Just because Thanksgiving is over, doesn’t mean we have to let go of the relaxing effects of Tryptophan many people had as a result of eating turkey. This is a perfect example of the importance of the Gut-Brain Axis: the two-way communication between gut and brain.
The bacteria in our gut make some of our feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA. 90% of serotonin are made in our gut microbes. By increasing gut health, we increase serotonin, and therefor decrease anxiety and depression.
Think about the last time you had “butterflies” in your stomach. That’s a great example of how our thoughts affect our bodies, but also how our gut and brains are connected. We can actually feel our thoughts from our brains, in our stomachs.
According to a NY Times article in 2017, Prozac Nation has now turned into the United States of Xanax. Depression has been replaced by anxiety as the number one mental health issue in this country, and anxiety is now the number one symptom complaint as well.
Many doctors are quite comfortable prescribing Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.). Benzos are problematic for many reasons. First, they don’t address the root cause of the anxiety. The root cause is almost always poor gut function (leaky gut) inhibiting our bodies from producing an adequate amount of serotonin. We also have environmental toxins causing damage to our neurotransmitters, that lead to anxiety and depression – so detoxing if often recommended to increase the body’s natural ability to lower anxiety levels. We also have vitamin and mineral deficiencies as a result of poor nutrition, and an inability to properly absorb the good nutrients we are consuming because of leaky gut. I can assure you, our bodies do not have a benzos deficiency.
Benzos may work for a time, but the body adapts, and higher doses are needed over time. That causes liver damage, and often increases feelings of anxiety and depression. According to a report in the 2010 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, people who use anti-anxiety medication have a 36% increased mortality risk.
GABA and Tryptophan are amino acids and can be used therapeutically as supplements to boost your own neurotransmitter levels. 5HTP is also affective in raising serotonin levels.
If you need the support, you’ll feel it right away after taking any one of these supplements. Low serotonin leads to mental worry, second guessing, fear, OCD, PMS, sleep issues, anger issues, afternoon and evening sugar cravings. Pain issues and depression are also increased with low serotonin. All of these supplements help with seasonal depression as well.
GABA is a precursor to neurotransmitter GABA. GABA plays an important role in behavior, cognition, and the body’s response to stress. Research suggests that GABA helps to control fear and anxiety when neurons become overexcited. Benzodiazepines bind to the same receptors as GABA. They mimic GABA’s natural calming effects. So why not just take GABA and skip the pharmaceuticals right?
Amino acids and neurotransmitters also play a role in gut health and digestion. This is one of the reasons vegetarians can have issues with optimal brain function. It’s also why eating small amounts of meat can immediately help calm feelings of anxiousness. So, as your gut gets better, your brain gets better, and as your brain gets better, your gut gets better. You simply cannot separate the two and expect to make any real progress.
Too much alcohol and sugar consumption can also lead to lower than desired serotonin levels and elevated pain levels. GABA is often useful in helping with physical pain and can also help with emotional eating. . GABA also helps relax throat spasms, burning mouth syndrome, and rectal spasms. GABA is also related to IBS and SIBO. It’s common to have bowels distended with pain associated with it. Research shows GABA helps with reducing the pain.
Tyrosine is particularly useful for low dopamine. Glutamine can be used as well and helps with healing the gut and panic attacks.If you have mold toxicity, or Lyme, supplementing will help reduce the anxiety so you can have more motivation to tackle the issues surrounding those ailments. It helps pull us out of the hole, and start healing.
Tryptophan vs. 5HTP: One may work better for some than the other. 5HTP can be counterproductive to people with high cortisol. It can make people with cortisol feel wired. It’s important to try for yourself and keep track of how you feel.
A 2019 study on the effects of serotonin and 5HTP on gastrointestinal motility in depression showed the epithelial growth (mucosal barrier protection). So 5HTP could be beneficial for someone with SIBO or IBS. Serotonin is also highly affective against fungus including candida. Candida in and of itself also leads to feelings of anxiety and depression. Candida also leads to sugar cravings, and stress eating. You can start to see a pattern, where all of this is interconnected, and forms a loop where there’s this vicious cycle of sugar consumption, increased yeast, diminished serotonin, leading to increased sugar cravings etc.
CBD may also help with serotonin transmission, but you still need the tryptophan as a precursor.
I know everyone is into collagen drinks and supplements these days, myself included, but be aware that collagen lowers serotonin in susceptible people, so you don’t want to have it every day if you think you’re at risk for low serotonin levels.
Some people think GABA only works if you have leaky brain because it was thought not to cross the blood brain barrier without permeability. The research in unclear on this, but it’s a good idea to test for leaky brain regardless.
GABA, theanine, and tryptophan all work for a restless mind at night that can make it difficult to sleep. GABA plays a role to many neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, ADHD, and more.
Children with ADHD have showed amazing results. \ GABA Calm (found on Amazon) is a great product for children and adults. Zinc is also crucial in neurotransmitter and serotonin production, and usually one of the top supplements I recommend for overall health.
So, you may also consider adding the neurotransmitter producing amino acid tryptophan to help increase serotonin production, or the neurotransmitter GABA to calm anxiety, or amino acids tyrosine, theanine and glutamine, but be aware of how you feel whenever trying a new supplement. Too much GABA can conversely cause anxiousness, so start with the smallest possible dose, and see how you feel. 5HTP can also be quite affective, but be cautious if you tend to have high cortisol levels, as some studies show 5HTP may increase cortisol levels. There are many useful supplements, and natural healing remedies, but every “body” is different, so it’s important to get to know yours. No one is in a better position than you are to know what’s working, and what’s not.