GABA

Gaba photo 2

What is it?

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is an amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter.

What does it do?

Gaba reduces the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system.

Why am I talking about this?

Because it has helped me immensely in regards to sleep, anxiety, and preserving lean muscle mass.

Gaba 3

Intro:

Gaba is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain. Its natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds. Furthermore, Gaba receptors are probably the most common kind in the mammalian nervous system. It is estimated that close to 40% of the synapses (connections) in the human brain work with Gaba and therefor have Gaba receptors (thebrain.mcgill.ca, 2018).

I’d like to have a look at some research, starting with Gaba’s ability to preserve lean muscle mass. If you’ve read my Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training article, you may have picked up that I have a thing for growth hormone. I came across a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study who’s purpose is to determine the growth hormone responses to Gaba ingestion at rest and after exercise (Powers et al., 2007).

11 healthy resistance trained males participated in this study. They were randomly assigned and either given 4 gaba (750mg), or a 4 placebo (sucrose). Neither the researchers nor the participants knew which one they were taking until the study was over. Subjects participated in 4 experimental trails, each separated by 1 week. This consisted of 2 resting and 2 exercise bouts completed in a counterbalanced fashion. They were told to continue their normal daily activities, keep their diet, refrain from any drugs or supplements proposed to have an ergogenic (performance enhancing) effect, as well as lay off exercise 24hrs prior to each experimental trail. Blood samples were taken before each trial as well as 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75 minutes after supplementation.

Figure 1 gaba article

Results: There was no difference in the total number of reps completed when comparing the exercise with gaba and exercise with placebo. However, serum growth hormone concentrations increased approximately 18-fold above pre-ingestion value during both exercise with gaba and exercise with placebo. In addition, an approximate 15-fold increase above baseline was observed during the rest with gaba trail; but no difference throughout the rest with placebo.

More importantly, the GH response 30 minutes after the cessation of exercise was about 200% greater in the exercise with gaba responses than the exercise with placebo. Therefore, gaba supplementation results in the greatest increase in serum GH hormone levels while at rest, as well as immediately after and 30 minutes post-exercise.

There are many reasons why one should care about their levels of growth hormones as it serves important roles in adult life. This includes maintenance of lean body and bone mass, promoting lipolysis (breakdown of fat), thereby limiting visceral adiposity (fat stored around important organs), regulating carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular system function, aerobic exercise capacity, and cognitive function (Chertman et al., 2015).

GABA AND SLEEP

I take 750mg of gaba every night, 30 minutes prior to bed. It has a calming, sedative effect and helps me fall asleep quicker, and remain asleep for longer. A 2015 study found that subjects taking gaba did in fact fall asleep sooner by an average of 5 minutes. In addition, a 2008 study found that patients suffering from insomnia had 30% lower levels of gaba compared to the control group (Tatsuzaki et al., 2015).

GABA AND ANXIETY

I am all too familiar with the body jerking; heart pounding; unable to concentrate or think straight feeling brought on by anxiety. If you’ve experienced it you know how much it can negatively affect your health, especially if it’s ongoing. Gaba reduces the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system, which could be linked to anxiety and fear. When my anxiety starts to climb I reach for gaba and take about 300mg. Within 5 to 10 minutes I notice a difference – my heart slows and my concentration improves.

A 2002 study found that those with panic, mood and anxiety disorders, or a family history of these disorders had decreased brain concentrations of gaba (Kent et al., 2002). There is significant amount of data supporting gaba’s ability to reduce anxiety and well as help treat depression.

gaba photo

SUMMARY

Gaba is an amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps reduce the excitability of nerve cells in our central nervous system. Research supports that supplementing with Gaba relieves anxiety, improves sleep and increases levels of growth hormone. In addition, it can reduce depressive symptoms, relieve PMS symptoms, decrease inflammation, and improve focus in ADHD.

I have been supplementing with Gaba for over 2 years and I have not experienced any adverse effects. You may experience a tingling sensation at a higher dose. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should steer clear because it’s affect on these individuals has not yet been studied. If you are currently taking medication for anxiety or depression, make sure to speak with your doctor before using Gaba; as it may affect these medications.

Finally, there is controversy on whether or not gaba crosses the blood-brain barrier. Some research says it does not, other research says it does. All I know for certain is this natural supplement has helped me immensely and I wanted to share this in hopes it helps others.

Keep Moving.

 

 

References:

Chertman, L.S; Merrium, G.R; Kargi, A.Y. Growth Hormone and Aging. NCBI Bookshelf. A service of Natural Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. 2015.

Lydiard, R.B. The Role of Gaba in Anxiety Disorders. J of Clin Psychiatry. 2005; 64 Suppl 3: 21-7.

Kent, J.M; Matthew, S.J; Gorman, J.M. Molecular targets in the treatment of anxiety. Biol Psychiatry. 2002, 1008-30.

Powers, M.E; Yarrow, J.F; McCoy, S.C; Stephan, E.B. Growth Hormone Isoform Response to Gaba at Rest and After Exercise. Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, Centre for Exercise Science. 2007, 104-108.

The Brain From Top to Bottom. Anxiety Neurotransmitters. McGill, 2018. (thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_04/d_04_m/d_04_m_peu/d_04_m.peu.html) (Accessed April 1, 2018).

Yamatsu, A; Yamashita, Y; Maru, I; Yang, J; Tatsuzaki, J; Kim, M. The Improvement of Sleep by Oral Intake of Gaba and Apocynum venetum Leaf Extract. J Nutri Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015; 61(2): 182-7.

 

 

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Lost Battle with Mental Illness

My passion lies in promoting health and fitness while helping others lead a long, happy, and healthy life. Beyond promoting good nutrition, physically active lifestyles, and consistent exercise; I am a huge advocate for mental health. As I mentioned in a previous article (Beyond Blue), this factor is often overlooked when considering ones overall health status.

Many people view psychological disorders differently from other diseases such as cancer or heart disease; but the reality is they are just as serious, and just as commonly end in death. Like cancer, there are treatments, but some begin too late and fail to save the diseased individual.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability and infirmity worldwide (World Health Organization, 2002).

While catching up on the world’s news this morning, I came across this heart breaking, eye opening story which I felt compelled to share. A young woman by the name of Natalie recently took her life after a long battle with mental illness.

Natalie and her Mom

My daughter, who lost her battle with mental illness, is still the bravest person I know

I was more than taken back by this story, and my heart goes out to Natalie and her family, as well as anyone who has lost a loved one due to mental illness. I truly believe –as the article suggests- that psychotic breaks are not sudden, but are rather a climax of a long buildup. If the body can become ill; so can the mind. Educating yourself on topics related to mental health will help you get a clearer understanding of the diseases, and hopefully detach the social stigmas surrounding them.

  1. World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva.World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva. http://www.who.int.

Beyond Blue

depression

In order to be considered healthy, one must be free of disease and ailments; they are physically active, exercise, and practice good nutrition. However one factor that is often overlooked is mental health.

Years ago I remember hearing someone say that depression and mental illness is fake and people just need to deal with they’re sh*t properly and get over it. That person and whoever else holds this opinion are simply ignorant.

If the body can become ill, so can the mind.

All though there are many forms of mental illness, with variable severities of each, I would like to focus on one form of mental illness in particular – depression.

The endocrine system (aka hormonal system) controls EVERYTHING. Hormones are substances produced by the endocrine glands that have a huge effect on bodily processes. The glands in the endocrine system influence growth and development, mood, sexual function, reproduction, and metabolism.

The nervous system also plays a major roll. In particular, the 3 main neurotransmitters of the brain (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) appear to have a strong relationship with depressive symptoms. Specific symptoms are associated with an increase or decrease in specific neurotransmitters.

Just to clarify, depression isn’t that crappy feeling after the Toronto Maple Leafs loose again, and again, and again. It goes much deeper than that.

“Depression is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood—the way a person feels. Mood impacts the way people think about themselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around them. This is more than a ‘bad day’ or ‘feeling blue.’ Without supports like treatment, depression can last for a long time.

Signs of depression include feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, guilty, or anxious a lot of the time. Some feel irritable or angry. People lose interest in things they used to enjoy and may withdraw from others. Depression can make it hard to focus on tasks and remember information. It can be hard to concentrate, learn new things, or make decisions. Depression can change the way people eat and sleep, and many people experience physical health problems.

Age and sex can also impact how people experience depression. Males often experience anger or irritability rather than sadness, which can make depression harder for others to see. Young people and older adults may experience lasting changes in mood that are mistakenly dismissed as a normal part of growing up or of aging.” – Canadian Mental Health Association

I have personally suffered from depression and have a family history of it – yes it can be genetic. It does not make me any less of a person, nor does it make me weak. It isn’t the easiest topic to discuss due to the social stigmas attached to it, but I believe people are becoming more open to the topic and that society as a whole is moving in a positive direction to help those who suffer from mental illness.

Symptoms of depression could include:

  • Sadness throughout the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest in or enjoyment of one’s favourite activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Aches and pains (such as headaches, stomach pain, joint pains or other pains)
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, first educate yourself as much as possible. Getting a thorough understanding will make you realise it’s not your fault and that there is treatment available. Depression has been/is being heavily studied and more talked about then ever. Go to your doctor if symptoms last more than 2 weeks, or if you’ve had a history of depression. Most importantly, be kind to your body and do not use substances to mask the problem(s), this will only prolong the issue and make it worse. Depression can get progressively worse and become extremely serious if left untreated.

Check out http://depressionhurts.ca/en/depression/ for more information.

Moreover, exercise may be the last thing one would want to do while depressed, but it WILL make a world of difference in your recovery. Exercise releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings in the body and diminish the perception of pain. Regular exercise can ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, reduce stress, boost self-esteem, and help you sleep. If a full workout sounds impossible to you, go for daily walks, preferably outside. Little steps each day will get you closer to feeling like yourself again.