herb bowl

Beyond Adaptogens: Using Amino Acids for Stress Relief

I love adaptogenic herbs. Ah, who am I kidding? I love all herbs. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwaganda or rhodiola can be extremely helpful for a woman who is too stressed out to properly take care of herself. Adaptogens are thoughtful little supplements. They bring balance to the body instead of acting in a specific way.

herb bowl

photo via unsplash by Micheile Henderson

Take maca, for instance. If your testosterone is low, maca can stimulate the body to gently raise testosterone. If your testosterone is high, maca will slowly lower it.

Personally, I have used all of the popular adaptogenic herbs. Ashwaganda. Holy Basil. Rhodiola. And they have worked for a bit, but my life didn’t change because of them. I noticed a slight lift perhaps, or a nearly imperceptible reduction in irritation. But nothing huge.

I’m kind of not into that. I love natural healing, but I want it to work. You know what I mean? This is why I have thousands of dollars in supplements hidden around my house from over the years. Since my job involves putting together effective supplement strategies for clients, I need to test protocols on myself first to make sure they are effectual. Most don’t work..

You know what does work? Amino acids.

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are organic compounds that join together to make proteins. When proteins are broken down by the body, amino acids are left over. These help build the body. Amino acids grow and repair and break down and absorb food. Aminos are life, dears. This is why my heart hurts for every woman who thinks she needs to be on a low protein diet to lose weight or get healthy.

Please don’t write me a hate post if you are thriving on a vegan diet. I am so happy for you! Every body is different and yours may love plants. Yay!

But for the women in my client demographic, protein is key. Animal protein, even. They come with PMS and Hashimoto’s and depression and anxiety and frigidity and anger and insomnia and lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and anger. And they are confused. And frustrated. And they just want to feel better.

So I encourage them to eat aminos in the form of meat. And they slowly start to feel better. Because their bodies are getting the raw materials to make estrogen and testosterone and cortisol and progesterone and melatonin and hair and skin and nails and lubrication and joy.

It is a pretty good trade off. Would you agree?

It is fairly well documented that stress can lead to the activation of autoimmune disease.

You already know the theory I ascribe to- that it is actually a viral load that is at the root of said autoimmune disease activation. Stress can actually “wake up” dormant virulent viruses like herpes. Lest you think this is simply a common cold sore, you would be mistaken. Different strains of herpes are responsible for both Epstein Barr and certain types of cancer.

Beware the stress, people. Beware the stress.

Amino acids are powerful tools when used therapeutically. L-lysine can inhibit cell lysis and prevent viruses like herpes from spreading. Super cool.

And GABA is an amino acid that can help you chill the f out. Even cooler.

Gammo-Amino Butyric Acid, or GABA, has activity similar to a neurotransmitter. It acts on the brain to slow down nervous system function. This leads to a more relaxed state.

Not everyone responds the same way to amino acids. I do in-office trials of GABA and 5-HTP and glutamine pretty regularly, and about 75% of my clients experience a noticeable and positive effect. The other 25% feel no change.

But GABA generally gets a good response, if I use it in the correct client. I can spot this client during the intake process in a few different ways:

chronic low blood sugar due to stress

unprovoked anxiety

heart palpitations



inability to tolerate exercise

easily catches colds

startles easily

upset or frustrated easily

muscular weakness


sugar cravings

neck pain



This client profile means that the poor dear is suffering from adrenal fatigue, or HPA axis dysfunction. This means that in order to keep the body performing its basic functions, like breathing and walking, many other vital nutrients are diverted from doing their normal jobs and forced to join in the effort to keep that body alive.

So estrogen production is slowed down and a normal period becomes a thing of the past.

Progesterone production is closeted for the time being and fertility becomes a problem.

Thyroid hormone is no longer synthesized at optimal levels and constipation sets in. You don’t notice that though, because your hair is falling out and you constantly feel bloated and fatigued.

So we must figure out a way to help the body deal with the stress that it is perceiving. For those who simply cannot find a way out of their stressful predicament, GABA will be a temporary fix to a problem that truly needs a more permanent solution.

Once upon a time, every woman with adrenal fatigue could handle her husband’s playful banter. She enjoyed working hard for a looming deadline. She could stay up late and work out hard and learn a new job easily.

photo via Unsplash by Dev Asangbam

But when stress comes into the picture and the body begins to shut down, she becomes irritable, overwhelmed, weepy, irrational, and “not herself”, as many women have said to me.

I know this because I have been there too. It is not fun.

American stress is different from other cultural stress. We willingly eat crappy food and push ourselves and our families too hard and shun healthy relationships to pursue independence and feel isolated and terrified and angry and confused.

I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that 1) stress in general is a result of the Fall and no life will be perfect, and 2) Christ’s finished atoning work for those who trust in Him as their Savior means that while this life often sucks, there is the promise of a better one to come and if this life were perfect, we would not realize how dependent we should be on Him.

I have to give realistic hope here. Our hope lies not in supplements and yoga.

However, there are practical and helpful steps you can take to help you feel more like “yourself”.

And GABA is one of those things. In order to tide you over until you are actually able to reduce stress in your life (clear infections, root out food intolerances, learn to say “no”, let go of your martyr/perfectionistic/controlling tendencies), GABA can help support your stress response.

Calming the HPA axis will allow your body to process standard, everyday stress better instead of allowing traffic or a slammed door make you want to cry, scream, or run away.

photo via Unsplash by img.ly

When I do a successful in-office trial with GABA, I give 125-150 mg of a sublingual GABA to a client who has stated that she struggles with anxiety or a myriad of other symptoms listed above. I note the time and her anxiety level. Thirty minutes later, I pause our Discovery session to ask her if there is any change in her anxiety.

Generally, she will say something like, “Well, yes, but I am getting more relaxed just sitting here and talking with you”. Or, “I was nervous before I came in but I don’t feel as nervous anymore. It could just be time.”

It could, but since there are women who don’t respond at all to GABA, I know that any change in mental state is generally due to GABA and not to my soothing clinical tendencies :).

To replicate a trial at home, simply order these:

Start with 1 (125mg) lozenge, dissolved under the tongueIf not, add a second lozenge. You may use up to three at a time

You may repeat this process 3-4x/ day. It can take a few days to a few weeks to fully realize the effects of the GABA, so be patient and persistent.

In the mean time, remove things that cause heightened anxiety- coffee, sugar, and alcohol. Work on getting in soothing exercise, like barefoot walking or yoga or Pilates or stretching. Or a sport. Soccer with the kids. A heavy bag in the garage.

Sleep well, too. If that is an issue for you, allow 2 GABA lozenges to dissolve under your tongue as you get into bed. Read a relaxing book or magazine for 10-15 minutes, and allow the GABA to lull you to sleep. Make sure you have eaten a protein snack before bed to balance out your blood sugar. This helps.

Get back to me with your success stories. I want to hear how GABA has helped you!

To your mental health,


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