I was wondering if a natural supplement of GABA in chewable tablet form containing 200 mg of GABA per dose could act as a functional replacement for the effects of a drug like Xanax
No, it won't for 3 main reasons.
Firstly, orally taken GABA cannot penetrate the blood-brain-barrier. All you will do is make more expensive urine.
Secondly, your brain is not deficient in GABA. No reasonably functioning brain can be as GABA is a byproduct of the Keb's cycle
which makes ATP, the brain's main energy source. In fact there is such an abundance of GABA that the blood-brain-barrier contains billions of tiny pumps
to suck the stuff out of the brain for disposal.
Thirdly, what your brain does lack is enough GABA-benzodiazepine binding sites1
, and the ones do do have are less effective. Trying to overcome this deficiency by adding more GABA is akin to trying to fix a car's faulty spark plugs by filling its gas tank to overflowing.
I appreciate that the concept of using a 'natural' product may be appealing, but be aware that many are synthesized using similar processes to those for making pharmaceuticals. Also, some benzodiazepines are found naturally
in all foods.
And while I'm on the soapbox, supplements such as the amino acid L-Tryptophan and another serotonin precursor 5-HTP are not natural alternatives to antidepressants. Anxiety and depression aren't caused to a serotonin deficiency. L-Tryptophan produced by genetically modified organisms in large bio-reactors killed 37 people in the late 1980s, and permanently damaged the health of at least 1,500 others. See: Serotonin: The 'chemical imbalance' myth
Hasler G, Nugent AC, Carlson PJ, et al. (2008)
Altered cerebral gamma-aminobutyric acid type A-benzodiazepine receptor binding in panic disorder determined by [11C]flumazenil positron emission tomography.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. Oct;65(10):1166-75 (Abstract)
Geuze E, van Berckel BN, Lammertsma AA, et al. (2007)
Reduced GABAA benzodiazepine receptor binding in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mol Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;13(1):74-83 (Abstract)
Cameron OG, Huang GC, Nichols T, et al. (2007)
Reduced gamma-aminobutyric acid(A)-benzodiazepine binding sites in insular cortex of individuals with panic disorder.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. Jul;64(7):793-800. (Abstract)
Bremner JD, Innis RB, Southwick SM, et al. (2000)
"Decreased benzodiazepine receptor binding in prefrontal cortex in combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder."
Am J Psychiatry Jul; vol 157(7):1120-6 (Abstract)
Bremner JD, Innis RB, White T, et al (2000)
"SPECT [I-123]iomazenil measurement of the benzodiazepine receptor in panic disorder."
Biol Psychiatry Jan 15; vol 47(2):96-106 (Abstract)
Malizia AL. (1999)
"What do brain imaging studies tell us about anxiety disorders? "
J Psychopharmacol Dec; vol 13(4):372-8 (Abstract)
Morimoto K. 1999
Benzodiazepine receptor imaging in the brain: recent developments and clinical validity
Kaku Igaku. May;36(4):307-13. (Abstract)
Malizia AL, Cunningham VJ, Bell CJ, et al. (1998)
"Decreased brain GABA(A)-benzodiazepine receptor binding in panic disorder: preliminary results from a quantitative PET study."
Arch Gen Psychiatry Aug; vol 55(8):715-20 (Abstract)
Tokunaga M, Ida I, Higuchi T, Mikuni M. (1997)
"Alterations of benzodiazepine receptor binding potential in anxiety and somatoform disorders measured by 123I-iomazenil SPECT."
Radiat Med May-Jun; vol 15(3):163-9 (Abstract)
Uchiyama M, Sue H, Fukumitsu N, et al. (1997)
"Assessment of cerebral benzodiazepine receptor distribution in anxiety disorders by 123I-iomazenil-SPECT: comparison to cerebral perfusion scintigraphy by 123I-IMP."
Nippon Igaku Hoshasen Gakkai Zasshi Jan; vol 57(1):41-6 (Abstract)