Skip to content
Alcohol Withdrawal: The Seesaw Effect of Glutamate and GABA

Alcohol Withdrawal: The Seesaw Effect of Glutamate and GABA

When we attempt to quit booze, one of the biggest things that are almost unavoidable is the various symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Article At A Glance:

These often range from shakiness, sweating and loss of appetite to increased heart rate, shakes, insomnia and even seizures.

All of which are caused by an imbalance of two specific neurotransmitters known as Glutamate and Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). 

Chronic alcohol abuse creates what I like to call “The Seesaw Effect” of Glutamate and GABA, and the more alcohol is abused, the larger the sway.

But first.

What is Glutamate and GABA?

Glutamate and GABA are the main excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the body, think of them as yin and yang; we need both to create harmony.

Glutamate is the excitatory neurotransmitter, and often when we’re irritable, hyperactive or plagued with unexpected anxiety, high glutamate is the culprit.

On a positive note, we need adequate levels of glutamate for cognitive function, learning, and for overall motor function (which is pretty important).

GABA is our inhibitory neurotransmitter that does the opposite of glutamate, it creates calm, slows us down and helps us stop.

Without GABA, we can experience insomnia, have tense muscles, and our ability to think clearly can become severely hindered.

As you can see, both of these neurotransmitters are important, but balance is key towards reaping the benefits of both.

Want to learn more about the various neurotransmitters, including these two? Read my more comprehensive article on Substance Abuse and Neurotransmitters.

How Does Alcohol Impact These Levels?

When we drink alcohol, we tend to see a steep rise in GABA, which is commonly followed by relaxation and feel-good sensations.

This is partially the reason why people use alcohol as a way to “de-stress” because in some way, it creates that illusion.

When we wake up the next day, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed (which in my case, was a lot) we see the opposite happen.

As blood alcohol levels drop, we tend to see a spike in Glutamate, which can bring on alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as shakes, restlessness or anxiety.

When this process repeats from days of chronic drinking, we see greater seesaw effects in these levels, which results in more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

How Do We Restore Balance?

The first real step towards restoring the balance of Glutamate and GABA is getting sober.

I write a great article here on some new resolutions in starting this journey.

If we can first stop the seesaw effect, we can allow our body to have a more natural swing when it comes to balancing both these neurotransmitters.

If you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms from high glutamate levels, some options to help balance this faster are:

High glutamate levels tend to bring on alcohol cravings too, which is why these are listed as some of my top supplements for assisting with cravings.

The Takeaway

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are never pleasant, but if we continue to drink, they’re almost unavoidable.

The more we drink booze, the greater its effects on our Glutamate and GABA levels which results in symptoms that are more severe.

Luckily, we do have a choice to stop this swing and have supplements available to make this process and journey easier.

Clarity is here to help, so please use the resources we offer, and if you have any questions, do reach out.

Comments are closed.