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For anyone struggling to manage everyday stress and anxiety, digging into the science behind what you’re experiencing might not be your first thought. However, understanding the sources of your stress and anxiety, as well as how to deal with them in healthy, constructive ways, can be one of the keys to a calmer mind and a happier life.
That’s why we at R3SET are committed to providing you with all the information you need about the science of stress prevention.
We believe you have the power to master your stress. Even when it feels overwhelming, you’ve got what it takes to put healthy habits into practice and form a strong defense against anxious thoughts and overwhelm.
In this post, we’ll be discussing one of the more in-depth aspects of the science of stress prevention and the role of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in stress support.
While it might seem like stress is a serious threat to your overall well-being, we’re here to break some bad news – it really is.
When you’re stressed, especially chronically, your body reacts in ways that can make you more vulnerable to a wide array of health problems in the long run.
Stress happens in response to internal and external stimuli that place a demand upon us, either mentally or physically. It is a neutral, non-specific response (it happens for a lot of reasons and doesn’t carry any emotional charge). What it does vary in, based on the stressor, is intensity.
The context shapes our emotional reaction to it. For example, finding you’re all out of gum is a weak, negative stressor. Taking a ride on a roller coaster is a huge stressor, but a positive one (because you’re enjoying it, hopefully).Chronic stress has been linked to problems like fatigue, high blood pressure, weight problems, depression, a compromised immune system, and much more. Thus, it’s an absolute must to understand how stress management works.
When you’re educated and informed about the impact of stress on your body and mind – and how to prevent it – you’ll be well-equipped to take great care of your mental, physical, and emotional health.
GABA is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, also stylized as γ-aminobutyric acid. This naturally occurring amino acid acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and modulator in your central nervous system (CNS). Its status as a neurotransmitter in mammalian CNS has support in both biochemical and electrophysiological data, and its derivatives can be used as anticonvulsants, sedatives, and anxiolytics.
It was discovered in the 1950s alongside glutamate, but it took more than 15 years for neuroscientists to understand its importance, a path even more strenuous than the emergence of glycine as a transmitter in modern medical knowledge.
GABA acts through ligand-gated ion channels and aids in the synthesis of melatonin, in addition to other helpful excitatory and inhibitory actions. GABA is synthesized from glutamate through the glutamate decarboxylase enzyme (also known as glutamic acid decarboxylase or "GAD") alongside the active form of vitamin B6.
When you are under stress, your body can perceive an imminent threat to your life, even if no such threat is present. As a result, your nervous system engages its defensive fight-or-flight response. This response involves the release of chemicals in your brain which serve the purpose of helping your body and mind properly react to a dangerous situation.
The fight-or-flight response is an important survival instinct, and without it, you wouldn’t be able to act quickly in a crisis. However, stress can trick your body and mind into responding as if your life was in danger, even when it isn’t.
When you’re under chronic stress, the fight-or-flight response’s constant activation can lead to problems like adrenal fatigue, which results from the overproduction of hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine (formerly known as; noradrenaline, adrenaline).
The effects of GABA calm your brain and help your body to relieve stress, keeping the fight-or-flight response from kicking into gear when it isn’t time to act quickly and save your own life.
Your brain has special proteins – known as GABA receptors – that attach to gamma-aminobutyric acid, producing a calming effect. GABA aids the inhibition of specific neurons and neurotransmissions, and when it attaches to the GABA A receptors in your brain, it creates a calming effect that helps with feelings of restlessness and stress by controlling over-excited neurons. Hence why it is often referred to as the “brakes of the brain”.
Benzodiazepines (aka, Valium, Xanax) are GABA receptor agonists used by healthcare professionals to treat certain mental health disorders, in particular, anxiety disorders, because they mimic the action of GABA and bind to the GABA A synapses and g protein-coupled GABA B receptors, becoming an inhibitor that can calm the central nervous system and cause sleepiness. This means that the mechanism of action of these medications bind more tightly to the receptor vs. GABA as a supplement, and can therefore have potential for side effects, and dependency over time which is not the case for GABA supplements
However, further research is still needed to fully understand how much of the GABA that you get from food or supplements affects the receptors in your brain like the active ingredients available in prescription drugs. GABA in combination with other stress focused ingredients such as; chamomile, L-Theanine, and valerian root may provide better stress support than GABA alone.*
There are several psychological conditions that are associated with lower levels of GABA in the brain. These include depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.
If you’re dealing with imbalances in mood, taking a GABA supplement may play a role in a well-rounded treatment plan*.
However, the supplement should not be considered your only defense against mental health problems and mood disorders.
Since GABA is simply a supplement, it shouldn’t be your sole means of treatment for serious emotional and psychological issues. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as depression, or with another psychological problem, it’s important to defer to your doctor when it comes to your treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend that you take a prescription-level medication, which will have more potent effects than a supplement like GABA. In addition, your doctor might also advise you to make positive lifestyle changes and visit a therapist to help treat your psychological issues.
While GABA may play a valuable role in a comprehensive stress prevention regimen, it’s not a replacement for more effective treatments, such as prescription medications.
If your doctor advises you to take prescription medication to treat a mood disorder or another psychological issue, you may not be able to take GABA alongside this medication – GABA and other natural supplements can sometimes have negative interactions with certain medications.
Overall, GABA is best for people dealing with milder stress and for acute episodes of anxietyIf you’re suffering from a serious psychological disorder, it’s best to rely on your doctor or psychiatrist’s advice when it comes to treatment instead of attempting to treat your issues on your own.
There are several supplements that can interact positively with GABA levels.
Chamomile is a flower that is typically dried and steeped to make tea. The soothing, mellow flavor of chamomile tea makes drinking a cup a popular bedtime ritual. However, there’s more to chamomile than just its pleasant flavor.
The use of chamomile as a supplement has been linked to increased levels of GABA within your brain. However, further research is still needed before this connection is fully understood. At this point, what the link between chamomile and GABA tells us is a little bit about why chamomile has such a calming effect.
Chamomile is often used to help support sleep by calming and relaxing the mind. It’s speculated that part of why this popular tea makes you feel sleepy is due to the link between the flavonoid content of chamomile and increased GABA production. As GABA production increases, you may start to feel soothed, which can help to induce sleep and calm.
L-Theanine is another popular stress-fighting ingredient. This compound is a non-essential amino acid that is found in abundance in green and black tea. Many people enjoy these teas for their flavor and for the boost of caffeine that they provide.
However, caffeine can have an anxiety-inducing effect for some people who are especially sensitive to this popular stimulant. For those who are caffeine-sensitive, tea is not the best source of L-Theanine. Luckily, this amino acid can be taken as a standalone supplement.
L-Theanine is known for its calming effect on the brain and ability to provide a boost of mental energy. These effects are linked to the positive impact of L-Theanine on GABA levels in the brain. Taking L-Theanine as a supplement may help to calm your mind when you are feeling stressed, and it can also help you stay focused and productive throughout the day.
While many people rely on coffee and other caffeinated beverages to get through the workday, we highly recommend drawing your extra boost of energy from calming sources like L-Theanine. This amino acid is one of the primary ingredients in R3SET’s Calm formula, which is designed to help you stay focused and energized throughout the workday – no caffeine necessary!
Valerian root is a popular herbal remedy that has been used as a sleep aid for thousands of years. It’s also linked to increased GABA in the brain. The link between valerian root and GABA may have quite a lot to do with the calming effects of this popular supplement.
Valerian root has been shown to be an effective supplement to include in your bedtime routine if you tend to have trouble falling asleep. It may be a better natural option than sleep more potent sleep-inducing medications, which can sometimes pose a risk of problematic side effects.
In addition to being available as a supplement, valerian root also comes in the form of tea. However, if you’re not crazy about drinking hot tea before bed, taking a valerian root supplement can be a simpler, quicker alternative that can help to calm your mind before you go to sleep.
GABA plays an important role in helping your body properly respond to stress. Maintaining your mental equilibrium while living in a stressful, distraction-filled world can be tough, but understanding how GABA and other neurotransmitters and ingredients can help you with stress management can be a big step towards conquering anxiety.
To learn more about the science of stress management, how stress affects your body and mind, and the ingredients included in R3SET supplements, make sure to check out our blog. There, you’ll find plenty of info that will help you make informed decisions about the ingredients and habits you include in your stress-fighting regimen.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease