Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Month: July 2011

GABA: Increasing the Brain’s Own Calming Chemical

gaba, stress, l-theanine, suntheanine, anti-anxiety, naturally decrease stress

Reducing stress by naturally elevating GABA levels

Photo credit: Renjith krishnan

Anxiety has become nearly a near epidemic as thousands of people today struggle with feeling chronically anxious, irritable and unfocused on a daily basis. And for some, persistent untreated anxiety seriously interferes with their ability to function in social and workplace settings.  Low levels of GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, may be a contributing factor because GABA deficiencies can negatively affect an individual’s ability to manage even the most low level stressful situations.

GABA Deficiency Symptoms

A calming or “peacemaker” chemical in the brain, GABA induces relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety, and increases focus. One of the four key neurotransmitters, GABA also serves to keep all the other neurotransmitters in check. A deficiency can lead to:

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Hypertension
  • Palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Lower sex drive
  • Disorders of the heart
  • Depression

Naturally Increase GABA:

While many people diagnosed with anxiety disorders take prescription medications such as Valium, Xanax or Ativan, benzodiazepine drugs that stimulate GABA receptors, these drugs often produce unwanted side effects and over time, can become less effective until the dose is increased.

Alternatively, individuals can gradually manage their mood disorder with a program that includes daily exercise, regularly eating foods that naturally elevate the production of key neurotransmitters and targeted supplementation.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates increases GABA in the brain because they increases glutamine, an amino acid that is a precursor (needed in the formation of) to GABA. Introducing GABA-friendly foods into meals and avoiding excess simple sugars, white flours and wheat products (besides whole grains) can help elevate and maintain GABA levels.

Foods That Increase GABA:

According to Dr. Braverman, author of “The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage,” the following foods are high in glutamic acid/glutamate (forms glutamine, precursor to GABA):

  • Almonds, tree nuts
  • Bananas
  • Beef Liver
  • Broccoli
  • Brown Rice
  • Halibut
  • Lentils
  • Oats, whole grain
  • Oranges, citrus fruits
  • Rice bran
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Whole wheat, whole grains.

Supplement with L-theanine to Reduce Anxiety:

L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea, raises GABA levels and has few if any side effects. L-theanine creates a calm feeling in people without the drowsiness many anti-anxiety medications have, and in almost a paradoxical affect, L-theanine also improves mental clarity and focus.

Suntheanine®, the tested and patented form of L-theanine, is produced by several vitamin companies and is available in most health food stores. Individuals should vary the dose and frequency according to their symptoms although most people find between 100 to 200mg one to four times a day is effective.

How GABA Works to Lower Anxiety

GABA controls the brain’s rhythmic theta waves, the normal brainwave in the encephalogram of a person who is awake but relaxed and drowsy. Theta waves help the brain maintain physical and mental balance. Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Mind Boosters explains, “GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.”

This key brain chemical is critically important to maintaining an overall sense of mental well-being. “GABA is also involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that create a feeling of well-being known as ‘runners high.’,” writes Dr. Braverman. “Endorphins are produced in the brain during physical movement, such as stretching or even sexual intercourse.” As endorphins are released people begin to feel a sense of calm, often referred to as the Endorphin Effect.

Although experiencing occasional anxiety is common, chronic anxiety can be debilitating and can dramatically decrease an individual’s quality of life, as well as negatively impact their immune system.

Individuals suffering from chronic anxiety should ask their doctor to test their neurotransmitter and hormone levels because each has a complex relationship with the other that can affect numerous functions in the body, including mood regulation.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.


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Fibromyalgia and vitamin D (actually a hormone) deficiency. Are they linked?

fibromyalgia, vitamin d, vitamin d for chronic pain
In 2008 the online site Pain Treatment Topics released a review of research on the potential benefits of vitamin D for patients with pain conditions, notably musculoskeletal and back issues. Although results varied, researchers agree insufficient vitamin D is an underlying factor in fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

Chronic pain and vitamin D deficiency linked long ago

Multiple studies link vitamin Ddeficiency to chronic aches and pains, muscle fatigue or weakness, and other disorders including immunity and some cancers (Holick 2003b; ODS 2008; Plotnikoff and Quigley 2003; Reginster 2005; Tavera-Mendoza and White 2007; Vieth 1999).A study presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists 2007 Annual Meeting reported that about one in four patients with chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D. Patients with insufficient vitamin D also needed higher doses of morphine for longer periods of time.

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According to study author W. Michael Hooten, MD, medical director and anesthesiologist at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, Minn., researchers have long known that inadequate levels of vitamin D can cause pain and muscle weakness.“The implications are that in chronic pain patients, vitamin D inadequacy is not the principal cause of pain and muscle weakness,” said Hooten for a press release, “However, it could be a contributing but unrecognized factor.”

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The jury is still out on the exact connection between vitamin D and chronic pain but scientists believe it may begin with lower levels of circulating calcium (hypocalcemia) due to inadequate vitamin D. A cascade of biochemical reactions then occurs that hinders bone metabolism and health. Low levels of calcium elevates parathyroid hormones which impairs proper bone mineralization causing a spongy matrix to form under periosteal membranes covering the skeleton.

This gelatin-like matrix can absorb fluid, expand, and cause outward pressure on periosteal tissues, which generates pain since these tissues are highly innervated with sensory pain fibers (Holick 2003b; Shinchuk and Holick 2007; Yew and DeMieri 2002).

Fibromyalgia and Vitamin D Deficiency

The association between low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and non-specific musculoskeletal pain, including fibromyalgia syndrome remains controversial.

In one study, Israeli researchers found no association between women with fibromyalgia and low levels of vitamin D(Tandeter et al. 2009). Yet researches in an earlier study in the Middle East found a significantly greater prevalence of low D concentration in women with fibromyalgia compared to women without fibromyalgia (43% vs 19%).

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Yet researchers in the Middle East found that 90% of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and/or non-specific musculoskeletal pain treated with vitamin D improved.(Badsha et al. 2009).

One reason for the conflicting evidence is researchers have yet to adequately measure patients’ response to different formulations, doses, and durations of vitamin D. In addition, scientists believe vitamin D receptors have different genetic make up and activity so individuals may respond differently to vitamin D therapy. (Kawaguchi et al. 2002; Videman et al. 2001).

Vitamin D Dosing

Dr. Cannell, Executive Director of The Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with Cholecalciferol vitamin D3). D3 is the naturally occurring form of vitamin D and is made in large quantities in skin when sunlight strikes it. Dr. Cannell explains that Calcidiol is the only blood test that should be drawn. Doctors can order calcidiol levels although labs will know calcidiol as 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Take enough vitamin D3 to get 25(OH)D levels above substrate starvation levels, 50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L. Current recommendations for adults and children are inadequate to maintain optimal health and certainly to treat chronic pain conditions and illness.

Dr. Cannell suggests people supplement with vitamin D before getting their blood tested, then adjust their dose so their 25(OH)D level is between 50–80 ng/ml during both the summer and the winter. These are conservative dosages explains Dr. Cannell. People who avoid the sun, and nearly all dark-skinned people need to increase their dose if their blood levels are still low, even after two months of the above dosage, particularly during the winter months.

Exact levels are difficult to determine because requirements vary by age, body weight, percent of body fat, latitude, skin coloration, season of the year, use of sun block, individual variation in sun exposure, and how sick someone is.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

“If you use suntan parlors once a week,” says Dr. Cannell, “or if you live in Florida and sunbathe once a week, year-round, do nothing.” However, if you receive very little UVB exposure the Council recommends the following dosing levels of D3 (maintenance level):

  • healthy children under the age of two – 1,000 IU per day*
  • healthy children over the age of two – 2,000 IU per day*
  • adults and adolescents – 5,000 IU per day.

*The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 mg per day for children.

While the exact relationship between vitamin D and chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia isn’t fully understood, most researchers agree that vitamin D deficiency contributes to muscuskeletal pain. Patients and practitioners should consider including vitamin D supplementation in their therapy for patients suffering with chronic pain syndromes.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

Another note: Magnesium, malic acid also assist in pain relief for FMS……I use several products but Magnesium Calm is one of my favorites because it works very well, tastes good  Click here for magnesium

Dr. Dean who wrote the Magnesium Miracle (Very easy to understand read on why magnesum is critical to our health yet deficient in our soil and therefore our food and often, body)  turned me on to the importance of this essential mineral. I take it every night or more often if I need to. It’s a co-factor for an impressive list of functions in our body. 

Sources:

“Vitamin D Inadequacy May Exacerbate Pain,” American Academy of Anesthesiologists, Press Release, October 15, 2007.

Tandeter H, Grynbaum M, Zuili I, Shany S, Shvartzman P., “Serum 25-OH vitamin D levels in patients with fibromyalgia.” Israeli Medical Association Journal, 2009.

Badsha H, Daher M, Ooi Kong K. Myalgias or non-specific muscle pain in Arab or Indo-Pakistani patients may indicate vitamin D deficiency. Clinical Rheumatology. 2009.

Leavitt, Steward, B. MA, PhD., “Vitamin D: A Neglected ‘Analgesic’ for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: An Evidence Based Review and Clinical Practice Guideline,” June 2008, http://Pain-Topics.org/VitaminD.

“Vitamin D for Pain: Update of Research Evidence,” Pain Treatment Topics, Accessed: January 10, 2010.

Arvold DS, et al., Correlation of symptoms with vitamin D deficiency and symptom response to cholecalciferol treatment: a randomized controlled trial,” Endocrine Practice, 2009 May-Jun.

Armstrong DJ, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB., “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia,” Clinical Rheumatology. 2006 Jul 19.

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Sleep cycle in teenagers disrupted by timing of exposure to light. Circadian rhythms affected.

Is your teenager staring at some form of a screen late into the evening? If so, she might be disrupting her sleep patterns. While most teens stay up late, a study found that the amount and timing of morning light can alter a child’s natural nighttime sleep cycle.

Lack of exposure to morning light combined with getting A.M. rays at the wrong time of day can lead to nighttime sleep issues in teens, a group already running low on zzz’s. Adequate exposure to blue light waves (morning light) may however, reset natural sleep cycles.

Teen Circadian Rhythm Disrupted By Light Issues

Teenagers today have become near cave dwellers, spending less time in the sunlight than ever before. And for many, this means having a hard time falling asleep at night.

Insufficient morning light and exposure too soon, researchers found, confuses the body’s internal alarm clock. In response, the brain can’t stimulate its 24-hour biological system, a natural rhythm designed to modulate the sleep/wake cycle. And in teens, a group already inclined to stay up too late, when their internal body clock gets out of sync, even when they are ready to call it a night, sleep may not come so easily.

“These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardized tests. We are starting to call this the teenage night owl syndrome,” says Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Program Director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) and lead researcher on the new study.

In the study researchers found that 8th grade students who wore special glasses to prevent short-wavelength (blue) morning light from reaching their eyes experienced a 30-minute delay in sleep onset by the end of the five-day study.

“If you remove blue light in the morning, it delays the onset of melatonin, the hormone that indicates to the body when it’s nighttime,” explains Dr. Figueiro. “Our study shows melatonin onset was delayed by about six minutes each day the teens were restricted from blue light. Sleep onset typically occurs about two hours after melatonin onset,” says Figueiro.

The colors of the light spectrum affect the body’s rhythm in various ways, particularly regarding sleep patterns. Daylight is mainly comprised of short, visible wavelengths of light that provides a blue visual sensation, such as the blue sky. How bright the light is, how far away, the duration of exposure, and when someone is exposed to specific light waves, impacts sleep patterns.

People are more likely to sleep deeply in the late hours of night when their body temperature drops, and to awaken when their body temperature begins to rise, usually between 6 AM and 8 AM. As people age, their brain’s “pacemaker” loses cells, changing circadian rhythms, especially sleep patterns. As a result, the elderly nap more frequently, have disrupted sleep and awaken earlier.

Sleep, Melatonin and Biological Cycles

Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland, is created from the amino acid tryptophan. The creation and release of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. Melatonin, researchers believe, is involved in circadian rhythm and the regulation of a wide variety of body functions including sleep.

Circadian rhythms are biological cycles in the body that repeat approximately every 24 hours, and include the sleep/wake cycle, body temperature, hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure and pain threshold.

The brain’s internal pacemaker determines when nerve cells should fire to set the body’s rhythms. While adults generally produce melatonin around 10pm, teenagers, according to a study cited in an online British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) article, were found to begin producing melatonin around 1am. Whether this is in response to puberty or caused by teens’ nighttime behavior is hard to say.

The delay in melatonin production could be the result of teenagers playing computer games and watching television till the wee hours. Both screen activities stimulate the brain, exposing it to bright light that holds off the release of melatonin. The hormonal flux of puberty, however, may be the culprit, postponing the body’s nightly release of melatonin. Either way, sleep releases a critical hormone involved in growth spurts. Teens need more sleep than both children and adults, yet often they get less.

Regulating Sleep Patterns in Teens

Researchers involved in the light study developed a way to reset the internal “master clock” in teens and the elderly. The process involves blocking blue light at certain times by wearing orange glasses, followed by exposure to blue light and darkness at nighttime.

The key to resetting the body clock is mimicking a distinct repetitive pattern of light and dark. Figueiro explains that when a teenager gets up and waits outside for their bus in the morning light before their body is ready for the blue light cycle, their internal body clock becomes confused. Their alarm clock might say 7am, but their body clock senses it’s earlier. In the study, the teens wore the special blue light blocking glasses when they woke up.

Later in the morning after their minimum core body temperature was reached, the subjects were able to naturally reset their internal clocks by being out in the morning light (e.g. at the bus stop).

Teen Light Study and Implications for School Design

Over the years, Dr. Figueiro has repeatedly heard from parents concerned their teens were sleep deprived. As a result of the findings from the study, she suggests addressing two key questions: How to promote exposure to morning light with teens and how to design schools differently.

Giving students a quick mid-morning break to go outside and putting blue LEDs around computer screens in classrooms are two ways, Dr. Figueiro offers, to address the issue in schools. Exposing teens with delayed nighttime sleep issues to adequate amounts of morning light at the appropriate time during the day may reset their internal body clock and naturally modulate their sleep cycle.

References:

Chang AM, Reid KJ, Gourineni R, Zee PC, ”Sleep timing and circadian phase in delayed sleep phase syndrome,” J Biol Rhythms. 2009 Aug;24(4):313-21.

MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); Melatonin; [updated 2009 Aug 25], Accessed May 6, 2010. “Late Nights and Laziness,” British Broadcasting Corporation Online, Accessed May 6, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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A Natural Journey Out of Cancer and Into Healing

Guest blogger: Heather Von St. James
Patient & Family Advocate
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Mesothelioma.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/mesotheliomacancer

Your body, your health, your decision.

You feel powerless. The doctor has just finished explaining different treatments for your cancer and you do not know what to do. You know nothing about cancer and you know nothing about cancer treatments. You consider just taking whatever suggestion the doctor gives you but something is holding you back.

This is your decision.

This is your life, your health, and your body. Before you commit to undergoing a chemical treatment process, consider natural healing. Take the opportunity to research your cancer, whether you have been diagnosed with something common, like skin cancer, or something rare, like mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, your research may show that you that your life won’t change much. However, being diagnosed with something more serious, you may discover that the mesothelioma prognosis is very poor, particularly given the 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is less than 10%.

Statistics can be frightening. Do not get discouraged. Remember, this is your decision. You do have a choice. You are in control of your own well-being. You may have not controlled the diagnosis of cancer, but you can control your response. Very simply, cancer means that there is something affecting your body that is not supposed to be there. Occasionally, our body can fight off these bad cancer agents. However, in order for this to happen, or more likely to happen, you must be in good health.

Before you put yourself through the physical and psychological pain of chemical treatments, you may want to consider what natural healing can offer you. Natural healing does not have to be complicated; it is simply a return to the basics how we are meant to live. Healing News shares a story of a woman who healed the worst form of skin cancer by switching to a pure raw vegan diet. This may sound extreme, but remember, so are chemical treatments. If you want a change, you must declare this change.

Perhaps take this time to evaluate your physical and mental health. Do whatever you can to live in a positive manner. Explore the possibility of natural healing before you give up your own control.

This is your decision. Give yourself the chance you deserve.

For more information:  Please go to Mesothelioma.net

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