Pyroluria and the GABA Connection

by Greg Newson

Pyroluria and the GABA Connection

Many people suffering with Pyroluria can also be struck down with the debilitating effects of anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, insomnia and even epilepsy, without really knowing the cause. To understand why Pyroluria can provoke these health conditions, we need to recognize the effects on the body of two important neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) GABA and Glutamate.

The difference between GABA and Glutamate

GABA plays a major role in calming and relaxing the body, in fact it is the body's major sedating and tranquilizing neurotransmitter. Whereas Glutamate is the excitatory neurotransmitter, responsible for increasing alertness, attention span and learning capabilities. As a generally rule Glutamate is more active during the day and GABA is more active at night when we sleep.

Problems occur when excess Glutamate over stimulates receptors in the brain called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). The over excitation of the NMDA receptors accelerates communication between neurons within the brain, resulting in a person feeling like things are moving at 100 miles an hour and they have lost control. Caffeine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), excess aspartic acid and too much alcohol also play a role in increasing glutamate.

GABA is essential to down regulate excess glutamate and reducing NMDA over excitation. GABA neutralizes anxiety and panic attacks, while calming an overactive mind and improving the quality and duration of sleep. GABA plays a crucial role in down regulating the hyper-excitability that occurs in the brain of epilepsy and seizure sufferers.

So what does all this have to do with Pyroluria?

The chemical pathway you can see in the picture below shows how the body converts the amino acid Glutamine into Glutamate and then on to GABA. You'll notice in the first step, for the body to extract Glutamine from the foods we eat there needs to be adequate levels of stomach acid. To effectively manufacture stomach acid the body needs zinc and vitamin B6, which are conversely low in Pyroluria sufferers. Also without vitamin B6 the enzyme Glutamate Decarboxylase is unable to convert Glutamate into GABA, resulting in over stimulation of brain neurons due to excessive amounts of glutamate.

GABA and Glutamate Pathways

How does a Pyroluria sufferer increase GABA levels?

There are a few options available for sufferers of Pyroluria to increase GABA Levels. The obvious one is to increase the intake of zinc and vitamin B6. A GABA supplement may offer short term respite, but it is not fixing any underlying imbalances. It is just by-passing the body’s own metabolic processes, which will lead to long term supplementation. My question with GABA supplements is how much GABA does an individual need? It will differ from person to person. Too much GABA can inhibit the release of serotonin, which is responsible for reducing depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, migraines, ADD and insomnia. Dopamine release is also reduced. Dopamine is required for moods, memory, motivation and movement.

The other option is let to the body modulate the actual amounts of GABA that it requires at any given time. To achieve this good levels of glutamine, taurine, vitamin B6 and zinc are essential. Other nutrients that either enhance GABA function and/or it's production include theanine, inositol, magnesium, glycine and potassium. Herbs such as chamomile, valerian, passionflower, St John's wort, kava kava, skullcap and hops bolster GABA function, production or utilization through various modes of action. B-Calm and GabRelax are two products we use in clinic and recommend to our GABA deficient and Pyroluria patients to naturally increase their GABA levels, while calming an over excited nervous system.




Greg Newson
Greg Newson

Author

Greg is a Naturopathic Doctor and Clinical Herbalist. He is passionate about educating people on all matters of health. Qualifications: B.Sc Health Science, Adv. Dip Naturopathy, Adv. Dip Herbal Medicine, Adv. Dip Nutrition, Dip Remedial Massage



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