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How to Increase GABA and Balance Glutamate

Glutamate GABA Balance

You can’t really talk about how to increase GABA without talking about glutamate because they have a complex and interconnected relationship. Both are very important neurotransmitters that have a profound impact on many different aspects of our physical, mental, and spiritual health with the former being inhibitory and the latter being excitatory. Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate brain cells, while inhibitory ones reduce stimulation. Like all neurotransmitters, too much or too little of either one leads to problems.

When all is working as it should, they keep each other in balance. However, there are many factors that can easily disrupt this delicate balance and result in too much glutamate and not enough GABA, which can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.

What is Glutamate?

Organic Acids Test

Glutamate is one of your primary excitatory neurotransmitters. It has many important roles like stimulating your brain cells so you can talk, think, process information, learn new information, pay attention, and store information in short and long term memory. As a matter of fact, studies suggest that the more glutamate receptors you have the more intelligent you are. High levels of glutamate receptors are correlated with superior abilities in learning and memory. Unfortunately, they also correlated with an increased risk of stroke and seizures.

Although glutamate is one of the most abundant neurotransmitters found in the brain, it exists in very small concentrations. If the concentration level rises, then neurons become too excited and don’t fire in a normal manner. Glutamate becomes an excitotoxin when it is in excess; meaning it overstimulates brain cells and nerves and results in neurological inflammation and cell death.

An excess of glutamate is a primary contributing factor to a wide variety of neurological disorders like autism, ALS, Parkinson’s schizophrenia, migraines, restless leg syndrome, Tourette’s, pandas, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s chorea, and seizures. As well as atrial fibrillation, insomnia, bedwetting, hyperactivity, OCD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and STIMS (repetitive self-stimulatory behaviors like rocking, pacing, body spinning, hand-flapping, lining up or spinning toys, echolalia, repeating rote phrases or other repetitive body movements or movement of objects that are commonly seen in autistic children), stiff person syndrome, and an increased risk of stroke.

Too much glutamate can also increase eosinophils (a particular type of white blood cell) which result in inflammation, impair blood vessels that lead to migraines and blood pressure irregularities, and impair other areas of the brain like the hypothalamus, hippocampal neurons, and Purkinje neurons which affect speech and language.

Mercury in the body becomes more toxic in the presence of high levels of glutamate.

Excess glutamate also makes cancer cells proliferate and increases tumor growth and survival.

Elevated levels of glutamate trigger the brain to release its natural opioids (endorphins/enkephalins) in order to protect the brain from damage, which can result in feelings of spaciness and eventually contribute to depletion of your natural opioids, and it also depletes glutathione levels, which is vital for detoxification, controlling inflammation and gut health. Additionally, glutathione also assists in protecting neurons from damage, so when it is depleted it is not available to do this job and thus contributes to more cell death.

High levels of glutamate may increase the survival of unfriendly microbes in the gut and contribute to problems like excess acid and heartburn.

Too much glutamate can lead to too much acetylcholine, and too much acetylcholine has a stimulating effect as well and puts one into a perpetual state of sympathetic stress with high levels of anxiety, fear, insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, etc.

What is GABA?

GABA, which is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is your primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. Its primary role is to calm the brain, slow things down, and relax you. One of the ways that it assists in this process is by increasing alpha wave production. It is also vital in speech and language. GABA puts the pause or space between words when you speak. The brain uses it to support sensory integration. Without adequate GABA production, our conversations would consist of lots of run-on sentences, slurred speech or loss of speech, and we would have trouble with comprehending language.

Your gastrointestinal tract is packed with GABA receptors and it is critical for contraction of the bowel. Insufficient levels can result in abdominal pain, constipation, and impaired transit. It also supports healthy levels of IgA, (antibodies that protect your gut and other mucous linings from harmful invaders) which means it contributes to immune health.

Insufficient levels of GABA result in nervousness, anxiety and panic disorders, aggressive behavior, decreased eye contact and anti-social behavior, attention deficit, problems with eye-focusing (like that seen in autistic children when both eyes are focused inward towards the nose or waver back and forth in a horizontal or vertical movement), chronic pain syndrome,s and much more. It may also contribute to GERD as it is needed to help regulate the lower part of the esophagus.

Low levels of GABA play a vital role in alcoholism, drug addiction, and cravings for sugar and carbs, as these substances will temporarily and artificially increase GABA, so one is unconsciously drawn to them. However, these substances also deplete neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, so they will perpetuate the problem.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid is found in almost every area of the brain, but the hypothalamus contains a very high level of GABA receptors, so it is vital for its many functions like regulating sleep, body temperature, appetite, thirst, sexual arousal and desire, and action of the pituitary, HPA axis, and the autonomic nervous system. The primary role of the hypothalamus is to maintain homeostasis throughout the body, and without enough GABA production, this will not happen. GABA also binds to sub-receptors and activates secondary messengers that affect dopamine.

Like all neurotransmitters, GABA and glutamate play a vital role in regulating the autonomic nervous system (stress response system), maintaining the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Too many excitatory neurotransmitters and we are in sympathetic nervous system mode and not enough inhibitory and we are unable to return to the parasympathetic mode. Thus, depletion of GABA can be a major contributing factor to sympathetic nervous system dominance and the many associated conditions like adrenal fatigue, insomnia, chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, etc. Maintaining sufficient levels is crucial in the recovery of these conditions.

GABA and Glutamate Balance

When GABA is low, glutamate is high and vice versa. So in order to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid, it’s not simply a matter of bringing it up, you must also focus on reducing the excess glutamate. The goal is to achieve balance. between the two. You might think of glutamate as the accelerator and GABA as the brakes. Both are equally important.

Glutamate (also referred to as glutamic acid) is actually the precursor to gamma-aminobutyric acid, and any excess is supposed to be converted automatically into GABA. This is the way it maintains balance; anytime glutamate levels start to build up too high, then it is converted to GABA to calm things down. However, sometimes the body cannot regulate glutamate properly for a variety of reasons which we will discuss, then glutamate can build up to excessively high levels.

An enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) is needed for glutamate to make the conversion to GABA, but there are several factors that may interfere with this enzyme and impede the conversion process, which means a build up of glutamate and a decrease in the formation of GABA. Response time may be delayed or the capacity to convert may be impaired. It is believed that problems with the GAD enzyme may be the primary underlying issue that results in too much glutamate.

For example, the rubella virus, which is found in the MMR vaccination can decrease the activity of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD)by as much as fifty percent. Thus, one of the reasons children begin to exhibit some of the symptoms of autism immediately after vaccination because as we mentioned earlier GABA is critical in speech and brain function.

Other chronic viral infections interfere with the GAD enzyme and some microbes like streptococcus flourish in a glutamate-rich environment, thus many children with pandas and autism carry an ongoing infection with strep.

Methylation also plays a role in the GABA and glutamate balance in a variety of ways. For one, if there is impairment in the methylation pathway, then folate doesn’t get utilized and it can break down into glutamate. Additionally, if you are not methylating properly you may not be able to suppress microbes like viruses or make enough T cells to fight them off, which means they will linger around to interfere with the GAD enzyme.

Methylation may be impaired due to nutritional deficiencies, toxins, genetic mutations, Candida overgrowth, or SIBO. Methylation is also heavily influenced by the Krebs cycle and vice versa, so a problem in this cycle can also impede methylation, and consequently GABA production. The Krebs cycle can also be impaired by Candida overgrowth, as well as bacterial overgrowth.

Additionally, the syntheses of GABA itself is also dependent on the Krebs cycle, so it is vital in more ways than one that this system be working properly to have sufficient levels. The Krebs cycle can become impaired in a variety of ways like a deficiency in B vitamins or the presence of heavy metals, and toxins from bacteria or Candida.

The GAD enzyme is generated by the pancreas, so problems with the pancreas may impair production of the enzyme.

People with type 1 diabetes produce antibodies against the GAD enzyme, which may impair its response time or ability to convert.

Lead interferes with GAD activity. Lead also inhibits another enzyme involved in the heme synthesis pathway which results in an accumulation of an intermediate that competes with GABA.

Some substances like allylglycine (a derivative of glycine) are potent inhibitors of GAD.

B6 is also needed as a cofactor with GAD to convert glutamate into GABA, so if B6 levels are not sufficient, the conversion won’t happen either. Much of the population is deficient in B6. However, supplementing with B6 will also increase CBS gene production, so if there is an issue here, one should proceed with caution.

There are two isoforms of GAD (GAD67 and GAD 65) and they are encoded by two different genes known as (GAD1 and GAD2). Genetic defects in GAD1 or a decrease in activity of GAD1 due to other reasons lead to a decrease in glutamate and a decrease in GABA. GAD1 SNP variation rs3828275 is associated with panic disorders, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic seizures, and depression, while a genetic variation in SNP rs12185692 is associated with neuroticism, anxiety disorders, and major depression.

Additionally, glutamate receptors also pull in other excitatory substances into the cell beside glutamate, including all of the following:

  • Aspartate (can also be converted into glutamate)
  • Aspartame
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glutamine
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Cysteine (But not n-acetylcysteine. However, does contain sulfur and too much sulfur can be counterproductive as well, so should be used mindfully.)
  • Homocysteine

Therefore, each of these can bind with glutamate receptors, which also results in excessive stimulation and contributes to the imbalance in GABA and glutamate and the wide array of symptoms that are generated. The more glutamate receptors you have the more excitatory substances that will be pulled in.

Citrate or citric acid has the potential to be neurotoxic in the very sensitive because most citrate is derived from corn, which can result in trace amounts of glutamate or aspartate during processing. The majority of vitamin C supplements are derived from corn and should be avoided for the same reason, look for a brand derived from another source. Additionally, pretty much all corn is genetically modified, which means it is loaded with glyphosate, which would also elevate glutamate, so another reason to avoid corn-based supplements.

To complicate things further, glutamate has the ability to bind with six other receptors in the brain, like the NMDA receptor, which assists in delivering calcium to the cell and plays a vital role in memory function and synaptic plasticity. Calcium is used by glutamate as the agent that actually inflicts the harm on the cell. So, if there is an excess of calcium in the body for any reason, it too will contribute to the GABA and glutamate imbalance.

Glutamate and calcium together cause ongoing firing of the neurons, which triggers the release of inflammatory mediators, which leads to more influx of calcium. It becomes a vicious cycle that results in neural inflammation and cell death. Glutamate has been described as the gun, while calcium should be seen as the bullet, says Dr. Mark Neveu, a former president of the National Foundation of Alternative Medicine. It’s important to note that activation of the NMDA receptor also involves glycine, D-serine or D-alanine, which means either one of these could allow for more influx of calcium as well.

Magnesium can help regulate calcium levels and so can zinc. However, higher doses of zinc (more than 40mg per day) can also activate the release of glutamate through non-NMDA glutamate receptors, so one must exercise caution with zinc. However, if calcium is excessively high, other herbs or nutrients may be used to bring it down, like lithium orotate, Boswellia or wormwood. Lithium, as well as iodine and boron, can also assist in lowering glutamate. Calcium intake in food may need to be reduced or limited if calcium is too high. Magnesium is also able to bind to and activate GABA receptors.

If one exhibits low levels of calcium, Dr. Amy Yasko recommends using nettle or chamomile to increase calcium levels, rather than supplementation of calcium itself, if we are dealing with someone who has an imbalance in GABA and glutamate. Vitamin K2 and D would be important as well in combination with the calcium to help with absorption. If supplemental calcium is used it should be accompanied by magnesium, which will help control the excitotoxic activity.

Glycine can be inhibitory or excitatory, and in people who tend to lean towards excess glutamate it typically becomes excitatory, so it may need to be avoided.

Glutathione contains glutamate, so supplementing too heavily may contribute to excess glutamate.

Vitamin D increases calcium levels, and as we established, elevated calcium levels can increase glutamate, so caution may be necessary with vitamin D supplementation.

The amino acid taurine increases the GAD enzyme and consequently GABA levels. Additionally, taurine doubles as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and can bind directly to GABA receptors, so it can help provide balance naturally in that manner as well. Higher levels of any inhibitory neurotransmitter help lower high levels of any excitatory neurotransmitter. Taurine is found in high levels in the brain and cardiac tissue, indicating its importance in these areas. Taurine is found most abundantly in seafood and animal protein, so it is often deficient in one’s diet.

If taurine is deficient, then the GAD enzyme may be low as well, therefore, supplementing with taurine can be used to manage the GABA and glutamate balance and protect from neuron death. However, there are a couple of genetic polymorphisms (particularly CBS and SUOX gene mutations) that can result in negative effects from taurine supplementation, because these mutations result in excess levels of sulfur in the body and taurine is sulfur based. If one has these gene mutations, they may also need to avoid other supplements that are high in sulfur and limit sulfur based foods. These mutations can also impair ammonia detoxification as well. B6 and SAMe increases the activity of these gene mutations, so supplementation with these substances may compound the problem too. Because of the GABA shunt, which can convert GABA back into glutamine, which is then converted into glutamate, taurine supplementation may increase glutamate in some people.

Additionally, Candida produces a toxin called beta-alanine that competes with taurine for reabsorption in the kidney, and causes taurine to be wasted in the kidneys and excreted through the urine and beta alanine is absorbed instead. Therefore, taurine levels may be insufficient, which can contribute to less GABA activity. Not only that, taurine can combine with magnesium to form magnesium taurate and the two of them may be eliminated together, which can lead to magnesium deficiency. Insufficient levels of magnesium are going to result in excessive levels of calcium, which as we established earlier, will increase glutamate firing.

Serotonin, another vital inhibitory neurotransmitter is also needed in order for GABA to work properly. If one is deficient in serotonin, then even if you have sufficient levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, it may not be able to perform its inhibiting effects adequately.

A diet that does not contain enough of the nutrients needed to make inhibitory neurotransmitters like animal protein and fat plays a vital role in an imbalance between glutamate and GABA. Furthermore, proper transmission of any neurotransmitters can’t happen without adequate levels of fat and most people are not consuming enough fat in their diet. Additionally, many foods and substances like sugar, whole grains, legumes, any high starch food, caffeine, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, food additives and dyes can deplete GABA levels or disrupt transmission, so they should be removed from the diet. Grains (including whole grains) can bring about an excitotoxic effect by causing excessive glutamate formation in some people.

A ketogenic diet has been found to favor GABA production and be exceptionally beneficial in the treatment of many conditions associated with excess glutamate like seizures and epilepsy. A ketogenic diet increases the GAD enzyme and neurons can use ketones produced from ketosis as a precursor to GABA. Additionally, glutamate can be turned into GABA or aspartate. Aspartate is also an excitotoxin in excess, with similar effects as elevated glutamate. A ketogenic diet encourages glutamate to become GABA, rather than aspartate. Therefore, following a low-carb keto/ Paleo diet would be the ideal diet for maintaining balance between gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate. You may want to note, that some fish like mackerel have high levels of naturally occurring GABA

Environmental toxins like pesticides, herbicides, air pollution, heavy metals, and chemicals found in your common everyday household cleaning products, cosmetics, perfumes and colognes, air fresheners, personal care products, dish soap, laundry soap, and fabric softeners, all deplete and disrupt normal production and function of all neurotransmitters. Therefore, another critical component for maintaining sufficient levels of GABA is to reduce your exposure to these toxins by living an environmentally friendly lifestyle and eating organic.

Within the category of toxins, pesticides have the most profound impact on the brain. They are neurotoxins that can disrupt acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, histamine, glutamate, norepinephrine, and GABA. Many pesticides primary mechanism of action is inhibition of GABA, meaning the pesticide achieves its goal or its effect on the target by inhibiting GABA. It is designed specifically for this action.

GABA Supplementation

Supplementing with GABA is a popular suggestion among many practitioners. However, I frequently work with people who get a stimulating effect from supplementation and I get a stimulating effect myself, so be sure to monitor your response. GABA itself can be converted back into glutamine, which is then converted back into glutamate through a metabolic pathway called the GABA shunt. So GABA supplementation can end up increasing glutamate in some people as well.

According to Dr. Datis Kharazzian, a brain expert, if you have any effect from GABA, (positive or negative) that means you have a leaky brain. In his book, Why Isn’t My Brain Working, he explains that in a healthy brain, the junctions in the blood-brain barrier only permit nanoparticles to pass through. GABA “exceeds the nanoparticle size and does not have a blood-brain barrier transport protein.” It should not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier. If it does, then this suggests there is a leaky brain.

As a matter of fact, Dr. Kharrazian uses GABA supplementation as a screening tool to determine whether one has a leaky brain or not, calling it the GABA Challenge Test. He also states you shouldn’t take GABA supplementation, even if you have a positive effect, “because you risk shutting down your GABA receptor sites.” If you have no effect from GABA, this is a good sign, you most likely to do not have a leaky brain. If leaky brain is present, then many other harmful substances can be crossing the blood-brain barrier and causing additional problems.

The toxins created by Candida can stimulate surges of glutamate production. Hundreds of other toxins can produce this same surge in glutamate activity, including mold toxins, bacterial toxins, Lyme, and organic solvents. Dr. Rick Sponaugle, a brain expert, states that even the toxins released by bacteria in your mouth that cause gingivitis and periodontal disease can increase glutamate activity and lead to a wide array of symptoms like anxiety. I can attest to this personally, I have experienced high anxiety from gingivitis. If I do not get my teeth cleaned regularly the bacteria in my mouth will cause anxiety. So it’s important to note, that many of the symptoms of Candida overgrowth can be caused by an excess of glutamate.

Glutamate and insulin have an intimate relationship. On one hand, high glutamate will trigger the release of insulin, which means insulin will then lower glucose levels; but glucose is needed to help regulate glutamate levels at the synapses, so if it goes to low, then glutamate is going to increase. This means hypoglycemia or low blood sugar will result in both triggering high levels of glutamate and impairing your ability to reduce the build-up.

Therefore, not eating foods that spike insulin and keeping blood sugar levels stable are a vital element of keeping glutamate and GABA in balance. At the same time, keeping your glutamate balanced would be a vital aspect of keeping your insulin levels healthy, which would be important if you are trying to lose weight, have insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, compulsive overeating, obesity, and the many other insulin-related conditions. Again, demonstrating how a low-carb Paleo diet would be the most beneficial diet for this issue.

Some people have a genetic mutation (VDR/Fok gene) that impairs their ability to regulate their blood sugar levels sufficiently. Dr. Amy Yasko, says there are a variety of pancreatic supplements that may be needed to support this issue.

There are many drugs (e.g. benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepine sedatives) that target your GABA receptors like Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Neurontin (Gabapentin) and others. These drugs look similar in chemical structure as gamma-aminobutyric acid so they can fit in your GABA receptors, which artificially stimulates them, but they do not actually increase production. Therefore they do not address the underlying problem of not producing enough because there must be some level of GABA present in order for these drugs to have an effect. Furthermore, anytime an exogenous (from outside the body) substance is used to artificially stimulate a neurotransmitter the brain responds by reducing production or responsiveness, which results in more depletion of the neurotransmitter, which in this case is GABA. Therefore, any drugs that target GABA receptors or manipulates GABA or glutamate, will inhibit your ability to acquire and maintain balance.

Benzodiazepine use can cause long-term and even permanent damage to GABA receptors. In all cases, it is difficult to reverse and often a life-long recovery process. The longer they are used and the higher the dose the more damage that is done and the harder it is to reverse. However, with the proper changes in diet and lifestyle, the damage can be managed and a high level of comfort can be achieved. I am a recovered alcoholic and benzo addict; used them for nearly ten years and have been clean for more than 30 years. So my knowledge, experience, and passion on this topic are both personal and professional. The effects of nonbenzodiazepine sedatives like Ambien and others would be similar.

This is also true of herbs that are used to increase GABA levels such as Valerian Root, Kava Kava, or any other herb used for this purpose. The brain responds to herbs that manipulate neurotransmitter levels in the same manner as a pharmaceutical – it will downregulate responsiveness or production of GABA, thus making the problem worse.

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to have more glutamate receptors than others, and the more glutamate receptors you have, the more you will take in. In this case, you will likely be someone who always tends to lean toward excess glutamate activity and will need to engage in life-long ongoing monitoring and maintenance to prevent overstimulation, cell death, and neurological symptoms. However, if there is excess glutamate in the system due to genetic mutations, methylation problems, etc., then more glutamate receptors will be generated as well.

As is true for all neurotransmitters, ensuring that you get adequate sleep is vital for normal function because sleep deprivation causes neurons to lose sensitivity to neurotransmitters, thus impairing communication.

Excitotoxins in the Diet

One of the biggest contributors to an imbalance in GABA and glutamate is the presence of excitotoxins in the diet. Many foods and nutritional supplements contain the excitotoxins (glutamate, glutamic acid, glutamine, aspartate/aspartic acid, and cysteine) or they contain substances that can prompt the body to produce them. These foods and substances should be avoided by anyone trying to balance their GABA and glutamate levels and anyone who tends to generally lean towards excess glutamate.

Dr. Amy Yasko explains that “excitotoxins in food overexcite neurons to the point where they become inflamed and begin firing so rapidly they become exhausted or die.” This results in a wide array of neurological symptoms that are found in autism, OCD, anxiety disorders, insomnia, hyperactivity, attention deficit, nervousness, aggressive behavior, restless leg syndromes, Tourette’s, migraines, seizures, and more. Excitotoxins increase other excitatory neurotransmitters as well like norepinephrine, which compounds these symptoms.

Dr. Amy Yasko, an expert in autism, tells parents with children who have autism that if they take only one step in her recovery program that the most important element is to eliminate excitotoxic foods that increase glutamate levels. This one step alone can provide dramatic improvements in STIMS. Thus, demonstrating the profound impact that excitotoxins have on brain function.

Most Common Sources of Excitotoxins

Monosodium glutamate. Keep in mind that MSG is found in numerous places you may not be aware of like most processed food, fast food restaurants, and it may be a binder in medications, supplements, prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, IV fluids, vaccines, and as a growth enhancer sprayed on crops of food and produce called Auxigrow.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet)

Glutamate and aspartate are naturally occurring in wheat gluten, hydrolyzed yeast, and milk casein (which means any dairy product that contains casein has the potential for problems, but particularly cheese, which is a concentrated form of casein).

Other common food sources that contain excitotoxins include, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed oat flour, or anything hydrolyzed, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, disodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract or anything else autolyzed, gelatin, glutamic acid, carrageenan or vegetable gum, guar gum, bouillon, kombu extract, anything malted, maltodextrin, many seasonings and spices, soy extract, soy protein or soy protein concentrate, or soy protein isolate, and soy sauce, textured protein, whey protein, whey protein concentrate or isolate.

The words natural flavor or natural flavoring on a package typically means it contains MSG or some other excitotoxin because they are used to stimulate your taste buds and artificially intensify the flavor.

Other foods or substances that contain excitotoxins and can damage nerves include anything fermented, protein fortified, or ultra-pasteurized or vitamin enriched, corn syrup, bodybuilder formulas or protein formulas, caramel flavoring or coloring, flowing agents, dry milk, L-cysteine, egg substitutes, cornstarch and some brands of corn chips, citric acid if it is processed from corn, certain brands of cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages (even the ones in health food stores), many canned foods, pectin, pickles, any processed food, meats in mainstream grocery store are often injected with them, tofu or other fermented soy products, xanthan gum or other gums.

Any nutritional supplement that contains glutamine. Glutamine is often recommended to heal the gut and increase GABA, but it first increases glutamate, and if you aren’t converting your glutamate to GABA for any of the many reasons we listed above, then you end up with nothing but a bunch of excess glutamate. Anyone who has an issue with excess glutamate should typically avoid supplementation with glutamine. Glutamine and glutamate convert back and for into one another.

Furthermore, some bacteria in the gut convert glutamine into glutamate. If one has an excess of these types of bacteria, which could be the case in SIBO, then glutamine supplementation may contribute to excess glutamate. Additionally, some gut bacteria eat glutamine, so in people who have SIBO, glutamine can cause proliferation of SIBO, and toxins from SIBO can lead to excess glutamate.

It can also be a matter of potency. For example, I can consume yogurt every once in a while with no glutamate problems, but if I consume whey protein then I have immediate excess glutamate. This is because the level of glutamate in whey protein is much more concentrated than it is in yogurt. Anything that has a concentrated level of glutamate is going to be more problematic than something that has less potency.

Bone broth, which is commonly recommended for healing the gut is very high in glutamate, especially chicken bones. For example, I get an instant migraine from taking a little sip of bone broth from the glutamate content. I can’t even cook chicken with the bone, or the chicken will absorb the glutamate and give me a migraine. I can sometimes eat beef or buffalo cooked with the bone, but it varies. I do best if the bone is removed. So you should experiment to see if your meat cooked with bone is contributing to your glutamate imbalance and be aware that bone broth will increase your glutamate levels. Just slow cooking meat for a long time, particularly braising, can increase glutamate.

Some common foods that are particularly high in glutamate are parmesan cheese, Roquefort cheese, tomato juice, grape juice, and peas. Walnuts, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, and oysters are moderately high as well.  Chicken and potatoes to a much lesser degree. If you eliminate all the other high glutamate substances, then you may not have a need to reduce some of these health-enhancing foods like broccoli, walnuts, and chicken. However, if your glutamate levels are really elevated, then these foods may be problematic as well, at least until you get levels reduced to some degree.

Protein powders, amino acid formulas, and collagen are high in glutamate. Branch chained aminos (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) taken in high concentrations can be excitotoxic.

Other Contributing Factors to Imbalance

There are other genetic polymorphisms that may inhibit your ability to synthesize GABA itself, besides those we discussed that involve the GAD1 gene.

Up-regulation of the CBS gene, which increases alpha-ketoglutarate production can lead to excess glutamate.

Conversion of glutamate to GABA by glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) is inhibited by copper, so make sure copper levels are not elevated.

Pyroluria is a genetic problem in hemoglobin synthesis that can result in deficiencies in B6 and zinc, both of which are critical for the production of GABA and the management of excess glutamate. Therefore, if you have pyroluria it can indirectly contribute to a GABA and glutamate imbalance.

Chronic stress is a major contributing factor to depletion of GABA and other inhibitory neurotransmitters. High levels of inhibitory neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid and serotonin are needed to modulate the stress response system. They help the mind and body return to the parasympathetic state when the stressful event is over. If the stressful event is never over, then they are called upon repeatedly and over time this will drain their levels. Therefore, managing chronic stress is a vital element for the GABA and glutamate balance.

Childhood abuse or trauma alters GABA receptors, resulting in less GABA function, and this is carried with the survivor into adulthood. Survivors of abuse also have lower levels of serotonin and dopamine.

Vitamin K is very important for GABA and glutamate balance as well, as it is needed for healthy calcium metabolism where it reacts with glutamate and calcium to deliver calcium to the bones and teeth, and it prevents accumulation of excess calcium which would contribute to cell death. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin; however, unlike other fat-soluble vitamins, it is not stored in the body and must be consumed on a daily basis. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens. Typically, vitamin K2 is produced when the friendly flora in our gut process leafy greens, but if dysbiosis is present or you’re not eating leafy greens, then vitamin K may be insufficient. But vitamin K2 is also found in a variety of food sources like dairy and animal protein. Grass-fed butter is a good source of Vitamin K2.

The pancreas uses Vitamin K abundantly for sugar regulation. In addition to the brain, the pancreas is also very vulnerable to accumulation of excessive glutamate or other excitotoxins, which will further impair regulation of sugar. As we discussed previously, too much or too little insulin or glucose can both contribute to excess glutamate, therefore, keeping glutamate and GABA in balance is critical for the health of the pancreas and all its functions and the health of the pancreas is vital for maintaining the balance.

You have most likely seen the substance called phenibut for increasing GABA. I am not in favor of using it because it is an artificial means of stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid, and remember any artificial stimulation leads to depletion. Many people report that they get addicted to phenibut, thus demonstrating that it is indeed too stimulating which will perpetuate depletion. As I see it, phenibut is an addictive mind-altering drug.

Another popular choice for increasing GABA is l-theanine. L-theanine is a glutamate analog. Which means if you fall in the category of people who is having problems converting your glutamate to GABA, this could lead to excess glutamate rather than GABA. Additionally, l-theanine is derived from tea or mushrooms, it is an artificial means of supplementing glutamate, not natural. Furthermore, it could have traces of caffeine or fungi from its original source, which could be problematic as well. Therefore, l-theanine may work for some but have the opposite effect for others. I prefer to avoid it unless I am working with someone who is detoxing from drugs and alcohol, in which case the need may outweigh the risks, but glutamine or lithium may be better choices.

Many manufacturers of nutritional supplements and health care practitioners have no knowledge or are not fully educated on the topic of glutamate. Therefore, it is very common for nutritional supplements, even some of the more respected brands, to contain excitotoxins. If you tend to lean towards excess glutamate, you must be very careful with your nutritional supplements.

It’s also important to take note that it is not possible to eliminate every single source of glutamate or other excitotoxins, nor do you want to. Remember that glutamate is vital for proper brain function in small concentrations; the goal is to prevent excess. Preventing overstimulation, cell death and neurological symptoms may sometimes be a matter of moderating accumulation. The more foods or substances that one consumes that are excitotoxic the more it builds up. You may get away with a little consumption, but if consumption is high then it pushes you over the edge of the cliff and symptoms present.

One of the greatest aspects of GABA is that it also opposes norepinephrine, your other primary excitatory neurotransmitter which is also important for stimulation, but it sets off the stress response system. Like glutamate, norepinephrine is also toxic to the brain when it is in excess. Excess norepinephrine can produce many of the same kinds of symptoms that excess glutamate produces and it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between the two. Fortunately, when you focus on increasing your gamma-aminobutyric acid then you help reduce excess norepinephrine in addition to excess glutamate.

In Summary

So, to summarize the steps that should be taken to increase GABA, it is vital that one is eating the right diet, avoiding excitotoxins, managing stress, avoiding environmental toxins, addressing nutritional deficiencies and/or genetic polymorphisms, getting adequate sleep, supporting a healthy gut, and possible supplementation. It’s very important that you don’t just start supplementing with everything you’ve read will be helpful, as this usually backfires and you get the exact opposite effect. The sicker you are the slower you need to go with supplementation. Only take one thing at a time and monitor your response before trying something else. Some people must start with very minute doses.

Working with neurotransmitters is a complex and difficult process that is best done with a practitioner who has expertise in this area. However, finding someone who has enough expertise to cover all the bases we have presented on this page is very difficult as well, so you serve yourself better by being very well informed before beginning the journey. Please note that although I know a great deal, I do not know everything either. I’m always in the learning process and this page is updated periodically as new knowledge comes to light. However, if you need help lowering your glutamate and increasing GABA, contact me today for a comprehensive consultation and get on the right road to building a strong self-care plan that will help you achieve your goals.

Need Help Balancing Your GABA and Glutamate?

Holistic Health Coaching with Cynthia


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{ 152 comments… add one }
  • Rebecca March 12, 2016, 5:53 pm

    This article is so informative, thank you so much. I started having insomnia 5 months ago, out of nowhere. Other health issues followed. I ran my 23andme DNA report, and found I have issues with the GAD enzyme, which could be contributing to my sleeplessness. I eat strict paleo, all organic, no sugar. But I have a serious leaky gut due to stress, my Secretory IGA is almost non-existent. Nonetheless, I have been diligently avoiding glutamine. But I have been eating bone broth DAILY, which I had no idea would be a problem. I will be re-reading this article many times. Can you offer any safe non-glutamine suggestions to heal up a leaky gut?

  • Belly March 16, 2016, 1:48 am

    Thank-you so much for all your brilliance. I have had years of problems and spent years searching for answers and I really appreciate all the info you have put together it all helps. I will read through the rest of your website. Only half way through your article and I can tell already how thorough and double thinking it is, i had to comment. Everyone says things are clear cut and this goes into explaining why they aren’t. Big hugs 🙂

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins March 16, 2016, 6:31 pm

    You’re welcome Rebecca. Well healing the gut is a long term project. First a diet that doesn’t promote inflammation is important (low-carb Paleo) Depending on severity, other healthy foods that can cause inflammation like nightshades may need moderated. Microbes that may be present (candida, sibo, etc) need reduced. Supplements are very tricky when dealing with high glutamate, but colostrum and lactoferrin are very beneficial. However, they are derived from cow’s so could possible increase in glutamate in some people, but maybe not. It’s something one could try and see how they do.



  • bryce sellers March 20, 2016, 9:16 pm

    Thank you for this article. How ever it seems from this what you say, that fixing this is quite difficult. I have high glutamate and have been on the low carb paleo but that worked ok for a little bit but all the protein from grass fed meats just ended up rasing the glutamate even more and my sleep is completely ruined. So if vegetables and fruits are the lowest glutamate foods then why isnt a vegetarian diet recommnded? im already gluten free and can tolerate eggs very well but the high protein and low carb of the paleo has its benefits but its ruined my sleep. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this incredibly frustrating problem?

  • C March 21, 2016, 9:25 pm

    Wow! This article pretty much sums up my life. , I had a neurotransmitter test done that showed I was lower in gaba(though not deficient), and higher in glutamine(though not elevated). My epinephrine was completely zero. How accurate are neurotransmitter tests in your opinion? Would this explain why I feel in fight or flight all the time? I also tested positive for pyloruia, GAD +/+, and my liver can’t tolerate keto. Thank you! 😉

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins April 19, 2016, 1:52 pm

    Hi Bryce

    You’re welcome.

    That’s correct. In many cases, fixing this problem is very complex. It is often a life-long issue that must be managed on-going.

    A vegetarian diet should never be recommended for anything. It is the worse thing you can do for yourself. The human body can function just fine without carbohydrates, because they are an non-essential nutrient. Your body can make all the glucose it needs from protein and fat. Carbohydrates can be sacrificed without harm. You will be better off without them. The same is not true for animal protein and fat. We cannot function properly without them.

    Among other things, without adequate animal protein and fat, the brain cannot produce or transmit neurotransmitters properly.

    A high carb diet, (even if it is lots of vegetables and fruit) will deplete GABA further in the long rung, because it causes overstimulation of GABA receptors which leads to down regulation in responsiveness or production. Furthermore, a high carb diet is stress on the body, which will demand a greater need for GABA. Also, as explained above, when you eat a high carb diet, there is a rise in glucose and then a drop in glucose after insulin is released. When blood sugar drops, then glutamate is increased.

    Additionally, a ketogenic diet has been shown to favor GABA production. Lower glucose levels are associated with lower neuronal excitability. You can read about that on the following page.

    It’s not as simple as going low-carb. When going low-carb, then the diet must also be high in fat and be sure to consume adequate animal protein in each meal (4 to 8 ounces). There must be sufficient calories and fat.

    Also, it’s important to have sufficient salt and water intake. When we eat low-carb, we eliminate salt and water more effectively, so there is a higher need for both of these. A good book to read on this subject is The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Volek and Phinney.

    Eliminating the substances and foods (other than animal protein) that are high in glutamate should be the focus. Then addressing the many other issues mentioned in this article that can increase glutamate like B6 levels, Candida overgrowth, SIBO, mold, environmental toxins, genetics, etc.



  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins April 19, 2016, 2:01 pm

    Hi C,

    Neurotransmitter testing is not very accurate, because levels can change rapidly in response to stress, chemistry and diet-related (especially pH) changes. When urine testing was compared to cerebrospinal fluid, which is well known to be the most accurate method for measuring neurotransmitters, results did not correspond. Here’s a good article that explains this in more detail.

    However, if one feels like they are in fight or flight all the time, then chance is very high that you are high in glutamate and low in GABA. Norep will be high and histamine may be as well. Pyroluria would contribute and so would the GAD++.

    May want to take a look at the following page on fight or flight



  • Sue April 20, 2016, 4:56 pm

    Cynthia, re. your statement [above] — “…Also, it’s important to have sufficient salt and water intake. When we eat low-carb, we eliminate salt and water more effectively, so there is a higher need for both of these…” — how much is enough salt?

    I’ve been following a ketogenic diet for months and been consuming ten or more glasses of fluid per day — depending on my workout routine — but given how salt has been relegated to the doghouse in recent years, such that current Federal guidelines strictly advise 2300 mg sodium per day for folks 50 or below, and a mere 1500 mg sodium for folks over 50, I’ve been in a complete quandary re. a salt intake level which is right for me.

    In other words, should I simply allow my body to be my guide, especially since salt is said to be critical to adrenal function?

    Also, however, in relation to your statement [above] is my having been dealing with bothersome, non-cardiac fluid retention as the day progresses since December. No, I’ve not yet experimented with a diuretic, e.g., dandelion leaf — as a means of alleviating it, having been hoping I’d discover a simpler, more physiologic approach to doing so.

    So looking forward to your weighing in,


  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins April 25, 2016, 11:20 pm

    Hi Sue,

    I’m sorry but I cannot say how much salt you should eat. That is something you need to determine. You can read the following page on salt

    And be sure to take a look at the book I mentioned called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.



  • Kimberly May 12, 2016, 4:39 pm

    Absolutely brilliant!
    Sums up what I’ve discovered treating multiple sclerosis, medication free, by eating organic, GMO free, and basically Palio diet- relapse free, for 7 years, twice in the 22 years, I’ve been diagnosed.

  • Fenrir May 21, 2016, 11:17 am


    It is normal to have high anxiety after eating peas protein ?

    Thank you.

  • DREW reber May 25, 2016, 2:48 am

    Great Article! 2 Questions. One is I am a 27 yr old male with 4 yrs of debilitating Chronic Fatigue, at one point or another I’ve come across everything in this article but refreshers and to see it all in one place is a invaluable refresher. First when I will take cortef, Dhea/ Preg, hypothalamus and pituitary extract, Armour, Nero replete/Cyst-replete, L-dopa. I fell absolutely 90% normal for 4-5 day then crash very hard I know this article applies to me, xanax which I quit 8 months ago would always give me so much more energy like it helped cruve the fight or flight symp switch that is always on. Do you see any reason for these things working for a short time then quitting? Are the just doping the system? also What seems to be the gold standard for treating SIBO outside of antibiotics? or are they recommended?

    Thanks! Drew

  • Robin June 13, 2016, 5:30 pm

    I appreciate the article. I’m glad someone is recognizing this issue. But my goodness, what planet do we have to move to to accomplish all the things we need to do to fix this?
    “avoiding excitotoxins, managing stress, avoiding environmental toxins, addressing nutritional deficiencies and/or genetic polymorphisms, getting adequate sleep,”
    Except for the part about nutritional deficiencies, it seems impossible to do all that, especially the part about environmental toxins and stress. When you are at work or someplace and the pest control guy comes around and sprays that junk everywhere = toxic exposure and stress! Driving down the road near my house, I see at least one person spraying round-up = toxic exposure and stress. Toxins are everywhere, and it is impossible to avoid them = stress. How do you do all this and work too? I can barely manage to take my supplements, and I only work part time.

  • Thank you so much for this comprehensive article. Brilliant info!

  • Angelos July 20, 2016, 10:19 pm

    thank you

  • Martha Johnson July 23, 2016, 5:58 am

    There are various paleo diets with some allowing a lot of foods high in glutamates. Is there a particular book/cookbook that you recommend to make it easy to eat well for the correct balance of GABA and Glutamate?

  • NIta July 29, 2016, 12:39 am

    Thank you so much for this very informative article. It has been very helpful for me. It looks like my kids are genetically predisposed toward insufficient GAD activity. And this also explains why I felt so great taking L glutamine at first, but not now. Now I am dealing w/ histamine intolerance. Beyond a thank you, I wanted to suggested you read The Calcium Paradox. In that book the author distinguishes K1 from K2 and K2’s importance in instructing calcium to deposit in the hard tissue (bones and teeth) instead of soft tissue. We derive K2 from grassfed fat and butter, egg yolks and natto. Thank you.

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins August 10, 2016, 10:08 pm

    Hi Fenrir,

    Could be that the peas are feeding a microbe like Candida or SIBO, both which feed on legumes or any other high starch food. You’ll want to take a look at the following pages.

    The pea protein could also increase glutatmate.



  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins August 10, 2016, 10:11 pm
  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins August 10, 2016, 10:24 pm

    Hi Robin,

    Yes, indeed it is quite a quandary. Unfortunately there are not easy answers. The world we live in destroys health. One must do the best they can to live and work in the safest environment possible. Personally, I live in a rural desert area and work from home to avoid these things and engage in numerous stress management techniques on a daily basis and follow a keto Paleo diet.



  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins August 10, 2016, 10:38 pm

    Hi Martha,

    No, I don’t know any cookbooks. I have one coming out next year, but not yet. However, the diet that typically works best is a low-carb or ketogenic Paleo that moderates the high glutamate foods.



  • Rose August 16, 2016, 12:56 pm

    I have been told to take oregano oil and caprylic acid for Candida. I also have high glutamate. Will the oregano oil or caprylic acid cause my glutamate to be higher? I feel like they do, especially the caprylic acid.

  • Gemma August 18, 2016, 5:37 am

    Thank youuuu so much for this article; for articulating what I have been attempting to understand for some time.

    I have struggled with this my entire life (I’m 30), however for six months last year I managed to improve the balance – I felt completely calm and peaceful and still and could sleep and sleep. Yet in spite of sticking to a very strict SCD diet and resting a lot, verrrry slowly it returned and now a year later it is back to full-on wired-and-buzzing feeling.

    I have been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what stopped it in the first place, it was such heaven to have those feelings gone. However I think it might have been actually that I was too sick to even make enough of the neurotransmitter – I had had an awful year (infections, ridiculous amounts of stress and a very bad breakup) before I completely crashed, and that’s when the feeling went away. Do you think this is a possible explanation? Or can you offer some other pointers of where to look?

    For now I am going to reassess all supplements and increase rest. I’m already doing all the others (paleo, rest, medtiation, yoga, eliminate toxins, detox, etc etc…)

    Thanks again!

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins August 27, 2016, 5:32 pm

    Hi Rose,

    I’m not aware of a glutamate connection with those two substances, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. However, oregano oil can increase serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Excess norepinephrine is a neurotoxin as well, and the symptoms are very similar to excess glutamate.

    The other issue that could occur is that when you have die off from taking the antifungal that the elevation in toxins that occurs, could trigger a glutamate surge.



  • Krish December 13, 2016, 3:47 pm

    Hi Cynthia, this was an amazingly well researched, thorough, and yet easy to read article. Thank you so much for sharing! I did have a question on whey protein isolate. I understand that it contains glutamic acid/glutamate excitotoxins. However, would you make an exception to whey protein isolate that is undenatured, cold processed and micro/cross filtered? I understand that it would still contain glutamic acid. However, I read somewhere that
    Whey protein isolate that has gone through something like cross-flow microfiltration contains virtually no denatured proteins, and thus virtually no free glutamate. Would you recommend in this case even if there is a glutamate imbalance in a person?

  • Brian January 4, 2017, 4:57 pm

    WOW. One of the best, most comprehensive articles I have read on this topic. Everything stated is done with a great blend of personal experience and scientific research. You stayed away from blanket statements understanding that EVERYONE is different.

    Thanks for this, it will certainly help many people.

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins January 17, 2017, 5:00 pm

    Hi Krish,

    I couldn’t say. My experience says that what people claim is true often isn’t. I would be reluctant. But some people might be okay, if it is a minimal amount and others wouldn’t. It would depend on the severity of glutamate excess.

    Thank you and you’re welcome.



  • Lindsay January 27, 2017, 12:06 pm

    Kickass article. Ties together so many loose items in my head. Neurotransmitter imbalances I know I have, COMT++ mutation. Gut issues and episodes of headahces flu type symptons w excitoxoins. So hard to test NT and Gut. Always a circus at play.
    thanks again for aritcle!

  • Lindsay January 27, 2017, 12:11 pm

    Any clues to constipation and gut motility? I’ve had the gammut of disgusting tests done at Mayo Clinic and no help. Constipation (i’m thinking) could be Neurotransmitter imbalances related, Something off in properties of gut like gaba, PH, fluid compouns Na. I was low on lithium and getting that up has helped motlity but still have major colon issues, its like it will just go dead sometimes and not move thigns along with peristalis. other times it will work okay. my constipation is trying to kill me.

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins January 27, 2017, 1:50 pm

    Hi Lindsay,

    You should look into Candida and SIBO on the following pages. High likelihood of SIBO with methane producers.

  • Paula Mulhall February 2, 2017, 5:32 pm

    In conjunction w/Stanford’s NeuroGI Clinical Director, UCSF’s NeuroGI Clinical Director and a Stanford-educated GI Doctor, I am working toward eliminating the abdominal “seizures” I am experiencing. They wholeheartedly agree with your analysis of balancing the GABA/Glutamate levels/neurotransmitters. It was from my research and finding this article that we are at the point of moving in the right direction after 8 months of not understanding why I couldn’t eat anything but the foods you note as having low glutamate. I am also working with a Nutritionist w/multiple Masters Degrees from Canyon Ranch. I have hope for the 1st time in 8 months! Many thanks for your hard work and contribution to my soon-to-be restored health!

  • Margaret February 21, 2017, 9:58 pm

    Thank you for this article. It is helpful to me since my son (age 24) was diagnosed with MS 6 months ago and I am trying to learn about what could be happening to him and how to help. I have a question about the comment near the end, “Other foods or substances that contain excitotoxins and can damage nerves include anything fermented….” I thought that fermented foods are part of a healthy diet and are included in many paleo/keto meal plans. Can you clarify this?

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins February 23, 2017, 2:38 pm

    Hi Margaret,

    Fermented foods can be healthy for people who do not have excess glutamate or high histamine. However, if the person is high histamine or high glutamate, then these foods can be counterproductive, because fermented foods are very high in glutamate and histamine. They can also be counterproductive for someone with SIBO. Therefore, fermented foods are not always healthy. It depends on what condition one is dealing with.

  • Candi Peck March 7, 2017, 11:30 am

    This is a great article! I am dealing with protracted benzo withdrawal which has exacerbated my genetic gaba deficiencies, and have been forced to take a hard look at my gene mutations and therefore, my eating habits/lifestyle, to try to be able to find relief from such horrific symptoms. This article is my new bible, so complete with explanations and recommendations. It has given me hope. Thank you!!

  • Bel March 10, 2017, 7:38 am

    I think your brilliant. Would love to work with you one day to get well

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins March 10, 2017, 10:42 am

    Thank you Bel. My services can be found on the following page.


  • Teresa April 20, 2017, 12:08 pm

    As someone who occasionally resorts to protein powders (I know this isn’t ideal)–do you happen to know of hemp protein’s influence on glutamate levels? I was previously turning to pea protein most of the time, but just read your above comment that it can indeed raise glutamate levels, so I will now be trying my best to cut it out and I know whey is not an option for the same reasons. Thanks so much!

  • Vickie Bonawitz May 20, 2017, 10:59 am

    I found your article informative and way over my head. I understand more than I did, but I will need to learn a lot more before I can absorb it. My 31 year old daughter has recently received a diagnosis with Reumatic Fever, which she has had since 4 years of age and Sydenham’s Chorea, which she had since she was 12 years of age or younger. She went from a gifted happy child to having every problem that you mentioned in your article. She even received a diagnosis at age 12 for Bipolar, at age 21 for Autism Spectrum Disorder, and in the last 5 years her IQ and cognitive processing has continued to decline to a level that required continued care. We went from TN to DC, where she saw Dr. Elizabeth Latimer, who gave my daughter the dignosis and treatment, after a lifetime of WRONG dignosis. Casey received treatment of IVIG/steroids and began recovering. Her anxiety, communication, cognition, and her chorea began improving the first day of treatment. She still has a long way to go – physically, mentally, and due to the misdiagnosis, hospitalizations, and mistreatment of RX – psychologically, and emotionally. However, she has hope and our family is praying. For a full recovery and a good future for her. Thank you for the information that you provided, which seems to provide the next missing piece. Thank you! If you can suggest any doctor to help with addressing the balancing of GABA, it would be appreciated.

  • Linda May 24, 2017, 9:09 am

    Ms. Perkins, thank you so much for this excellent article. I have been looking all over the web and not finding much useful information on reducing glutamate. I am thankful that I stumbled across this page. As I go through the article more thoroughly, I might be back with a few questions. But, again, a BIG thank you!

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins May 26, 2017, 6:11 pm

    Hi Teresa,

    Any type of protein powder may increase glutamate levels.

  • Mike Hughes May 30, 2017, 1:28 pm

    Hi Cynthia,

    As all have said, superb website, with the best advice about.

    Quick question from me; what are the ramifications of taking a GABA supplement and feeling the simulating effects, associated with leaky gut?

    I get it, and apart from being a little unpleasant, does it actually do any physical harm?


  • jeanine case June 1, 2017, 11:24 pm

    Wow. I have studied for years and have a BA degree and have not read anything like this about gaba. My sons is off and now how to fix it? He takes anxiety meds. What a mess
    Thanks for the information. I am not sure if the ND’s I know or the DO I know is aware of all this.
    It seems nearly impossible to get GABA balanced.
    It seems there is no in a nutshell this is what one does answer.
    Thanks Jeanine

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins June 24, 2017, 4:28 pm


    If you get a stimulating effect from taking GABA, then it is being converted back into glutamate. The harm is that you will be keeping your glutamate levels elevated, and thus all the negative effects we have discussed associated with excess glutamate. It would defeat the purpose of taking it.

  • Katie August 24, 2017, 1:01 pm

    Would a sulfurphane supplement (such as BroccoGen) have a negative impact?

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins September 12, 2017, 12:10 pm

    Katie, I believe it’s possible.

  • Memmi October 12, 2017, 10:10 pm

    Could you recommend someone in the Atlanta area (or southeast even) who helps test and balance neurotransmitters? And, what kind of services do you offer? My adult son has had seizures for 15 years. Thank you!

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins October 13, 2017, 7:42 am

    Hi Memmi,

    No, I’m sorry I don’t know anyone in the Atlanta area. I could assist you with you a phone consultation. My services are found on the following page.



  • Jason October 20, 2017, 3:15 am

    DO NOT USE PHENIBUT. It’s addictive and will cause intensely severe withdrawals. They last a LONG TIME and will make things 100 times worse for you.

  • BethSmyls November 8, 2017, 4:39 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for such a great article. I lost 2/3s of my pancreas in 2004, developed Reactive Hypoglycemia in 2011 and then vestibular migraines with horrid neurological symptoms in 2017. NOT a single specialist I’ve seen has made any link between my missing pancreas, the GAD enzyme and my migraines, even though I have no history of migraine and none of my family has migraines. And it is known that excess glutamate and unchecked calcium can cause migraines. So I am pretty sure it has got to be linked to my pancreas. All I have been offered is useless meds with horrendous side effects or which just don’t work at all. I am now focusing on ways to support my pancreas and GAD and balance out the excess glutamate through vitamins, amino acids, adaptogens and possible herbal supplements. Thank you so much for providing a wonderful resource to add to the information I have already collected. It is great to read a science-based article on a holistic website. Sadly many things I’ve read are simply waffle or just offer the usual symptom relief without ever trying to look at the underlying causes and addressing them. 10 star article that I shall be printing out and also sharing with fellow migraine-sufferers.

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins November 19, 2017, 10:08 am

    Thank you, Beth. You’re welcome. Glad it was helpful.

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