GABA and glycine supplements should both have a calming effect, helping to reduce anxiety and make you sleep better.
But some people have asked me, what if they do the opposite? What if they cause anxiety and wake you up at night? Tune in for my answer.
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Here are links to things mentioned in the episode:
Testing Nutritional Status, The Ultimate Cheat Sheet is at https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet (use the code LITE5 to get $5 off)
The specific comment addressed in this episode: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/10/11/dont-use-niacin-buffer-excess-methyl-groups/#comment-47351
For *many* resources on glycine: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/methylation
On GABA, 5 Ways to Help With Glutamate Sensitivity and Glutamate Dominance: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/06/14/5-ways-help-glutamate-sensitivity-glutamate-dominance/
3 Ways to Get Enough Potassium: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/07/19/3-ways-get-enough-potassium/
The Best Way to Supplement With Potassium: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/08/14/best-way-supplement-potassium/
How to Manage Your Magnesium Status: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/08/23/manage-magnesium-status/
How to Manage Your Thiamin (Vitamin B1) Status: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/08/28/monitor-thiamin-vitamin-b1-status/
How to Manage Your Vitamin B6 Status:
Why You Should Be Careful With Niacin and Nicotinamide Riboside: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/07/26/careful-niacin-nicotinamide-riboside/
DON’T Use Niacin to Buffer Excess Methyl Groups: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2018/10/11/dont-use-niacin-buffer-excess-methyl-groups/
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Read the Transcript
Do GABA or glycine supplements wake you up when you’re trying to go to sleep?
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about an unusual reaction to glycine or GABA.
Meesch says, “Something about glycine is excitatory for me. If I take it at night, I don’t sleep. I have tried plain glycine and magnesium glycinate. I do consume it during the day via gelatin. However, if I take niacinamide at night, I sleep markedly better. It somehow affects that 3 AM wakeup that can happen, and instead I sleep soundly all night. I’m an “overmethylator.” I have no idea if this has anything to do with the effects of glycine or niacinamide.”
Meesch, my suspicion is that this is not related to methylation and it’s actually related to energy metabolism because remember, although niacin in the form of niacinamide or any other does sap up methyl groups, niacin also is really important to energy metabolism, and that’s its primary role is to support energy metabolism.
So, let’s take what Meesch has said and look at the more general principle. Glycine, like GABA, are—these are the two main inhibitory neurotransmitters. That means in your nervous system, they will tend to relax you. They will tend to help you sleep. That’s an oversimplification because really inhibiting one nerve might stimulate another process, but in general, these are supposed to be inhibitory and relaxing, whereas something like glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter, is excitatory and should be stimulating.
So why would you get something seemingly excitatory about these inhibitory neurotransmitters? Why would they give you anxiety or keep you from sleeping when they should relax you and help you sleep?
Well, if you look at the chemistry of this at the level of what’s happening at the neuron, yes, GABA and glycine are inhibitory, but the way they are inhibitory, the way that they’re relaxing, so to speak, just to oversimplify, is that they help bring chloride into the cell. And if they don’t help bring chloride into the cell, they do not inhibit the neuron. In fact, if they let chloride out of the cell, then they excite the neuron. And whether they let chloride in or out all depends on the concentration of chloride. Usually there’s a lot of chloride outside the cell, so they open a chloride channel, and it all goes in, and the neuron gets inhibited. But sometimes there’s a lot of chloride inside the cell, they open that same chloride channel, the chloride comes out, and the neuron gets excited.
So why might you not have chloride accumulating outside the cell like you’re supposed to? Well, one basic thing that you would think of is energy metabolism. It takes a lot of energy to pump all these ions, chloride and the other ones, into the right places. And if anything about your energy metabolism fails, then that might be a reason why these inhibitory neurotransmitters are having the opposite effect that they should.
When you think about energy metabolism, that could mean something like fixing insulin resistance and diabetes, or fixing a thyroid disorder, two big things that can lower your cellular energy production. It could mean nutritional support for anything involved in energy metabolism. Meesch was talking about niacinamide. Niacin is a major part of the energy metabolism system, but so are another six of the B vitamins, and so are many other components, including minerals. I have a whole section on the system of energy metabolism in Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. It’s a super complicated topic, but any nutritional support for energy metabolism should help correct this.
Another thing would be making sure that you’re getting the right ions because everything is about the balance of chloride along with sodium and potassium especially, but also to some degree, magnesium and calcium, so make sure that you have enough calcium and magnesium in your diet.
Magnesium again being super important to ATP production as well, as well as being an important ion in the flux around the neuron, but make sure that you’re consuming enough potassium and enough salt.That means salting your food to taste, and it means getting enough potassium. I’ll link in the description to the previous episodes that I’ve made about getting enough potassium. And it also means making sure that you’re eating enough food. We do have the problem of being overweight associated with insulin resistance, and that can hurt your ATP production, but not eating enough food, starving yourself chronically, can also lower your ATP production, and if you’re just not eating enough calories, that might be a reason why things are going a bit haywire inside your nervous system.
Now, finally I’ll say that you could have cellular damage to the neurons, that are damaging the transporters, and that could be a reason why things are working backwards. I’m not a neurologist, and so I can’t pronounce about exactly how to find neurological damage in this video, but if you do have a neurological disorder, that could be something that you need to work directly with a neurologist about, and that’s something that I can’t address in this episode.
Nevertheless, focusing on energy metabolism, on salt, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all very wise things to do when thinking about why glycine or GABA might have the opposite effects that they should.