Helping your brain sleep with GABA

 

GABA is one of the most important neurotransmitters in our brains. It’s vital for ensuring a healthy sleep schedule, for reducing anxiety, and for promoting well-being. Unfortunately, not everybody is able to produce enough GABA on their own, and this may be affecting their ability to get a good night’s rest. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to increase the amount of GABA available to the brain. This can be done through lifestyle changes and by taking supplements which we’ve outlined above.

To understand how GABA influences a person’s sleeping patterns, it’s important that you understand the standard cycle that the brain undergoes each night during sleep. The following is an overview of the different sleep stages.

Stage 1 is when you’re getting sleepy and are ready to drift off.

Stage 2 – Your brainwave activity quickens and follows a steadier rhythm. Your core temperature and heart rate decrease.

Stage 3 sees the emergence of deeper, slower brain waves. Here, you switch from light sleep to deep sleep.

Stage 4 is the deep sleep stage, also known as delta sleep. This is a vitally important stage because it’s where much of the highest-quality sleep occurs.

Stage 5 is the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage, where most dreams occur.
The third and fourth stage are arguably the most important. Stage three, the slow-wave sleep stage, is important because it reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, and simultaneously reduces inflammation. Both of these are important for improving your nightly sleep.

The fourth stage, deep sleep, is important because it helps your immune system grow stronger. In a similar manner that your brain commits things to memory, your immune system “memorizes” pathogens and viruses to memory during this phase. [2]

Your Brain on Sleep: What Happens to the Mind and Body During the 5 Stages of Your Sleep Cycle [Infographic]

Can Obesity be hiding, a major cause maybe sequestered in our small intestines and causing us to gain weight

Jared Oriel

One day, you might be able to eat microbes — yes, microbes — to help you lose weight.

That might sound like a headline you’d see in a health magazine from hell the future, but it’s a very real prediction — based on the many strange discoveries that scientists are now making about your microbes.

Your body is full of microorganisms, or bacteria, that make up what’s called your microbiome — the vast, invisible community of microbes found in your body, most of them in your intestines.

And while you can’t see these microbes, they dominate your body. Turns out, you actually have more microbes in your body than human cells — the average person has around 30 trillion human cells — and 40 trillion microbes. All together, they weigh around three pounds, or about as much as your brain.

These microbes have control over you in more ways than scientists used to think. In the last two decades, microbes have been found to affect how you respond to stress, help you digest food, and fight disease and infection. They’re linked to inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, asthma and memory loss. They can even determine if you’re a mosquito magnet.

And they seem to have a significant effect on your weight.

“We’re learning there’s a strong microbial component to obesity,” says Rob Knight, a microbial ecologist at UC San Diego in a TED Talk.

In fact, just by looking at the microbes in your gut, scientists can tell — with 90 percent accuracy — whether you’re lean or obese. Compare that to 60 percent accuracy if you go by DNA.

MORE: Watch how microbes define — and might even heal — us >>

“That means the microbes you carry around with you may be more important for some health conditions than every single gene in your genome,” says Knight.

But wait; it gets weirder.

In a series of studies, Knight took the microbes from obese mice, transplanted them into lean mice via a fecal transplant (yes, that’s a poop transplant) and found something rather astonishing: the lean mice got fatter.

“Why this happens is absolutely amazing,” he says. “The microbes are helping them digest food more efficiently, so they’re taking more energy from their food. Other times, the microbes are actually affecting their behavior, and they’re eating more than the normal mouse.”

MORE: Learn how microbes affect your body >>

Think about that for a minute: Bacteria can affect behavior. It’s a pretty incredible finding that suggests your microbes aren’t passive passengers at all; they may be driving the bus. (We’ll give you a minute to mourn whatever notions you had about free will and autonomy and such.)

But can this apply to humans?

When researchers took microbes from an obese person and transplanted them into mice, those mice become fatter than the ones that got microbes from a skinny person.

Microbes may even be able to help prevent weight gain.

“Remarkably, by isolating bacteria from lean people,” says Knight, “we could design a microbial community that prevented a mouse from gaining the weight it would normally gain when housed with an obese mouse and exposed to its new roommate’s microbes.”

But can microbes help us lose weight?

Many fad diets now promise to do that, but don’t be fooled. “We just don’t know enough about the ways in which particular microbes affect digestion and absorption to make a targeted intervention,” says Knight.

But he does think we’ll get there.

Someday, Knight says, scientists might be able to design a microbe “prescription” that could keep people slim.

In the meantime, start taking better care of your microbiome. After all, you’re only as healthy as your microbes are.

microbes
microbiome
Rob Knight
science