Kava Kava and GABA
How do Kava's active ingredients affect the key neurotransmitter GABA?
Kava Kava is a symbol of natural relaxation and inner peace. But what exactly is its relaxing impact? Of the many factors, one seems to be key: the effect of Kava’s active ingredients on GABA receptors. This interaction is what allows Methistine Pepper to reduce the stimulation of the nervous system, reducing stress levels and relieving us of everyday tensions.
What is GABA?
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is one of the most important neurotransmitters; it is responsible for regulating the activity of neurons in the brain.
The amino acid GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, i.e. it restricts the flow of nerve impulses between cells. Its role in the body is crucial for maintaining emotional and physiological balance. GABA can ‘quiet’ the nervous system, reducing its over-stimulation.
Its action is de facto opposite to that of excitatory neurotransmitters, which include, for example, adrenaline and noradrenaline. There are also modulatory neurotransmitters, which have an excitatory or inhibitory effect depending on the situation.
Low GABA levels: why is it dangerous?
A deficiency of GABA can result in excessive neuronal activity, resulting in symptoms such as:
- anxiety – overactivity of the nervous system can lead to feelings of apprehension and anxiety
- depression – GABA deficiency can impede emotion regulation; endogenous depression has also been linked to a permanent disruption of CRH production – see below
- insomnia – GABA plays an important role in the regulation of the diurnal rhythm; a lack of this neurotransmitter can make it difficult to fall asleep and lead to insomnia, but also to snoring, for example. If the problem with falling asleep is linked, for example, to a flurry of persistent thoughts in the evening – GABA levels should be particularly taken care of.
- hyperactivity – neural overactivity can lead to difficulty concentrating and hyperactivity
- headaches and muscle aches – lack of GABA can cause muscle tension, especially in the neck
digestive problems – GABA also has a relaxing effect on the digestive system, a lack of GABA can lead to digestive problem
NOTE: It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by factors other than GABA deficiency, so it is important to consult your doctor before starting any treatment. Especially as GABA plays an important role in controlling blood pressure, heart rate and muscle function. Its deficiency can lead to problems with these systems.
GABA and stress: HPA axis, CRH, ACRH, cortisol
Stress (a threatening situation) triggers a specific response in the body, for which the HPA axis is mainly responsible: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal endocrine system.
The scheme of action of the HPA axis is, in a nutshell, as follows:
- threat information
- stimulation of the neurohormone CRH (hypothalamus)
- CRH stimulates the production of the hormone ACTH (pituitary)
- ACTH via the blood stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce, among other things, cortisol, which is commonly referred to as the stress hormone: fight or flight.
The activity of the HPA axis works by the principle of feedback and is closely linked to the action of neurotransmitters: they help to use the products of the stress response to suppress it. It is assumed that the HPA axis is highly dependent precisely on GABA receptors, which can block CRH, the hormone that initiates the axis response.
In other words, GABA acts at the ‘source’ of the stress response, reducing its effects and quieting the nervous system.
How does Kava affect GABA?
Kava is known for its effect on increased GABA-A receptor binding (most likely an increase in the number of binding sites). But what does GABA binding involve?
The amino acid GABA is found close to synapses in the form of vesicles and is released when neuronal activity (impulses) increases. The released GABA finds its way to the synapses, to its proper GABA receptors. This is when binding occurs: the opening of ion channels and ion migration. As a result, the stimulation of nerve cells is limited. Impulses and neuronal activity are reduced.
The nervous system calms down and we can remain calm even in the face of stressors.
Kava (Kava active ingredients – kavalactones) not only acts as a ‘brake’ in case of sudden stress, but also helps to calm the nervous system when it is overstimulated, i.e. over-stimulated by various forms of impulses.
“But what’s interesting about Kava is that Kava functions by increasing GABA – this inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain […] So it seems to increase GABA, but is also increases dopamine. And that’s a somewhat unusual compound. I’m not aware of many compounds that simultaneously increase GABA and increase dopamine.”
dr Andrew Huberman – neuroscientist, Stanford University School of Medicine: source
How to take care of GABA?
Stress can be dangerous when it is too intense or prolonged. The long-term effects of stress – although more difficult to perceive – are no less devastating. The body must be given time and conditions to stabilise its functioning and rebuild its reserves. This is all the more difficult because we often live with a disrupted diurnal rhythm and do not even have time for a quiet meal, reducing stimuli, breathing in nature or proper regeneration. And sometimes it takes very little to rebuild optimal GABA levels: this natural fuse against overheating of the nervous system!
To rebuild your GABA levels you can help:
- Physical activity – regular sport has a positive effect on GABA levels
- Meditation, relaxation, relaxation – these help to reduce stress, which has a positive effect on GABA levels (feedback)
- Diet – certain foods, such as green tea, nuts or fish, can increase GABA levels in the body
- Supplementation – in extreme cases of GABA deficiency, it is possible to take dietary supplements containing GABA
Test for the state of your nerves
If you want to find out which of your neurotransmitters – GABA, dopamine, serotonin or acetylcholine – is dominant and which levels you should be particularly concerned about, check out the Breaverman test. The test is available online. It will only take you about 20 minutes and can help you a lot!
The original test can be found here.