Health Benefits of amino acid GABA: Pain Relief, Sleep, and Reduced Anxiety

GABA—known as Gamma-amnobutyric acid—is a chief neurotransmitter with inhibitory effects on the central nervous system of mammals. Because it plays a central role in regulating the excitement of neurons in the brain and nervous sytem, as well as muscle tone in humans, it can be used as a pain killer as since it not only reduces the perception of pain, but also has secondary effects that allows sleep and reduces anxiety once the pain is gone.

GABA is an amino acid, chemically speaking, but in medical and scientific fields it is referred to differently since it is not an alpha amino acid and is not technically incorporated into a protein either. However, Gaba-A and Gaba-B receptor sites in the brain do have a role to play in pain regulation, sleep, and anxiety parts of the human body and psyche.

Perception and mediation of pain: Pain killers as regulated by GABA amino acid

Defining the role of GABA regarding the perception and mediation of the transmission of pain has been attempted by SJ Enna and KE McCarson in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, at the University of Kansas Medical Center. They understand why GABA is nature’s pain killer.

Realizing that the central nervous system has GABAergic neurons that are distributed throughout the body, it is the spinal cord dorsal horn that also transmits the impulses of what it perceives as “pain” to the brain. GABA neurons and receptors not only perceive and respond to the stimuli, but these scientists admit that “this neurotransmitter system has been shown to regulate control of sensory information processing in the spinal cord.” This is why GABA plays such an important role in being a natural pain killer and is considered a novel analgesic.

One limitation to GABAergic drugs in the past has been the problem of sedation, or the induction of sleep, which is fine for patients who need to both receive sleep as well as pain relief from this natural pain killer source. However, because it helps with sleep, and not all patients want to sleep but just have the effects of a pain killer, it has shown to be of limited utility. Research continues with GABA-A and GABA-B receptor sites, with the latter being identified with antinociceptive (pain killer) responses “at doses well below those that cause sedation.”

This research has shown hope towards GABA as a pain killer regulator since “stimulation of neuroanatomically discreet GABA receptor sites could be of benefit in the management of pain.” It is good to know that continued research is being done in this area of natural pain killers via GABAergic drugs.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17175808