GABA as a painkiller

Last year I wrote about the abdominal pain that started in 2008 and was a mystery to a dozen doctors. I finally learned to stave off the worst of it by eating small meals, avoiding starches, and not eating after 6 p.m.

Eventually things improved and I was able to eat later and later in the evening and a little more at each meal, as long as no potatoes were involved. However, sometimes a girl needs to go out on the town like a normal person and have an all-American meal of hamburger, fries, and brandy sidecar. Which I did last week and which brought back the old discomfort.

That night I happened to take more GABA Calm* than usual — 4 tablets instead of 3, for a total of 500 mg GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter), 20 mg magnesium, 200 mg glycine, 100 mg N-acetyl L-tyrosine, and 80 mg taurine. In about 30 minutes I experienced a strange sensation that I finally identified as the absence of pain in my torso.

When I first started experimenting with GABA for insomnia relief I tried plain old GABA, as well as its amino acid precursor, L-theanine, and another version of that called Suntheanine. I know I noticed the pain-relieving effect with the plain GABA, but can’t remember if I did with the other supplements. I forgot about the matter since I couldn’t take large enough doses without eventually feeling spacey the next day. However, a few days in a row every once in a while seems to be okay.

A few commenters on another blog, referring to my earlier post about GABA, insisted that GABA supplements can’t work because GABA doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. A ScienceDaily article implied the same. The Wikipedia entry for gamma-aminobutyric acid also suggests that the calm-inducing effect claimed by supplement manufacturers cannot be scientifically proven. For me, my brain slows down quite nicely with the supplement mentioned above. I’ve tried the three other substances it contains — glycine, L-tyrosine, and taurine — alone in supplement form and noticed nothing. GABA alone will make me sleepy and groggy, but it takes a lot more — 1000 mg or so — and it suppresses my breathing too much for comfort.

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* …the manufacturers of which had better buy me a car for mentioning it three times now on this blog, or I and my 20 subscribers will boycott their sorry #$@es. I might even be driven to suggest that I once found a dismembered body part, or perhaps a smallish thermonuclear device, in one of the bottles.

4 thoughts on “GABA as a painkiller

  • jimbob

    I came across a study in pubmed with full text available that contained a diagram showing all the sites on the brain where there is no blood-brain barrier. There were a few of them, and the study mentioned that this can explain the efficacy of some agents which theoretically don’t pass through the blood-brain barrier.

    Sorry I don’t have the link, but I found it searching for blood brain barrier.

  • I found your blog through a tinnitus + GABA search.
    I’ve suffered tinnitus in one ear for years due to exposure to an exploding truck tire. Just recently it went off the charts and the other ear joined in. At the same time, I developed severe dysphagia. Could not swallow solids for weeks and lost 13 pounds. Wound up hospitalized and had all sorts of tests run (note: while in the hospital and on Ativan and/or Valium, tinnitus was reduced significantly).
    Here’s the weird thing: at a certain point, the tinnitus subsided and my swallow ability returned. So I slowly started back on solids again. After regaining a few pounds, I relapsed: tinnitus went wacko again, and swallowing difficulty returned. seems to be a connection between my weight or eating habits and the symptoms.
    A great deal of digging leads me to suspect the vagus nerve. I believe mine was impacted by a severe tooth infection years ago; I have experienced pain occasionally from jaw to chest in the vagus vicinity. Now, the vagus connects brain to gut. I find that interesting given what I’m dealing with. I also have irritable bowel and chronic fatigue. Lo and behold, recent research implicates vagus malfunction in irritable bowel, dysphagia, tinnitus, fibromalgia, CFS, etc.

    Maybe GABA doesn’t need to break the blood-brain barrier. Maybe it just needs to stimulate the vagus.
    I’ve tried all sorts of supplements recommended by various folks. A couple of days, even after gaining weight back, the tinnitus subsided dramatically. I’m trying to determine what supplement or combo may have been involved. I think theanine, melatonin or something else had a hand in it. I’m about to order some powdered GABA and give that a shot.
    Anyway, just thought I would share this with you, since you seem to have similar complaints.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks for this information, Randall. I googled “stimulating the vagus nerve” and learned all sorts of new things. Let me know what you figure out from your experiments.

      Although it’s for non-tinnitus reasons, at the moment I’m trying Mg again — also linked to tinnitus — after discovering that repletion takes a lot more dosage than experts used to think. I do recall that taking iron made the tinnitus worse but I can’t remember if other Mg inhibitors did the same. So far all I’ve concluded is that Mg is absorbed much better through the skin (chloride bath flakes and gel) than by ingestion.

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