Calm Down to Focus: GABA to the rescue!

Do you have days that you just cannot focus?  Do you feel scattered and wonder if you have a bad case of ADD?  You have so much to do yet you cannot seem to concentrate on anything??

I can relate!  And it is the worst feeling. And what makes it even worse is that you get more stressed as time ticks away and you are not getting done what you need to do!

To the rescue: GABA! I LOVE the supplement GABA.  I sometimes take it at night to slow down my busy brain and get to sleep.  In the day time, I usually go for more energizing nutrients to “charge my brain”, like B vitamins, a few cacao nibs, and even a little caffeine from green tea.  And these often do the trick!

But the other day, feeling overwhelmed, scattered and unable to focus, my “charge the brain” supplements were not the right fit!  What I needed was a calming agent (but not too calming) that helped me focus at the same time. Ah, yes, my GABA supplement.  Introducing one of my all time favorite products: Stress Arrest!  Stress Arrest contains both GABA and glycine.

What is GABA?  Gamma-Aminobutyric acid is an amino acid and is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It plays the principal role in reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. Glycine is also an amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, especially in the spinal cord, brainstem, and retina. So we are talking calming here…not excitatory!

Wow!  I took one Stress Arrest and 15 minutes later I felt calm and focused!  I was able to easily finish my project that just 15 minutes earlier I could not handle.  And not only was I able to finish that project, but I quickly finished another one that was on my plate!

I don’t believe in magic bullet drugs or supplements.  But my Stress Arrest is now my “go to” when I feel overwhelmed, scattered, and can’t focus.  And yes, this does happen even on days that I do morning meditation or yoga!  🙂

Please note: GABA is contraindicated with certain medications, most notably anti-epileptic drugs.  Consult your physician before taking GABA if you are on a medication.

Part II: Brain Boosters!

As I mentioned in Part I of this blog series on brain health, you certainly cannot separate the brain from the rest of your body! Adequate sleep, blood sugar control, exercise, eating nutrient dense foods, managing stress levels, and staying away from excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol all positively impact your brain health. And the health of your gut also plays a big role in your brain health! I emphasize this again because we often forget to start with the basics, which more often than not make a dramatic difference!

Assuming that you have the basics down, and are still looking for additional brain power, let’s start with your brain’s massive requirement for energy! Mitochondria are often called the powerhouses in our cells that generate energy. Unfortunately, mitochondria are very susceptible to oxidative stress caused by poor diet, lifestyle, and toxins of all types. This oxidative stress can cause inflammation, including neuro-inflammation, which produces an unstable environment in our brains.

How do we support mitochondrial metabolism so that our brain feels energized? The B vitamins are closely involved in overall brain health. In fact, low levels of Vitamin B1 can result in poor concentration and attention. B1 is essential for energy production in the brain. Deficiencies of Vitamins B5 and B6 may lead to poor memory and increased feelings of stress. It is well known that B12 deficiency leads to impaired mental function and even depression. Most of the B vitamins are found in vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts/seeds. B12 is found in liver, meat, fish, and dairy. Supplementing with a B vitamin complex can be extremely helpful, especially if you are under a lot of stress like studying for finals, completing a major work project, or making a major life transition.

The brain is partly composed of billions of nerve cells, known as neurons. Neurons allow the brain to communicate within itself and throughout the rest of the nervous system. Messages, called neurotransmitters, are passed back and forth. Neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, which often must be derived directly from the diet. For example, the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in feelings of contentment, is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Adrenaline and dopamine, neurotransmitters that are involved in helping us feel motivated, are made from phenylalanine. Acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter, is very involved in memory and cognitive function. And guess what, B vitamins are very important in the process that converts amino acids to neurotransmitters. In fact, B6 is involved in the manufacture of all amino acid neurotransmitters! Vitamin C and Magnesium are also involved in helping amino acids convert to neurotransmitters. I personally take Magnesium and Vitamin C supplementation on a daily basis. It is important to note that magnesium and Vitamin C are easily depleted by stress!

And what about Omega 3 essential fatty acids? A large percent of the fat in our brain is made from the essential fatty acids. They are termed essential as they cannot be made within the body, so must be derived directly from the diet. Each fatty acid performs vital functions in the structuring of brain cells, ensuring that smooth communication is possible within the brain. DHA, one of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids, is an important component of neuronal cell membranes. DHA promotes optimal brain formation and function, vision and psychomotor development in infants. This is why it is a natural component of breast milk! DHA may also improve adult brain function, by improving brain ATP production and mental task performance. The Omega 3’s, including DHA, are found in higher amounts in fatty fish like salmon and halibut. If you are not a fish eater, consider a DHA supplement to give you a brain boost for a specific time period.

One of my favorite brain nutrients is Acetyl-L-Carnitine.  It is one of the most extensively researched brain nutrients with a proven ability to enhance mental energy. Specifically, acetyl-l-carnitine energizes the brain, increases levels of neurotransmitter chemicals needed for memory and focus, and repairs damage done to brain cells by stress and poor nutrition.If you are experiencing mental fatigue or short attention span, acetyl l-carnitine may be very helpful for you.

I referred to neuro-inflammation earlier in this post. Antioxidants are very important to combat inflammation. You can find antioxidants in large quantities in fruits and vegetables. Spices are also a good source of antioxidants. Curcumin is one of my favorites, found in the Indian spice turmeric. It has been shown to tame neuro inflammation, thus having a protective effect on the brain. Tumeric is a fun spice to experiment with in cooking your meals. You can also take it in supplemental form.

Here’s to optimal brain health!!


Boost Brain Power without Adderall

Several months ago, while driving to a meeting, I was listening to a NPR radio segment about college students and their off label use of the prescription drug Adderall, also known as Addy. This medication is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), on the premise that it may help to increase ability to pay attention, concentrate, and stop fidgeting.

Adderall is a combination of stimulants (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and is thought to work by restoring the balance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Dosage is based on the recipient’s medical condition and response to treatment.

According to, this medication may cause withdrawal reactions, especially if it has been used regularly for a long time or in high doses. Withdrawal symptoms include severe tiredness, sleep problems, and mental/mood changes such as depression. Adderall, in rare cases, may cause addiction. Symptoms while taking Adderall include loss of appetite, weight loss, dry mouth, stomach upset/pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, fever, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. It can also raise your blood pressure. Not a pleasant list of side effects!

Adderall has been adopted as a cognitive enhancer at college campuses. Students who want to perform better, get better grades, and also have a social life during their college years can get Addy from their friends or buy it very easily on college campuses. The New Yorker published an article back in 2009 that reported that anywhere from 4.1 % to 25% of American undergraduates had taken prescription stimulants for off-label use.

And of course, stimulant drugs like Adderall have also made their way into competitive work environments where crazy long hours are encouraged. The pressure to use these off label stimulants is high in certain environments. What does one do to stay competitive without Addy? How do you support your brain without the use of prescription drugs?

I have a complete fascination with the brain and how it works. There are days when my brain feels like it is powering on all cylinders and days when it feels foggy. Since there is so much we can do to support our brain, this will be a two part article!

Before I even start with how to support the brain, it is important to note that the brain requires a HUGE amount of energy (as much as your muscles and much more than your heart). One of the top things you can do to support your brain is to get enough sleep. This may be six to seven hours for some people and eight to nine hours for others. Study after study shows improved memory and focus after a good night’s sleep. Although college students and people at very competitive work environments will argue that they cannot possibly get that much sleep due to their work load, one needs to look at how sleep might reduce the amount of hours needed to complete papers or a big project. If a person makes it a priority to get seven hours of sleep per night, they will most likely be more productive in the fewer hours that they are awake, make better decisions and prioritize more effectively, and make less mistakes. Ariana Huffington wrote about this in her book Thrive and studies have certainly demonstrated that people who work less hours are more productive in the hours that they do work. Having problems sleeping? Think about not drinking caffeine after 2:00 pm!

Stay hydrated with water. Even mild dehydration slows down your body’s metabolism, and this includes your brain! Even though it might be useful once in awhile to separate your brain from the rest of your body, it just isn’t going to happen!

Supply your body with the building blocks it needs to support the brain, such as animo acids from protein, slow release carbs to supply glucose, and good fats like the Omega 3 essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation. What does this look like in your diet? Make an attempt to get some protein in each meal; this will help regulate blood sugar levels so you don’t get that crash and burn feeling two hours after you eat. Make it easy and start your day with a quick protein smoothie (recipe below). Avoid the carbs that raise your blood sugar quickly (like bagels, pastries, and candy) and then cause a subsequent crash in your brain energy. Instead, get your carbs from whole fruits, starchy veggies like sweet potatoes or beets, or a higher protein grain like quinoa. (By the way, quinoa is botanically a seed).

Load up on antioxidant rich foods! Oxidative stress in the brain causes an unstable environment! Who wants that when trying to write a paper or meet a work deadline! In fact, I recently learned that oxidative stress and neuro inflammation = new definition of depression. While studying or working late hours, snack on blueberries, a couple squares of 70% or higher chocolate, or a big handful of almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Or blend up a quick protein smoothie with antioxidant rich berries and greens. Or how about a cup of decaffeinated black or green tea, also loaded with antioxidants? Just be sure not to add sugar!

I learned from Brendon Burchard to get up and move around every 45 to 60 minutes to keep focused and on task. Jump up and down, do a few push ups, whatever works for you. This really does make a difference!

In Part II, I will review specific nutrients that you can take to support your brain that you don’t have to buy on the black market!

The Energy Cycle: How to Get Back Your Get-Up-And-Go: Part 3—Stress and Fatigue

In part 1 and 2 of this blog series, I’ve dealt with “Processed Foods, Food Sensitivities and Food Allergies” and “Caffeine and Sleep Quality.” While these are important considerations when it comes to what causes you to lose your get-up-and-go, you can’t forget how stress is sapping your energy every day.

Chronic stress, like dealing with commute traffic and being over-scheduled, certainly rob you of your vital energy day-in and day-out. You’re just not designed to be in a chronic stress state24/7.

Additionally, chronic stress taxes your little adrenal glands over time. The reason? Those are the glands that secrete your stress hormones, certain sex hormones and help manage blood sugar.

Being chronically stressed also sets you up for too much time in the “sympathetic” state, and not enough time in the “parasympathetic” state.  When it comes to the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, it’s all about balance. The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often termed the fight-or-flight response, increases heart rate, makes pupils dilate, and inhibits digestion.  The parasympathetic state slows down the heart rate, stimulates digestion, and stimulates good liver and kidney function, among other things.

So you can see that if you are in the sympathetic state way too often, your ability to digest and absorb nutrients from your foods, your liver’s ability to detoxify harmful substances, and restoration in general will be greatly affected.

But these are only some of the concerns robbing you of your energy. To discover how toxins and preservatives, fat storage, exercise, and endocrine imbalances affect energy, continue reading this 7-part blog post series, “The Energy Cycle: How to Get Back Your Get-Up-And-Go.”

And to help get back your get-up-and-go, you can start with a three week cleanse program. It can immediately help detoxify harmful substances from your body and help stimulate good liver and kidney function.

To learn more about how the 3-week cleanse can help you, CLICK HERE!

Breathe, it’s okay!

Welcome to my blog! Thanks for joining me!

My intention for this ongoing communication is:

  • To educate you about how specific foods, nutrients, and lifestyle changes can really impact the way you feel on a daily basis
  • Create a conversation about how to make diet and lifestyle changes, whether big or small, when you have a completely hectic schedule!
  • And to learn YOUR biggest challenges and how I can help you

Do you ever get stressed out or overwhelmed by trying so hard to stay in balance? How do we stay “balanced” in this crazy, busy world? I am often perplexed by this question. It seems that whenever I get a sense of balance going, something comes along to upset it! How do we balance work, eating well, exercising, sleep, taking time for yoga or meditation or any type of spiritual practice that relaxes and nourishes us, spending time with loved ones, having fun, and keeping up on personal appointments, and all of our other obligations?

Personally, I have found that at the beginning of every week I need to re-adjust, figure out what is most important to me that week, and then do my best to be okay with letting something else go. Of course, certain activities like work, sleep, and spending time with my boyfriend are pretty constant! And because I have discovered over the years what a profound effect eating well and exercise have on my overall mood and body, I make it a priority to spend time on Sunday preparing food for the week ahead (sometimes a quick stop to Whole Foods suffices!) and I do schedule in my exercise on my calendar as appointments!

This week I decided that my yoga class (my time to focus inward and de-stress) is going to have to take a back seat to a haircut that I desperately need! I will miss my yoga class, but I will also be very happy after I get my hair cut. And I will go to yoga next week. Hmmm, when am I going to fit in that oil change? Breathe, it’s okay!

What did you choose this week and what did you let go?