What is GABA? Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a amino acid neurotransmitter which is a chemical that carries information from one cell to another cell. GABA is largely produced naturally throughout the human body but we can also get it through specific food groups, supplements and lifestyle changes. When our GABA levels are low it can have serious effects on our emotions, energy levels and overall quality of life. When taking things like GABA supplements, eating GABA rich foods or naturally increasing our GABA levels through things like meditation and yoga it can help reduce levels of anxiety, mental health issues and sleep issues. Our GABA receptor and GABA neurotransmitter are vitally important maintaining a stress free healthily way of life.
Health Benefits of GABA
When our GABA levels are low it can have quite the negative effect on the body and mind, possibly leading to more serious long-term issues. Having the correct amount of GABA levels benefits everything from mood, sleep and focus making it a vital element of a healthy lifestyle.
GABA helps with Sleep
Our natural levels of GABA help both the body and mind feel relaxed, feel more restful and get a better night sleep. When our GABA levels are low we are more prone to suffer from insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns. Studies have found that those who suffer from insomnia typically have 30% lower levels of GABA and when those GABA levels are low it directly equals a more restless and wakeful sleep. Sleep medications such as Ambien and Lunesta specifically target the body’s GABA receptors to induce a longer and more restful sleep, however it has been noted that these medications can possibly alter GABA activity and have long term negative side-effects.
GABA and Anxiety
When our body produces the natural chemical GABA its main objective is to reduce the activity of neurons in both our central nervous system and the brain. When our body produces the correct amount of GABA it helps put our body into a greater state of relaxation and helps reduce stress and anxiety levels. Many who have researched the topic of GABA benefits have noted that it can help regulate stress and anxiety due to its success when added to anxiety medications such a Libirum and Valium. When taking these medications they attach the neuronal receptors as GABA, which in theory means that the medications can help GABA the neuron activity further which results in a calming effect.
However ingesting GABA through an oral supplement is still questioned by researchers due to the lack of clinical trials, specifically highlighting that it is unknown if when taking a GABA supplement it can reach the brain through the blood brain barrier. As it sits right now natural GABA within our body can reduce stress and anxiety but taking it through a supplement form needs more clinical research to come to a conclusive answer.
GABA and Mental Focus
Research has shown that taking GABA can help increase mental stimulation in turn helping concentration levels while also helping reduce both mental and physical fatigue that can impair mental concentration. Studies have shown that those suffering from mental fatigue that were given between 25-50 mg of GABA through a liquid form saw a great improvement in concentration levels. The research shows that physical fatigue and mental fatigue were seriously reduced, with a specific indication in healthier cortisol levels.
GABA for Better Blood Pressure
Early research has indicated that GABA can help increase healthy blood pressure. Although studies are at a premature stage it has shown that GABA can potentially help blood vessels dilate which in turn helps promote a healthier blood pressure level.
How To Maintain Healthy GABA Levels
As we age it is natural that certain elements of our body and mind begin to decline, it is no different with the levels of GABA in our bodies. But with the right supplementation, diet and healthy lifestyle, we can maintain high levels of GABA to keep our body in a healthy state. Below we have listed a series of ways to maintain and enhance GABA levels in the body.
Take GABA Supplements
Using supplements is a great way to increase deficiencies within the body and GABA supplements are no different. A commonly known naturally sourced supplement for GABA is PharmaGABA which is created using the fermentation process, specifically using the same bacteria used when making kimchi. The reason for this is to help the GABA break through the blood brain barrier, but sometimes another pathway needs to be taken and when adding in healthy bacteria it can impact the gut microbiome which can ultimately increase the GABA levels in our body.
GABA Rich Diet
It should be a no brainer that we are more healthy when we take care of ourselves and maintain a healthy diet. When we don’t maintain our diet it can directly affect the GABA levels in our body. When we have a bad diet inflammation can become a real problem, when our inflammation is high it can strain our body which limits our body from producing GABA. When inflammation starts to creep in, our body uses physiologic energy to help fight the inflammation, which in turn means that energy and resources become depleted taking away from important brain functions.
Making sure we eat the right foods is also vital to maintaining health GABA levels, when we eat things like processed foods it has a negative impact on our body causing it to work harder therefore taking away from creating GABA. When we eat better foods that are nutrient-rich our body can process that food much easier. There are also some foods that can help increase GABA levels such:
- Fish and shellfish.
- Beans and lentils.
- Sprouted whole grains (especially brown rice)
- Teas such as (white tea, oolong tea, green tea, and black tea.)
Exercise and Meditation
When we exercise or meditate it helps our body exert unwanted stress energy and allows us to relax. When we relax through tension release activities we help relieve the nervous system through increasing GABA, reducing glutamate ,increasing serotonin, increasing dopamine and other important neurotransmitters. Studies focused on GABA have shown that doing meditation and yoga can help temporary increase GABA levels within the body and that it can provide a significant in our cortical silent period which is when our neuron activity is reduced in the brain which is ultimately caused by an increase in GABA.
Magnesium has always been a great candidate for helping calm nerves and it is no different when it comes to aiding low GABA levels. Magnesium can specifically target the side effects associated with low-GABA levels such as lack of sleep and stress largely due to the fact that magnesium binds to GABA receptors and helps boost GABA within our body.
GABA Side Effects
Taking steps to increase GABA levels through lifestyle changes and diet are the safest and most efficient ways to achieve the benefits of having normal GABA levels. If you are going to take a GABA supplement it is recommended you take a pharmaGABA which is recognized as a safe choice. To avoid any serious GABA side effect It is not recommended to take if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or for children under 6 years old.
If you do end up taking GABA supplements the recommended GABA dosage is between 100 mg and 200 mg per day, this is the typical GABA dosage recommended by most manufacturers. It should be noted however that you should consult with your doctor before taking any GABA supplements.