The What & Why GABA is known as the relaxing, anti-anxiety, and anti-convulsive neurotransmitter. In your body, GABA helps you shift from an excitatory mode to a relaxing one. Lifestyle and diet choices can support or counteract its effects. Consuming these in your diet could be making your symptoms worse:
1. Stimulants: ex. #caffeine, #alcohol, cocaine. Hard to live completely without, but these contain substances which inhibit the GABA response so your body does not relax and is kept in an excited mode. Think about ways to reduce these stimulants a bit everyday.
2. Food allergies: Ask your physician about an elimination diet. This can help you determine foods you may be allergic to. Food allergies and sensitivities often lead to inflammation and a stress your body out. Common allergies include gluten, dairy and eggs. For a more thorough list, check out *the big 8 here.*
3. Sugar intake: Avoid the sweets, but don’t starve yourself either. High consumption of sugar can be inflammatory and excitatory. On the other hand, not eating carbs at all can cause a reflex which stimulates a stress response as well.
4. Processed foods & MSG: ex. chips, fast food, packaged food Nothing like some deep fried French fries or crunchy chips for anxiety! These are often high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fat which have been associated with higher levels of stress hormone and inflammation. MSG, and grains such as wheat, oat and barley, are also high in glutamate, an excitatory amino acid which counteracts GABA.
Now that we've gone through some major categories that could be exacerbating anxiety, what's even left to eat?!
Things to Try 1. Veggies: Dark Leafy Greens What every mom and nutritionist will likely nag you to eat more of. We know them and love them! Dark leafy greens such as spinach and chard are high in vitamins and minerals which help GABA processes in the nervous system. Magnesium is especially useful for anxiety because it increases the effects of GABA.
2. Omega 3s: Fish & Seeds A balance of essential fatty acids can reduce inflammation and improve brain health. These also help with memory and skin, so you can look and feel younger!
3. Fruits: Berries & Citrus High in antioxidants which counteract the excitatory system in your nervous system. Also great sources of minerals, not to mention delicious!
4. Meats: Organs & Bones Ever think of animals as just a piece of steak? Well, they have organs too! Be adventurous and try some tripe or make a bone broth soup. Pasture-raised and grass fed meats are great sources of glycine and taurine, amino acids which help GABA function better. Also good for more absorbable B6 and B12 vitamins, which are important for GABA functioning.
5. Air: Meditation & Exercise Calming exercises such as yoga and tai chi with deep breathing help your mind and body switch into a relaxed state. Put your worries behind you and focus on your body with some peaceful music. Tibetan bowls, anyone? Or how about Wholetones?
Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. Health related information contained in this post is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a Naturopathic Doctor. The advice is intended to offer only a general basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider. Always consult your licensed Naturopathic Physician, or visit the Boucher Naturopathic Medical Clinic for individual care.
References: Sarris, J., Moylan, S., Camfield, D.A., Pase, M.P., Mischoulon, D., Berk, M., Jacka, F.N., Schweitzer, I. (2012).Complementary Medicine, Exercise, Meditation, Diet, and Lifestyle Modification for Anxiety Disorders: A Review of Current Evidence. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012: 1-20. Murphy, M., & Mercer, J. G. (2013). Diet-regulated anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology. Nutritional Medicine: Alan Gaby MD – p. 1011-1015 Agarwal, U., Mishra, S., Xu, J., Levin, S., Gonzales, J., Barnard, N.D. (2015). A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of a Nutrition Intervention Program in a Multiethnic Adult Population in the Corporate Setting Reduces Depression and Anxiety and Improves Quality of Life: The GEICO Study. American Journal of Health Promotion. 29(4): 245-254.