Why You Shouldn’t Take GABA Supplements

If you want to increase your GABA levels to combat anxiety taking GABA supplements is not a good way to do it; are the problem is the GABA molecule is too big to pass through a healthy blood-brain barrier so little if any of the GABA from supplements should reach your brain.
 
The blood-brain barrier BBB is a special membrane that separates the brain from the blood; it consists of a layer of cells with very tight junctions that only allow small molecules or specific permitted substances to pass through and enter the brain. It is designed to protect the brain from harmful viruses, bacteria and toxic particles and molecules. It makes sense that the BBB has been specifically designed to prevent GABA coming from the intestines from reaching the brain because although GABA is a neurotransmitter it’s actually just a pure amino acid and so we ingest GABA every time we eat protein. If GABA in the small intestines could enter the brain every time we ate protein and brain activity would be imbalanced and sedated, the brain balances a healthy level of activity by controlling the amount of GABA which is inhibiting/sedating relative to the amount of glutamate which is excitatory/stimulating.
 
Elsewhere I’ll discuss how GABA produced in the large intestines by specific bacteria such as L reuteri can enter the brain via a backdoor channel, See How to Boost GABA with Natural Remedies but this let’s get back to our GABA supplements.
 

Why GABA Supplements Sometimes Work and Sometimes Don’t

Years ago I used to recommend GABA supplements because it was obvious that in some people it would produce a tranquilising and antianxiety effect, but GABA stood out as an unusual remedy because the effects were so unpredictable and variable. In some people it would have no effect at all and in the people that it worked for the same dose would sometimes produce different effects on different days, sometimes it would produce powerful effects or make people feel very drowsy and other days the effects were mild; this all now makes sense…
 
Although GABA is too big to pass through a healthy blood-brain barrier it can pass through a leaky BBB. The BBB is continuously being attacked and broken down by free radical damage (oxidative and nitrosative stress), inflammation and toxins; opposing this our body is continually repairing the BBB. In a healthy BBB the gaps (junctions) between the cells are incredibly small (called tight junctions), in a leaky BBB these gaps are too big (called loose junctions) allowing larger molecules including GABA to pass through. The BBB can be rapidly broken down, potentially it can be equally rapidly repaired but to enable it to repair you have to eliminate all sources of inflammation and toxins that damage the BBB from your body and this may take some time.
 
If you take GABA supplements and feel an effect, it tells you that your blood-brain barrier is too leaky and you should repair it. A leaky BBB is a problem because it allows half-digested food molecules, bacteria and viruses to enter the brain; this triggers inflammation in the brain, and we now know that inflammation is a major factor causing mental health problems.
 

The Only Point to Taking GABA Supplements Is to Test the Health of Your Blood-Brain Barrier

Today I only recommend using GABA supplements as a simple home test of the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. The test consists of taking GABA to see if it enters your brain and produces noticeable feelings of calmness, relaxation, a tranquilising effect, reductions in the feelings of anxiety, feeling very sleepy or paradoxically the opposite effects feeling agitated mentally or physically. If it does produce effects this tells you that you have a leaky BBB and you should work on repairing it.  After a while you repeat the test to see if you have repaired your BBB, you continue in this untill the GABA challenge test has no effects.
To learn how to perform the Leaky Brain GABA Challenge Test click here.
 
Factors that are particularly damaging to the BBB include aluminium toxicity, the wrong diet, excessive alcohol consumption, inflammation in the body which can be hidden low-grade inflammation and other sources. Inflammation can come from many sources including stress (overactive HPA stress responses), ongoing infections which may be known or hidden in the background, deficiencies of magnesium, B12 or D3, allergies including gluten intolerance, autoimmunity, leaky gut syndrome including SIBO and bacteria from the intestines entering the blood, excess body fat especially internal visceral fat, smoking, inadequate sleep, inadequate melatonin production, mistakes in diet even what some people think is a healthy diet may provoke inflammation, et al. All of these things can be improved or eliminated with the right diet, supplements and brain training exercises is to change stress responses. Furthermore we very genetically in our propensity to produce inflammation, our ability to control free radicals, repair a broken down BBB and the strength or how well-built our BBB is in the 1st place; people lacking in these areas would do well to follow diet and lifestyle that compensates for the tendency of their BBB to break down.
 
To see how to Heal a Leaky Blood-Brain Barrier click here.
 

Even If You Do Feel a Therapeutic Effect from GABA Supplements You Shouldn’t Take Them

If you have a leaky BBB and feel beneficial effects from GABA supplements you may be tempted to continue using them, but this is probably a really bad idea, you will be causing super high spikes in your GABA levels and hypothetically your brain may start protecting itself from these spikes by desensitising your synapses to GABA.
 

A Better Way to Boost GABA

Instead of using GABA supplements to try to supplement your GABA levels directly there are other natural remedies you can take that readily pass the BBB and once inside the brain they stimulate your brain to manufacture more GABA by itself, see Natural Remedies to Increase GABA
 

Eating Gluten can be Doubly Bad for GABA and the BBB

In individuals with a gluten sensitivity eating wheat and sometimes other gluten-containing grains produces gluten antibodies that can cause sufficient inflammation to make the BBB leaky; to make matters worse the gluten antibodies attack the enzyme that makes GABA in the brain.
 
For me personally eating wheat produces these effects, when I used to eat wheat GABA would have an effect on me i.e. I would fail the Blood-Brain Barrier GABA Challenge Test, I would also be more anxious; since eliminating wheat from my diet I pass the BBB GABA challenge test.
 
Today I have also significantly reduced levels of inflammation my body by following an anti-inflammation diet, taking anti-inflammatory supplements and dampen down overactivity in my HPA axis with brain training exercises, I also never knowingly eat wheat and my mental and brain health are significantly improved.
I specialise in treating and coaching people with mental health problems how to obtain better mental health with natural remedies and self-help techniques. If you would like me to look into your individual case and develop a tailor-made programme of natural remedies, dietary advice and brain training exercises I’m available for private consultations at my London clinic and online for people that live too far away.
I also run regular meditation classes in London and online.
Click on the
bookings tab to make an appointment.
I’m passionate about treating mental health and I’d be very happy to work with you.
 
See also:
GABA Deficient Anxiety
Natural Remedies to Increase GABA
What Causes GABA Deficiency in the 1st Place?
Is GABA Deficiency the Main Reason for Your Anxiety?
Is an Overactive Default Mode Network Causing Your Anxiety?
Amygdala Based Anxiety
Cortex Based Anxiety
Why You Shouldn’t Take GABA Supplements
Benzo Withdrawal How to Speed up Recovery
Are Natural Remedies Safe Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
How to taper off benzos the right and Wrong Way
Benzo Withdrawal Treatment with Natural Remedies

References:
  1. Double blind controlled crossover trial of inositol vs fluvoxamine in panic disorder.  Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 2001; 21:335-339
  2. inositol treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  American Journal of psychiatry 1996 
 
Please help and support this site. 

Hi my name is Peter Smith I specialise in treating and coaching people how to live well with mental health problems, digestive health problems/IBS, sleep problems and type II diabetes using natural therapies.
I used these techniques to overcome and live well with my own bipolar disorder and IBS. I've been in practice as a natural medicine practitioner since 1988.
 

What I Treat

  • Brain Chemistry and Mental Health problems (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, addiction, OCD)
  • Digestive Health: IBS, bloating, SIBO (which can be the cause of  60% of IBS) and parasites (with external lab testing)
  • Mercury and Heavy Metal Detoxification (with external lab testing)
  • Addiction (by balancingbrainchemistry, supporting healthy dopamine levels etc.)
  • Meditation and Relaxation brain-training for mental health problems, and adrenal exhaustion (individual and small classes)
  • Cognitive hypnotherapy and NLP
  • Drug-Free better Sleep
  • Insulin resistance, pre- and early type II diabetes
DISCLAIMER 
 
If you’d like treatment for any of the issues discussed in this article I specialise in treating and coaching people how to obtain better mental health with natural remedies and self-help techniques. If you would like me to look into your individual case and develop a tailor-made programme of natural remedies, dietary advice and brain training exercises I’m available for private consultations and I’m available for private consultations at my London clinic and online for people that live too far away.
I also run regular meditation classes in London and online.
I’m passionate about treating mental health and I’d be very happy to work with you.
Click on the
bookings tab to make an appointment.
To Book an Appointment
At my London clinic please call the Hale clinic reception:
020 7631 0156
(online bookings will be made available soon on the Hale Clinic website**)

For a Skype coaching session email me letting me know where you are located/what time zone you are in:
hello@PeterSmithUK.com

For enquiries/further information:
Mobile: 07941 331 329
Email: hello@PeterSmithUK.com

(please keep your email brief)

As a general rule improvements are seen within 2-3 appointments so you can quickly know if the treatments are helping you and you are making a good investment.
For a more information about me and what the conditions I treat click here: About About Peter Smith
 
Please help and support this site.  
I’m giving you the information first instead of selling the information as an e-book and then asking you to make a donation if you feel that the information has helped you and would have been happy if you had bought it as an e-book you could buy me a couple of coffees or more :) using the PayPal Donate below Button below
 
Another way you could contribute to this site by helping me with the proofreading. People regularly point out that there’s a large number of errors on my site which I find quite embarrassing, but I’m quite dyslexic and I don’t notice them myself.
If you find spelling and grammatical errors in the text please email the page and paragraph of the error, I really appreciate the help.
©Peter Smith. Please feel free to download or print my work for personal use, I wrote it to help people. You can copy and distribute my work on your web pages and in literature but please give me credit for the fruits of my labour and don’t turn yourself into a plagiarist. When you copy my work please indicate where you got the information from (e.g. from or according to the website balancingbrainchemistry “…”) and include a reference/link to my name and the website or book you used. [#22]