Doctors often prescribe SSRIs to help put the brakes on the brain for those who are overly amped up. Essentially, serotonin and GABA are the brakes and Acetylcholine and Dopamine are the gas. When it comes to anxiety issues, SSRIs are analogous to using the emergency brake on your car to slow down the vehicle as opposed to applying the real brakes.
If you have anxiety and are not responding do SSRIs, you may want to consider increasing your GABA levels. Of course, you’ll want to consult your doctor before making any changes.
How do you increase GABA levels safely and effectively without medical drugs? There are several things you can do:
Eat foods containing higher levels of glutamic acid
The world’s leading brain expert Dr.Eric Braverman has identified a list of foods higher in glutamic acid which can help form GABA in the brain (3).
Glutamic Acid/Glutamate (Forms Glutamine) mgs. per 6-8 OZ. Serving
- Almonds, tree nuts (10.3 g.)
- Banana (220 mg.)
- Beef liver (6.5 g.)
- Broccoli (740 mg.)
- Brown Rice (940 mg.)
- Halibut (7.9 g.)
- Lentils (2.8 g.)
- Oats, whole grain (7.4 g)
- Oranges, citrus fruits (210 mg.)
- Potato (830 mg.)
- Rice Bran (3.7 g)
- Spinach (680 mg.)
- Walnuts, tree nuts (5.4 g.)
- Whole Wheat, whole grain (8.6 g.)
Exercise a minimum of 4 times per week
Exercise helps restore levels of all neurotransmitters. On a relevant side note, the euphoric feeling some people get when exercising (more so with aerobic conditioning) has been attributed to endorphins, but there is no research to prove endorphins are responsible for this. More than likely, the rush of serotonin is responsible for the uplifting mood during exercise (3).
There has been a couple of small studies indicating that yoga helps increase GABA (4), but I would bet you could get a similar effect anytime you increase exercise levels of any kind.
Boost your Vitamin B-6 intake (or take a B-Complex)
Vitamin B6, if deficient, may impair the production of GABA as it is a cofactor nutrient. For a better understanding of cofactor nutrients see my prior article. Since overt vitamin deficiencies are rare, we use urine organic acids testing (UOA) to determine if there are any functional deficiencies. So far in the UOA testing at our clinic, we have yet to find anyone who is not deficient in the B-complex vitamins.
Get a comprehensive urine organic acids test
- I cannot speak highly enough on how much this test has helped our patients and clients. If you can determine functional deficiencies via (UOA) and reverse them, you will likely help all of your neurotransmitters and help optimize brain function.
Use calming nutrients to help improve sleep quality
Getting quality sleep can help ensure all neurotransmitters and hormones are balanced and sufficient (6). My top 2 supplements for increasing sleep quality are:
Magnesium-l- Threonate (As Neuromag): This is the only form of magnesium that has the ability to raise magnesium levels within the brain. To read more on the details of magnesium threonate, see my prior post about it.
Insomnitol is great for those who need more of a target approach to sleep. It contains valerian root, lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile, l-theanine, 5HTP and melatonin. To view the spec sheet on this product you may learn more about it here.
Possible GABA benefit from short term Magnolia Bark use (Magnolia officinalis)
Magnolia bark is an herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries and has been shown to increase GABA levels in mice (7). Relora (a proprietary blend of patented extracts from magnolia and phellodendron) has been shown in some small studies to help with relaxation and emotional well-being (8). I remain hopeful that the relaxation response results from these studies could be a reflection of increases in GABA, but for right now claims cannot be made. Magnolia bark may be worth a try as a part of an overall anxiety reduction program, but probably should not be used as a first line of defense.
Possible GABA benefit from inositol
Inositol has been used in psychiatry to help treat of anxiety and depression. Inositol is part of a messenger system that can help improve GABA and serotonin levels (9).
Fear and anxiety is good for us; it protects us from danger, keeps us sharp and makes us learn how to avoid unpleasant situations. However, when anxiety levels start to impair our function, it is important to know how to reduce them. If you think you may be having minor situational anxiety troubles, I suggest trying the strategies 1,2,3,4,6 and 8 listed above. For strategies 5 and 7 (UOA testing and for herbal formulas) you should contact your doctor.
Connie’s comments: Many seniors in care home settings have anxiety disorders and are prescribed at least 2-3 neuro meds by their doctors. They need love/care, attention and consistency in their daily regimen. If your seniors at home needs a personalized caregiver in the bay area, text 408-854-1883 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and Motherhealth Inc also refers carehomes for seniors with Alzheimers or needing 24/7 care.