How to test yourself for leaky gut.
The "gaba challenge"
I challenge you to a duel!!
Not really, but this is a challenge that would be great for you to try.
We are talking about the “gaba challenge”.
Gaba is a neurotransmitter. Low levels are linked with anxiety, mood disorders, epilepsy and chronic pain. Gaba supplements are often used to help with anxiety, improving sleep, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
While there is a good amount of controversy and debate on this subject and gaba in general, this is how I use gaba in my practice as both a therapeutic nutracueutical and sometimes as a diagnostic aid.
First, In order to understand a little more about how and why this test works we have to understand what gaba is. So Im going to switch over to my little white board on my Ipad to give you a little narrated drawing to explain things more.
This is a written summary of the video:
A nerve functions in the following way. Your nerve has a point at which the nerve rests, this is call the resting potential. The nerve also has a point at which the nerve fires call the threshold. If a nerve is stimulated but does not reach the threshold it will not fire. What can happen with anxiety is the the resting potential moves much closer to the threshold at which the nerve fires and now it takes a much smaller amount of stimulation to make the nerve fire. This often results in overstimulation which is common with anxiety. Since gaba is an inhibitory neurotransmitter it can lower the resting potential back down to where is it supposed to be and now you can tolerate more input without becoming over stimulated.
You really should watch the video for an explantation that makes sense. Without something to look at its hard to make sense of it all.
Moving on. So now that you have a general idea of what gaba is lets talk about the test specifically.
First, how do we do the test?
A gaba challenge is typically done using pure gaba at a dosage of 600 - 1500 mg. I tend to start on the low side and see how someone does and then possibly retest if I think they need to.
The type of response that would indicate a positive results (not a good one) is a nice calm relaxed type feeling, generally not tired but just kind of chilled out.
Usually clients will feel the effects within the first hour but sometimes up to 3 hours later. I generally recommend doing this test around 3-4pm.
Don’t do it at a time when you are normally getting tired anyway because it will be hard to determine why you are relaxed or tired - such as just having eaten a large meal. Also don’t do the test and then go out for a night on the town or go to work, or whatever else you might want to do. Just stay in for he day in case it hits you later than the 3 hours.
If you think you might have had a response but aren’t really sure just repeat the test at a slightly higher dose in the next day or two. Don’t use too much gaba or do this too often as you can take in too much.
Click here for a good quality gaba that I often use.
So what do the results mean?
This is where things can get a little tricky.
I often use gaba for anxiety in clients but also as a semi “diagnostic” test. This is why, and I understand that nothing is in absolutes and there is some controversy here, but this is what I have found in practice.
Normaly gaba is too big to cross the blood brain barrier.
Meaning if you ingest it, it is too big to be absorbed by the body and it should just pass through you and have no effect. Now keep in mind there are certain new forms of gaba that are being developed that reportedly are better absorbed. Don’t use those one for this test.
If you have a nice calm relaxed feeling after taking gaba it means that it has crossed the blood brain barrier, and thus there is a good chance that you have some degree of leaky gut. Leaky gut equals leaky brain.
SO…if gaba works for you thats great because you can use it to help you sleep, relax better or help with anxiety. BUT… it also means that now you probably have a digestive issue that you maybe were not aware of. Or maybe you were.
Now here are a couple of other little tidbits that you need to be aware of.
It has been reported and I have noted that in some of my clients gaba can, in a way, backward convert to glutamic acid, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter and cause an increase in irritability, anxiety, or the feeling of being overstimulated. We don’t really know in who this will occur, but just know that this is a possible outcome as well.
In my experience it happens in approximately 5-10 of people that do the test. Or I should say that do the test and have a positive result (meaning it crossed the BBB - blood brain barrier)
Keep in mind that this reaction is also a positive result as it means that the gaba still crossed the blood brain barrier. Although now you can’t use it for relaxation or anxiety.
One other tidbit. This test is not 100% sensitive or specific. It can give us a general idea of how things are functioning. This crude home test can often rule in the possibility of leaky gut if it is positive, but it cannot rule out the possibility of leaky gut if it is negative.
So there you have it. How and why you would use “the gaba challenge”.
If you do this test and aren’t really sure how to go about fixing your issues and/or leaky gut, give my office a call and I would be happy to help you out. Its one of the most common things we see. P.S. - I also now offer virtual visits for those that are not in the area.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy.