If you remember my advice about tackling anxiety and beating stress naturally, you may also recall learning about GABA.
GABA is a neurotransmitter. When you’re feeling stressed, GABA helps puts the brakes on your overexcited brain circuitry.
And if your levels happen to drop too low, it can trigger anxiety, restlessness, mood problems and insomnia.
But today I want to talk about GABA for a slightly different reason. Exciting new research has revealed that the neurotransmitter could also help us fight type 2 diabetes.
Scientists say GABA acts like a shield, protecting your insulin-secreting beta cells. Plus, they believe it may encourage your body to make new cells.
In other words, GABA could help head off the insulin resistance that leads to diabetes.
Your body makes its own supply of GABA using the amino acid glutamate. But in an animal study, supplements of the neurotransmitter had a remarkable effect.
Researchers gave insulin resistant mice, in the early stages of type 2 diabetes, GABA. To everyone’s surprise—including no doubt the scientists—the GABA significantly suppressed the inflammation that helps trigger the disease.
And according to the study, it reduced the critter’s insulin resistance and improved their glucose tolerance. In other words, it practically stopped their diabetes in its tracks.
Fight insulin resistance and diabetes with GABA
More research is needed, of course. But appears that raising our own levels of GABA might help us fight diabetes too.
Following are four ways you can naturally increase your GABA levels.
1. Glutamate rich foods:
The easiest way to raise your GABA levels may be to supply your body with the raw materials it needs to make more. And that, of course, is the glutamate I mentioned earlier.
Try eating more glutamate rich foods including…
- nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
- brown rice
- citrus fruits
- whole grains
Your body can then use the glutamate in these foods to make more GABA.
2. Lemon balm:
The leaves of the lemon balm plant (Melissa officinalis) have a delicate lemon scent and a mild citrus taste. They make a delicious tea. And add a light citrusy flavor to dishes from salads to poultry.
Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, has been used for centuries to treat a variety of complaints. It’s said to help anxiety, insomnia and memory problems.
Users say it boosts their mood and relieves stress. And studies back them up.
According to experts, the herb’s unique benefits are likely due to its ability to increase GABA levels in the brain. Which it accomplishes by inhibiting an enzyme that usually coverts GABA into L-glutamate.
That same GABA boosting ability could help protect your insulin producing beta cells. And in turn lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
You’ll find lemon balm leaves, extracts and teas online or in stores that sell herbs and supplements. And if you have a green thumb, you can grow lemon balm in your own herb garden.
The name skullcap might make you think of those tight knit hats your grandkids love to wear. But it’s actually an herb. The medicinal plant earned its strange name because its flowers resemble a medieval helmet.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine skullcap is used to treat everything from blood flow issues to inflammation. But it’s said to truly shine when it comes to tackling insomnia, anxiety and stress.
Experts say two components of skullcap, bacalin and bacalein, promote GABA activity. And bacalin is a natural anti-inflammatory as well.
The herb’s ability to increase GABA activity combined with its natural anti-inflammatory effects could help shield beta cells against toxic white blood cells.
Look for skullcap leaves, teas, extracts and capsules wherever you normally buy your herbs and supplements.
4. Black cumin oil:
Folks have been using the seeds of the black cumin, or nigella sativa, plant for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used the seeds and their oils for everything from digestive complaints to skin and hair care.
Black cumin extracts, raw seeds and seed oils are used to treat eczema, asthma, headaches, infections, high blood pressure and—interestingly—diabetes. And some experts say it’s the world’s oldest anxiety remedy.
A component found in black cumin oil, thymoquinone, is a natural antioxidant. And experts say this potent extract has both anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.
Animal research has shown the oil can help increase GABA activity in the brain. Which means the extract may be able to help you hold onto the beta cells you have, and possibly help make new ones.
Black cumin oil supplements are available online and in health food stores.
No matter whether you’re simply at risk for type 2 diabetes, or already have some insulin resistance, bumping up your GABA levels could help.
Always follow the directions on any supplements you take. And don’t mix herbs with prescription medications until you get the thumbs up from your doctor or other qualified medical professional.