What is Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)?
One of the essential micronutrients required by our bodies is a naturally occurring amino acid called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This micronutrient is a chemical made in the brain and serves as a neurotransmitter, one of the chemical messengers critical for communication within our body’s central nervous system.
Consider situations where this near-instantaneous messaging is important. Perhaps you’ve just touched a hot iron or stovetop – your neurotransmitters communicate quickly so that you remove your hand before it is burned badly. Or, your brain may recognize a potential danger and instruct your hand to stay away from that situation, eliminating a bad outcome altogether.
While some neurotransmitters act to bolster signals from the brain and enhance nervous system activity, GABA functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it blocks or inhibits certain signals and transmissions. Thus, it generally decreases neuron stimulation and lowers activity in the nervous system. This plays out when a neuron receiving a message does not take any action, and the message stops. Neurons down the communication chain also do not receive that message, eliminating further action.
When messages are inhibited in this way, the result is often a calming effect. Thus, GABA directly affects mood, especially anxiety, fear, and stress levels.
What Happens When My GABA Levels are Too Low?
As messages are passed along from one neuron to the next, they are considered “action potentials.” These signals usually move through the message passageway to produce their intended effect. However, some of these neurons are GABAergic, meaning they contain GABA. When these neurons fall in the message chain, they release GABA and inhibit the synapses from passing the message further along.
In addition to a resulting calming effect on the brain, this process also affects the spinal cord and the nervous system. In a matter of milliseconds, the nervous system begins what is called sensory information integration as it analyzes the information received from the five senses to formulate a course of action.
When our bodies do not produce adequate levels of GABA, we find that a range of potential medical conditions may occur in the areas of neurologic and psychiatric conditions. Lower levels of GABA may result in:
- Anxiety and stress
- Panic disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Depression and other mood disorders
In addition to these potential results, deficient GABA activity may contribute to suicide.
What Physical Health Concerns are Attributed to GABA?
As GABA deficiencies contribute to the mental health conditions listed above, they may also lead to physical manifestations including several neurodegenerative disorders. When GABA function is inadequate, the potential for the following increases:
- Huntington’s disease – lower levels of GABA in patients with Huntington’s disease can affect the brain and its control over voluntary movements.
- Parkinson’s disease – patients with Parkinson’s may deal with excess GABA in their system, also affecting movement.
- Epilepsy – when GABA levels are too low, patients may experience disproportionate nervous system reactions when dealing with seizures.
If you are a patient of any of these conditions and/or experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be wise to consult an authority to determine if you have any GABA abnormalities that may be contributing to these manifestations.
Can Supplements Help with GABA Abnormalities?
Supplements are frequently prescribed when there is an identified deficiency in GABA or other micronutrients that your body needs. Though GABA is produced by the body, there are times when dietary supplements may provide the support needed to overcome a deficiency.
In addition to supplements, some foods help the body achieve sufficient levels of GABA. These items include:
- Various peas and beans
- Grains such as barley, oats, and wheat
In all circumstances when your body is not receiving the nutrition that it requires, it is wise to consult a professional who can assess your situation and develop a plan to help. There are times when a professional’s knowledge is crucial. For example, some supplements may interact with prescriptions or other supplements in ways that create additional problems for your body. Accordingly, it is important to seek competent and qualified specialists to ensure proper balance is achieved.
What are Other GABA Concerns?
Certain activities can affect our body’s ability to process GABA and GABA function properly. Alcohol promotes GABA activity. This will result in an artificial sensation of calmness, but it is short-lived. With alcohol use, there is not only the risk of developing a tolerance, requiring more and more to satisfy us over time, but alcohol’s effect on GABA circumvents the body’s natural process for accessing and avoiding risky and dangerous situations.
When too much GABA is present – through supplements or natural methods – it is possible to develop abnormally slow breathing as a result of the additional GABA stimulation. This respiratory depression can lead to elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream as well as reduced heart rate and associated cardiovascular risks.
Because of these potential concerns, it is important to be aware of GABA levels and to avoid these threats. At Bridgepoint Clinics, we can help you assess your normal GABA level and determine whether these potential dangers are a risk for you.
What do I do if GABA is an Issue for Me?
If you have any of the conditions or concerns listed above, or if GABA is already an identified care requirement for you, contact us. We at Bridgepoint seek to help you achieve your most productive and normal life possible, regardless of your past struggles.
Our trained and licensed staff is prepared to work with you to understand the true root cause of any mental or physical health needs that you might have. Beginning with a solid diagnosis, we can lead you and your entire medical team on a path toward healing and restoration.
Contact us today to schedule an initial screening so we can begin your healing process.
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