense. But after about a month on GABA, my muscles actually feel more relaxed and the feeling of things sticking to my skin feels more subtle and goes away eventually much quicker. And I feel that because my physical body doesn’t seem to be holding on to the lingering anxiety, my mind also begins to think that it doesn’t need to be thinking about anxious thoughts.

    I believe that our mind and physical state is strongly connected and that even just the physical sense of calm can induce the mind to calm as well. Just like the practice of Yoga induces brain calm and not that brain calm directly induces one to do Yoga. I really do think that “placebo effect” is really an incorrect assumption in light of that.

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