The Impacts of GABA
Research shows that Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) may play a key role in protecting against depression and anxiety. A review published in the journal Neuropharmacology concluded that people with anxiety and depression are more likely to have low levels of GABA. Can supplements help people with these mental health issues?
GABA is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human central nervous system. It reduces the ability to receive, create or send chemical messages to other nerve cells. GABA produces a calming effect, with a significant role in controlling anxiety, stress, excessive fear, and depression.
GABA is the primary neurotransmitter responsible for providing calming effects. Research has found that people who experience anxiety disorders and major depression often have lower levels of the chemical. Additionally, it also plays a role in regulating the immune system, appetite, and metabolism.
Neurologic and mental health conditions occur when GABA message signaling isn’t in balance. Decreased GABA activity may contribute to:
- Autism spectrum disorder, and
- Epilepsy and seizures.
Medical conditions associated with GABA imbalance include:
- Hepatic encephalopathy
- Huntington disease
- Dystonia and spasticity, and
GABA’s biochemical action is its regulation of serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin helps to release and regulate it along with glutamate, which are inhibitory and excitable messengers, respectively. When serotonin levels are low, it can impact the regulation of both. This can result in GABA not being released at optimal levels.
Dopamine plays a role in many important body functions, including movement, memory, pleasurable rewards, and motivation. High or low levels of dopamine are associated with several mental health and neurological diseases. GABA has been shown to influence dopamine activity in the brain, particularly related to depression and schizophrenia.
To treat deficiency of both neurotransmitters, GABA levels can be affected through serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, gabapentin, and GABA supplements.
GABA as a Behavioral Health Supplement
GABA supplements have shown beneficial promise. The oral distribution is linked to the enteric nervous system (ENS), the network of neurons that control the gastrointestinal system. The ENS contains many GABA receptors, and even GABA itself, and is connected to the brain through the vagus nerve. It’s been proposed that ingested GABA can affect the body even without crossing the blood-brain barrier, through its interactions with the ENS.
Studies show that GABA balancing is affecting the brain. Research has shown reductions in markers of stress in patients given GABA.
The safety factor is also comforting. There don’t appear to be many side effects or drug interactions with oral supplementation.
GABA can be a low-risk option for patients who have difficulty tolerating prescription antidepressant and antianxiety medications.
GABA Supplementation Possibilities for Depression
It’s been found that experimentally increasing the activity of nerve cells that produce the GABA has antidepressant effects similar to pharmaceutical antidepressants. The discovery offers encouragement that GABA-enhancing supplements could serve as effective, rapidly acting antidepressants.
With GABA’s role being to calm the brain down, this finding may seem unexpected. There is an explanation for this. When a person is depressed, both GABA and glutamate become unbalanced, affecting neuron activity. Any interference with GABA could lead to depression or anxiety.
GABA Supplements and Anxiety
GABA is a non-proteinogenic amino acid; it’s the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. It's stress-reducing, and sleep enhancing effects have been proven. Results of human clinical trials show the role of biosynthetic oral GABA intake on stress and sleep are encouraging. This is particularly beneficial, with too much stress being linked to a weaker immune system and cardiovascular diseases.
Taking GABA as an oral supplement can provide people relief from anxiety and chronic stress. Studies have shown that supplementation was effective as a relaxant and anxiety reliever. Other studies have shown that it can help people to recover quickly from extreme stress incidents.
There’s another potential benefit of GABA supplements: as an alternative to benzodiazepine drugs. Benzo's complication is dependency. While these medications are typically safe and work well for treating anxiety and panic attacks, they’re highly addictive. This has been associated with long term use. With benzos’ primary impact on natural GABA levels, synthetic supplements could be a less invasive treatment choice.
GABA Supplements a Possible SSRI Alternative
With SSRI’s affecting both depression and anxiety, this medication classification has been a primary treatment for decades. A downside to these drugs is their earned reputation for unwanted impacts on other areas of biochemistry. While these vary, patient tolerance of its side effects is necessary for their success. Those most disruptive of these to daily life include:
- Drowsiness, with a consistent mental fog-like effect, interfering with daily cognitive abilities.
- Changes in appetite, leading to either weight loss or weight gain.
- Sexual problems, particularly reduced sexual desire in women and men, difficulty reaching orgasm, and erectile dysfunction.
Another SSRI obstacle is effectiveness. Most patients try multiple drugs within the category to find one that works best for them. Others get frustrated with the resulting brain chemistry shifts and give up finding an Rx solution.
Indications are that GABA could be an alternative for people who can’t tolerate SSRI side effects. It may also be an option for those who find SSRIs ineffective.
How Behavioral Health Practice Automation Helps Manage Patient Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals
Prescribing and monitoring pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals adds substantial data entry to patient records. Automating these steps rather than repeatedly keying information saves time and cost. It also provides a better user experience through a practice and patient-accessible portal.
InSync’s Behavioral Healthcare Practice Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR) platform is designed with the input of mental health providers. Electronic medication administration records (eMAR) capabilities are integrated into the EHR system. This capability includes improving your patient’s safety and significantly reducing documentation duties. Peer users have showed a 33 percent reduction in medication administration errors and a 45 percent decrease in documentation time.
InSync allows both individual and group providers to add therapy notes conveniently on each patient’s face sheet with each encounter. It enables your providers to use secure mobile devices, synchronizing with the records management platform. The fully integrated, cloud-based technology reduces costs of patient information capture and billing administration time.
The system features a fully connected suite of medical software solutions, including telehealth and telepsychiatry services and billing capability. The software automates registration and scheduling, appointment reminders, and services billing.
Schedule a demo now with a behavioral health EHR system expert. They’ll show you how the system can be tailored to meet your specific provider and patient needs.