“Inhibitory” sounds like a bad thing, but all of Life has a balance between excitatory and inhibitory aspects. Call it Yin and Yang, light and dark, or hot and cold. If we were to run on hot all the time, like most of us do in modern times, we’d get burnt out. Sick. Tired. And often oddly wired at the same time. ”Tired and wired”… Sound familiar?
Serotonin and GABA are the great stabilizers to the nervous system – the counterpart to Dopamine and Acetylcholine which allow us to move, act, focus and be alert. Like all neurotransmitters, they carry messages to every cell of the body, working to create balance in body systems. Low levels of any neurotransmitter can be due to genetics, nutrient depletion, stress or trauma. Here are just a few symptoms of either a GABA or Serotonin deficiency:
• Physical – Carbohydrate craving, loose stool or constipation, butterflies in stomach, ringing in the ear, muscle tension (especially in neck and back), tics/twitching, hyperventilation (not the emergency kind, but the everyday breathing too fast and too shallow), blurred vision, allergies, night sweats, heart palpitations, reflux and pain.
• Psychological – Restlessness, feelings of dread, emotional immaturity, short temper, phobias, anxiety (panic too), obsessive thinking, worry
• Memory Function – Poor verbal memory and recall
• Attention Issues – Impulsivity, disorganization, ADD, ADHD
Conditions & diseases of deficiency include: Tinnitus, anxiety, hypertension, hypotension, chronic pain, cystitis, irritable bowel, PMS, seizures, bipolar disorder, insomnia (and therefore fatigue), Tourette’s, addictions.
From a medicinal point of view, marijuana, alcohol and heroin all boost GABA in the brain and body. A person severely deficient in GABA may turn to alcohol and drugs for relief from fear, paranoia, suicidal thoughts and deep depression. Truthfully, it’s the only thing keeping them alive, in a strange sort of way. This is not to recommend alcohol and drugs, but to say that the brain WILL MAKE you take them if it needs to and no other option exists.
The best way to start to FIX a deficiency in GABA or Serotonin is to stop-look-and-listen to what your life is telling you. Overwork, trauma, financial worries and a heavy schedule can all contribute to neurological burnout, independent of what your adrenals and thyroid are doing. And since the neurotransmitters have a great deal of control over the hormones, this may be the place to start fixing the adrenals and thyroid too.
Since GABA and Serotonin act as brakes in our bodies, people deficient in them need to add some brakes of their own, reduce their schedules, and get plenty of sleep, fats, and protein to keep in balance. Sugars, starches, dieting, and overwork will aggravate your brain and can cause the physical and emotional dominoes listed above to fall.
In my clinic, I often recommend this Passion Flower in glycerin to boost GABA. Most people feel noticeably calmer and happier from the first dose. It can calm an attack of IBS or anxiety, as well as help you go back to sleep and stop worrying. Passion Flower is safe for kids too, and is easy to self-medicate to see how many drops you need in any particular situation. 10 – 20 drops for pre-exam jitters; 40 drops on the way to the vet with an injured animal; 60 drops for a panic attack, etc.
Note that taking GABA itself is not recommended. GABA is not supposed to be able to cross the Blood-Brain barrier, but it will in those with “Leaky Brain”. (In addition to Leaky Gut, you can have Leaky Lung and Leaky Brain). Theanine also helps calm the over-excited nervous system, as will Neurofeedback. (Listen to my recent podcast with Nora Gedgaudas on Neurofeedback).
Serotonin often responds well to St. John’s Wort. Try it for a month or two to let it build in your system, BUT DO NOT TAKE ST. JOHN’S WORT IF YOU ARE ALREADY TAKING PRESCRIPTION ANTI-DEPRESSANTS. And while I’m writing in capital letters, let me add this: DON’T STOP ANTI-DEPRESSANTS SUDDENLY OR WITHOUT MEDICAL SUPPORT.