I had just gotten into bed after a long Saturday that saw me checking off a bunch of my Gotta-Do list when my phone started pinging. Message after message came in from a benzo buddy across the country. It was late his time, but clearly his excitement kept him from sleeping. “Read this!” he wrote. “Is this the cure for benzo withdrawal?” The link he sent propelled me down a rabbit hole of some very interesting findings.
Researchers have been studying how to minimize the damage of alcohol on GABA receptors. it’s been noted that an HDAC (histone deacetylase) inhibitor seems to protect and possibly upregulate damaged GABA receptors. At least in mice, that is. One drug, in particular, an antibiotic/antifungal drug with HDAC inhibiting properties, seemed to have the best efficacy. There was also an experiment done on mice regarding benzodiazepines, with the outcome stated, “… furthermore, understanding the role of HDAC inhibitors in benzodiazepines tolerance and the downregulation of GABAA subunit expression may uncover new therapeutic targets to prevent tolerance, dependence and/or withdrawal syndrome.” But before you get your hopes up that a cure for benzo withdrawal has been found, let’s first look at the obstacles, then move on to what’s more possible.
First, the experiments are being done on mice. Human’s aren’t mice. There is no way to know if we’d respond the same to the drug. Second, we don’t know if the drug comes with its own side effects or longterm damage. Third, the drug hasn’t been used on humans (some trials are being done, but the drug isn’t in widespread use). Those obstacles seem pretty insurmountable, and any promise of helping repair our damaged GABA receptors seems out of reach. But don’t despair. There is good news.
There are published reports of HDAC inhibitors found in…ready for this? Plants that we eat! Right now, your refrigerator and pantry probably have a few food items that are known to be HDAC inhibitors. For over a year now, I’ve been encouraging my clients to go whole-food plant-based. (I went WFPB over a year ago and the results have been amazing!)The health benefits are extraordinary: plants don’t create inflammation as animal protein does, and they don’t turn on the sympathetic nervous system response of fight or flight. You read that right. Eating eggs, dairy, or flesh, activates the sympathetic nervous system. No one in benzo withdrawal needs that! A whole-food plant-based diet has been proven to reverse heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, autoimmune disorders, even early-stage Alzheimers. It’s the most healthy diet anyone can eat. And now we have this wonderful new research that may (fingers crossed!) mean that eating a whole-food plant-based diet will help in some way to upregulate our GABA receptors.
Foods that have HDAC inhibiting properties are garlic, turmeric, onions, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, and a variety of fruit, to name a few. When we eat a whole-food plant-based diet (no cooking oils, nothing from an animal, minimally processed foods) we give our body what it needs in order to heal and possibly have the best chance to upregulate our damaged GABA receptors. I’ve been working on an anti-anxiety cookbook, The Gentle Kitchen, but now, with this new research, I will also include recipes that will be focused on helping with GABA repair.
I might add that after I went whole-food plant-based, a decades-long digestion problem righted itself. Nerve pain that would wake me from my deepest slumber completely disappeared. I gained more energy and stamina, my mind was much clearer, and I felt a lightness of being that is hard to describe, but was noticeable to my friends and family. They could tell something had changed for the better.
Along with the cookbook, I’m creating YouTube content for overcoming anxiety and how to prepare whole foods. It will launch in the next few weeks. I hope that you will follow along for some tips to helping your nervous system, and recipes for eating the foods that help, at least in theory, reboot your damaged GABA receptors.
Research links: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4210916/#!po=0.471698 (The Role of Dietary Histones Deacetylases (HDACs)inhibitors in Health and Disease
https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Histone+deacetylases+benzodiazepine+withdrawal&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3D3AmVlKEEKN4J (Histone Deacetylases Benzodiazepine Withdrawal)
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29520058/ (Histone Deacetylases mediate GABA A receptors expression, physiology, and behavioral maladaptations in rat models of alcohol dependence)