GABA for Sleep

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid, is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in your central nervous system (CNS). That is, your body uses GABA to dampen nerve activity in your brain, which leads to feelings of calm and relaxation.

Many anti-anxiety medications and sleeping pills, including alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), work by increasing the amount of GABA in your brain. Some natural sedative herbs, such as valerian, also work by increasing GABA.1

In the U.S., millions of Americans struggle to fall asleep each night, including about 10 percent who suffer from chronic insomnia. This latter condition involves difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as waking up too early in the morning.

It’s thought that maintaining optimal GABA levels may be imperative for restful sleep and avoiding insomnia.

GABA Is Essential for Deep Sleep

In a healthy night’s sleep, you should progress through the following sleep stages (though not necessarily in this order):2

  • Stage One, when you’re preparing to drift off
  • Stage Two, during which your brainwave activity becomes rapid and rhythmic while your body temperature drops and heart rate slows
  • Stage Three, when deep slow brain waves emerge (this is a transition from light sleep to deep sleep)
  • Stage Four, also known as delta sleep, this is a deep sleep stage
  • Stage Five, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when most dreaming occurs

Stages three and four, including slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep), are incredibly important. Slow-wave sleep is a sleep stage associated with reduced levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and reduced inflammation.

Deep sleep plays a very special role in strengthening immunological memories of previously encountered pathogens in a way similar to psychological long-term memory retention.3

This means when you’re well rested with sufficient deep sleep, your immune system is able to mount a much faster and more effective response when an antigen is encountered a second time. The activation of GABA receptors (specifically GABA-A receptor) is known to favor sleep.

On the other hand, low levels of GABA are known to interfere with deep sleep,4 such that people with low levels may wake easily and often throughout the night, missing out on meaningful amounts of this crucial slow-wave sleep.

Insomniacs May Have Lower Levels of GABA

One reason why people with insomnia struggle to fall asleep may be low GABA levels. Research published in the journal Sleep found average brain GABA levels were nearly 30 percent lower in people with primary insomnia compared to controls.5

People with lower levels of GABA were also more likely to wake after falling asleep. According to the researchers, “Our study provides the first evidence of a neurochemical difference in the brains of those with PI [primary insomnia] compared to normal sleeping controls.”6

Other research has also shown favorable results using GABA supplementation. In one study, an amino acid preparation containing both GABA and 5-HTP, which your body produces from the amino acid tryptophan, reduced time to fall asleep, increased the duration of sleep and improved sleep quality.7

Another study, this one published in 2016, also found sleep-promoting benefits from a combination of GABA and 5-HTP, including improving the time to fall asleep, sleep duration and sleep quality.8

The chemical 5-HTP works in your brain and central nervous system by promoting the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and thereby may help boost mood and enhance sleep. It seems to work in harmony with GABA.

Natural GABA Improves Sleep

There are different types of GABA in supplement form, including a synthetic variety produced from the industrial solvent pyrrolidinone and other chemicals and a natural form made via fermentation with Lactobacillus hilgardi, a beneficial bacteria also used to make the traditional Korean vegetable dish kimchi.

Recent research showed the natural GABA had various sleep-improving effects. The researchers measured brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG) after participants took 100 milligrams (mg) of natural GABA or placebo.

Those who took GABA fell asleep faster and had longer quality sleep time. They also reported feeling more energized in the morning.9

A 2015 study also found GABA produced by fermentation shortened the time it took to fall asleep and also increased non-REM sleep time by 5 percent when taken in combination with Apocynum venetum leaf extract (AVLE).10

Can You Increase Your GABA Levels Via Your Diet?

While foods don’t contain GABA, many do contain glutamate/glutamic acid. Your body produces GABA from glutamate, so eating foods rich in this substance may help to optimize your GABA levels.

Foods naturally high in glutamate/glutamic acid include protein-rich, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs and poultry, raw grass-fed cheese and wild-caught fish, along with sea vegetables, ripe tomatoes and mushrooms.

In addition, foods like fermented vegetables and kefir are rich in beneficial bacteria that have a marked impact on your GABA levels.

For instance, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.11

A deficiency in vitamin B6 can lead to diminished GABA synthesis,12 so be sure your diet includes B6-rich foods such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, organic grass-fed beef and pastured chicken and chickpeas.

Drinking green tea is another option, as it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that crosses your blood-brain barrier and has psychoactive properties.

Theanine increases levels of GABA (along with serotonin, dopamine and alpha brainwave activity) and may reduce mental and physical stress and produce feelings of relaxation.13 Oolong tea is also known for its ability to increase GABA.

Beyond diet, exercise is also important. Regular exercise is one of the best cures for insomnia, and one reason why this may be is because it increases GABA. In one study, when animals exercised their brains contained new neurons designed to release GABA.14

Try This First for Better Sleep Starting Tonight

If you need more sleep, GABA is only one component that should be addressed. Overall, I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for details on proper sleep hygiene, but to start, consider implementing the following changes.

If you’ve tried these steps and are still having trouble sleeping, you may want to consider natural GABA (as well as melatonin or 5-HTP).

Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.

Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association (AMA) now states:15

“… [N]ighttime electric light can disrupt circadian rhythms in humans and documents the rapidly advancing understanding from basic science of how disruption of circadian rhythmicity affects aspects of physiology with direct links to human health, such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism.”

Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can’t appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.

Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. The slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland’s melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether.

Move all electrical devices at least 3 feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades. If this isn’t possible, wear an eye mask.

Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.

You can also download a free application called F.lux that automatically dims your monitor or screens16 or use blue-light-blocking glasses.

Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.

Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.

Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.

Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.

Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. Ideally, you should turn off any wireless router while you are sleeping. You don’t need the Internet on when you are asleep.

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Battered Bees and the Threat to Our Food

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

Some plants produce offspring by producing seeds, but the seeds can only be produced by the transfer of pollen from the male anther of one flower to the female stigma of another.

While wind and water can transfer pollen to some extent, and some plants are self-pollinating, pollinators are the primary route that this pollen transfer occurs for many plants, including those we depend on for food.

The pollination process is quite incredible, really, and is carried out by certain birds, butterflies, bats, moths and bees (along with some other animals like honey possums).

In short, when the pollinator feeds from a flower, the pollen attaches to its body and then deposits on another during the pollinator’s next stop. When examined more closely, however, there are even more details to this process that make it that much more amazing.

Bees Are Hardwired for ‘Buzz Pollination’

Bees use a process called sonication, or buzz pollination, to shake loose pollen hidden in certain plants’ anthers. The bees bite the anthers to hold on, then buzz. The vibration causes the pollen to spill out of the plant and stick to the bee.

Experiments conducted by University of Arizona researchers found that rather than being a learned behavior, bees appear to be hard-wired to use sonication. The study included bees raised in a laboratory that had never seen a flower.1

Yet, when they were given the chance, the bees knew just what to do. As The New York Times reported, they:2

  • Grabbed the plant’s anther with their mandibles
  • Buzzed until they were doused in pollen
  • Groomed the pollen off their front legs and body and stuck it to “pollen baskets” on their rear legs

Having an innate ability for sonication has its benefits, including making bees highly adaptable to changing environments. If new plants come into a bees’ range, or if they’re forced to forage in unfamiliar areas, it means the bees should still be able to adapt.

Queen Bees Dying From Pesticide Exposure and Parasites

There is only one queen bee per hive. She mates once and then is fertile for life, laying up to 2,000 eggs per day to sustain the colony.

Research published in the journal Nature suggests, however, that combined exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides and parasites may alter queen bees’ physiology and survival, thereby potentially destroying the whole hive.3

Queen bees exposed to infection with the parasite Nosema ceranae along with 0.7 micrograms per liter of a neonicotinoid called imidacloprid, which is a dose a bee may be exposed to in the wild, had serious effects.

More than 90 percent of the exposed queen bees died within 45 to 90 days (if healthy, a queen bee may live for several years). The researchers continued:4

Furthermore, single and combined effects of pesticide and parasite decrease survivorship of queens introduced into mating hives for three months.

Because colony demographic regulation relies on [the] queen’s fertility, the compromise of its physiology and life can seriously menace colony survival under pressure of combined stressors.”

Past studies have also found that combined stressors may be leading to bee losses. In 2013, for instance, researchers found that when pollen was fed to healthy bees, they had a significant decline in the ability to resist infection with the Nosema ceranae parasite, which has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the term often used to describe bee die-offs.5

Each Neonicotoinoid May Harm Bees in Different Ways

Neonicotinoids are powerful neurotoxins and are quite effective at killing pests, but they’re also harmful to non-target pests, namely pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

This occurs because the pesticides are taken up through the plant’s vascular system as it grows and, as a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant.

Until now, the effects of different neonicotinoids have been regarded as interchangeable, but one study showed each may affect bees differently. Bayer’s imidacloprid was found to cut the number of egg-containing brood cells by 46 percent, for instance.

Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, on the other hand, decreased the number of live bees by 38 percent.

Clothianidin, another neonicotinoid made by Bayer, had the curious effect of increasing the number of queens produced, which the researchers noted could potentially backfire if, “say, all those queens turned out to be infertile.”6,7

Lead researcher Christopher Connolly, Ph.D., and reader in neurobiology at the University of Dundee, told The Guardian, “I think there is sufficient evidence for a ban on imidacloprid and thiamethoxam … “8

Neonicotinoids Are Harming Wild Bees, Too

Neonicotinoid pesticides, which are widely used in intensive agricultural operations, have been widely implicated in the decline of commercially bred bees, but research published in Nature Communications has now shown these chemicals are leading to long-term population changes in wild bees as well.9

The study involved 18 years of U.K. wild bee distribution data for 62 species, which were compared to amounts of neonicotinoid use in oilseed rape, a crop grown to produce canola oil. The researchers found evidence of increased wild bee population extinction rates in response to neonicotinoid seed treatment.

While bees that forage on oilseed rape have historically benefited from its availability, according to the researchers, once the crops are treated with neonicotinoids (as up to 85 percent of England’s oilseed rape crops are) they have detrimental impacts on the bees.

In fact, wild foraging bees were three times more likely to be negatively affected by exposure to neonicotinoids than non-crop foragers. Overall, about 50 percent of the total decline in wild bees was linked to the pesticides.10

Mosquito Spraying for Zika Virus Is Exterminating More Bees

Bees are now facing yet another chemical threat, this time in the form of pesticides being sprayed to kill mosquitoes in the name of Zika-virus prevention. In Summerville, South Carolina, millions of bees were killed when a small area of the town was aerially sprayed for mosquitoes.11

The pesticide sprayed was Naled, a neurotoxin that’s used to target adult mosquitoes. However, it’s also toxic to other insects, birds and fish. The bee losses are that much more tragic because, as of this writing, no cases of locally acquired Zika infection have been reported in South Carolina.

While officials in the area have previously sprayed for mosquitoes from the road, this is the first time aerial spraying has been used. Officials apparently did not consider how the spraying would affect other species, however, including bees, and did not follow standard procedure of notifying registered beekeepers about the spraying.

Beekeeper Juanita Stanley lost all 46 of her hives — amounting to millions of bees — in the apparently accidental extermination. Stanley told The New York Times:12

There was no need for a bee suit Monday morning to go … Honestly, I just fell to the ground. I was crying, and I couldn’t quit crying, and I was throwing up … This is going to sound harsh, but I think for me, this one word is very fitting, and it’s ignorance … We, as humans, are not doing the research and finding out the facts before we make decisions.”

Bees Obtain Both Food and Bacteria From Flowers

The long-term effects that excessive pesticide usage may have on bees and other pollinators is unknown, particularly since we’re still learning about the intricate connections pollinators have with their environment. New research published in the journal Microbial Ecology highlighted the fact that wild bees, like humans and commercially bred bees, have a community of microorganisms, including bacteria, known as a microbiome.

The study found that many flowers and wild bee species share certain types of bacteria, which suggests bees obtain not only food but also bacteria from the flowers.13

One type of bacteria, Lactobacillus, was found on all the flower and bee samples. The researchers suggested it might help preserve nectar and pollen that the wild bees store in their nest to feed larvae. Even flowers that had not yet been visited by bees contained bacteria, the study found, continuing:14

The presence of bee-associated bacteria in flowers that have not been visited by bees suggests that these bacteria may also be transmitted to flowers via plant surfaces, the air, or minute insect vectors such as thrips.”

Tell Bayer to Stop Producing Neonicotinoids

It’s extremely important that steps are taken to protect bees, butterflies and other pollinators. These creatures are necessary to help 80 percent of flowering plants reproduce and are involved in the production of 1 out of every 3 bites of food. A sampling of the produce that would disappear without bees is below. Imagine a world without it.15

? Apples

? Onions

? Avocados

? Carrots

? Mangos

? Lemons

? Limes

? Honeydew

? Cantaloupe

? Zucchini

? Summer squash

? Eggplant

? Cucumbers

? Celery

? Green onions

? Cauliflower

? Leeks

? Bok choy

? Kale

? Broccoli

? Broccoli rabe

? Mustard greens

One way you can take action is by joining Friends of the Earth’s campaign to tell Bayer, the leading manufacturer of neonicotinoids, to stop producing these toxic chemicals. As they stated:16

We need bees to pollinate [two-thirds] of the food crops we eat every day — healthy fruits and vegetables matter far more than Bayer’s extra profits! So now we need to show Bayer’s CEO that his toxic chemicals are tarnishing the Bayer brand and harming its business.”

Buyer Beware: Your Honey May Be Contaminated With Glyphosate

In related news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — which has been under pressure to test foods for the presence of glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen — recently revealed it found the toxic weed killer in samples of honey. Showing just how ubiquitous glyphosate has become, the testers were unable to locate a single sample of honey that did not contain it.

For example, Carmichael’s Honey, produced in Louisiana, contained 107 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate; Leighton’s Orange Blossom Honey from Florida had 22 ppb and Sue Bee Honey from Iowa contained 41 ppb. According to the Huffington Post:17

“All of the samples the FDA tested in a recent examination contained glyphosate residues, and some of the honey showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request …

Even ‘organic mountain honey’ contained low concentrations of glyphosate, the FDA documents show … In addition to honey, the records show government residue experts discussing glyphosate found in soybean and wheat samples … and the belief that there could be “a lot of violation for glyphosate”residues in U.S. crops.”

How to Create a Bee-Friendly Garden

To avoid harming bees and other helpful pollinators that visit your garden, swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives. Even some organic formulations can be harmful to beneficial insects, so be sure to vet your products carefully.

Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant an edible organic garden. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honeybee habitats. It’s also recommended to keep a small basin of fresh water in your garden or backyard, as bees actually do get thirsty.

In addition, you’ll want to grow your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic, untreated seeds. If you opt to purchase starter plants, make sure to ask whether or not they’ve been pre-treated with pesticides.
Keep in mind that you also help protect the welfare of all pollinators every time you shop organic and grass-fed, as you are actually “voting” for less pesticides and herbicides with every organic and pastured food and consumer product you buy.

The video above, from the Pesticide Research Institute (PRI), gives examples of 12 pollinator-friendly plants that are good sources of nectar and pollen to add to your garden.

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Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

Recipe From Linda Smith

If you’re looking for a new vegetable to enjoy, I recommend you try butternut squash. A member of the pumpkin family, it’s known for its creamy texture, nutty flavor and aroma, and mild sweetness. What makes squash great is that it is versatile. You can boil, sauté or, in the case of this recipe, roast it.

This recipe, submitted by my reader Linda Smith, is great for those who love to eat spicy food. It offers great health benefits that you may have been missing out on.


1 butternut squash

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. curry

Fresh thyme (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds.

3. Combine the coconut oil, red pepper flakes, salt, curry and thyme. Rub the mixture on the squash.

4. Place the sliced squash face up on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until soft. Scoop out the insides of the squash into a bowl and mix.

Note: If you have time, you can peel the squash and cut it into cubes to save time when cooking.

Why Should You Pay Attention to Butternut Squash Anyway?

One of the notable benefits of eating butternut squash is that it may help maintain regular blood pressure levels. A serving of butternut squash contains almost 500 milligrams of potassium, which may help counteract the effects of excessive sodium on your blood pressure. Maintaining normal blood pressure levels helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Butternut squash also contains an amazing 457 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A, possibly more than any other vegetable. This is a significant advantage for your health, as vitamin A can help promote good skin, vision and proper functioning of the mucous membranes, and may even lower your risk for lung and mouth cancers.

Another great thing about butternut squash is that it may help with reducing inflammation, thanks to its various antioxidants, like beta-cryptoxanthin. In a study conducted by the University of Manchester, researchers found that those who ate high amounts of beta-cryptoxanthin were only half as likely to develop arthritis over a seven- to 15-year period, compared to those who had a lower intake.

Red Pepper Flakes Put Some Heat Into This Dish

Red pepper flakes are made by crushing cayenne peppers. In the right amounts, they can add a subtle, warm quality to any dish. Be careful though, as adding too much red pepper flakes can make the dish very spicy, and you won’t be able to enjoy it at all.

If you’re scared of eating cayenne pepper because of its spiciness, you might want to change your mind. According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, cayenne pepper is one of the best anticancer foods you can eat.

The compound capsaicin is responsible for cayenne pepper’s cancer-fighting properties, as well as the source of its spicy flavor. In a study published by Cancer Research, capsaicin was found to be helpful in fighting against prostate cancer. The researchers have discovered that capsaicin binds to a cancer cell’s membranes, and in high enough doses, the capsaicin pulls the membrane apart, causing the cancer cell to commit suicide.

Cayenne pepper has also been found to help fight inflammation, reduce headache pain, lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, and assist in weight management. However, be mindful to consume cayenne pepper in moderation, as too much spicy food has been associated with an increased risk for stomach cancer.

Curry: A Blend of Nutritional Spices Loaded With Assorted Health Benefits

Curry, which forms the foundation of many staple dishes in Indian cuisine, usually contains a mixture of different spices. However, it’s perhaps best known for containing turmeric, a spice with an array of health benefits.

Most notably, turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, osteoarthritis patients were given 200 milligrams of curcumin a day. After three months, they experienced a notable decrease in pain and increased mobility.

Similar to cayenne pepper, turmeric is also known for its ability to help fight cancer. In one study, researchers noted that turmeric has the ability to inhibit the growth of triple-negative breast cancer cells. I recommend that you add turmeric to your recipes so you can get the benefits of this amazing anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting spice.

Add Thyme to Give Your Recipe an Aromatic Quality

No roasted recipe is complete without herbs, and thyme works great in this case. It helps add a slightly minty aroma to the dish that smells great once it’s done cooking.

Thyme is known for its powerful antibacterial properties that may help fight a variety of common bacteria and fungi, such as Staphylococcus aureus, E.coli and Shigella sonnei. It’s also a great complement to coconut oil, as the thymol found in thyme may help increase the presence of healthy fats throughout your cells and omega-3 content in your kidney, heart and brain cell membranes.

Throw in Some Coconut Oil for a Good Dose of Healthy Fats

I’ve written about the benefits of coconut oil before, and there’s no shortage of praise for this amazing product. For one, it’s a great source of high-quality healthy fats, most notably lauric acid. In fact, coconut oil contains the highest amount of lauric acid than any other food on Earth.

The benefits of lauric acid kick in once it becomes digested and converted into monolaurin. It’s been found that monolaurin may help with fighting ailments such as influenza, measles, protozoa and even HIV and herpes. Coconut oil may also promote heart health and healthy brain function, and may give your immune system a boost.

Despite having only a handful of ingredients, this recipe brings a plethora of health benefits that your body will surely love. If you’re not into spicy food, give this recipe a chance. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it!

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