GABA, short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter found in the human brain. In other words, it’s a naturally produced substance that signals to the brain and body when it’s time to calm down.
GABA Synthesis in the Brain
GABA is synthesized from an excitatory neurotransmitter called glutamate. Interestingly enough, glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter found in the brain and nervous system. When not enough glutamate gets synthesized into GABA, it causes an imbalance that can leave people struggling with diverse symptoms.
In excess, glutamate can cause brain fog, insomnia, anxiety, and a multitude of other cognitive issues. Restoring glutamate and GABA levels to a more balanced state can help people struggling with these and other problems to find relief.
The Benefits of Supplementing GABA
Because of the essential role that it plays in inhibiting excessive neuronal activity in the central nervous system, an abnormally low GABA level can cause many life-disrupting symptoms. For those who don’t produce sufficient amounts of GABA endogenously, supplements can help to achieve balance and alleviate worrisome symptoms. The benefits of taking GABA supplements can include the following.
GABA is one of the key neurotransmitters behind the processes of both falling and stay ting asleep, which is why abnormally low levels can cause insomnia. Participants in one clinical trial were given 100 milligrams of a natural GABA supplement each night and found that their sleep quality improved after just one week.
When levels of GABA in the brain are low, the excitatory effects of glutamine can create feelings of stress and anxiety. Supplementing GABA can have a calming effect, reducing the symptoms of both generalized and specific anxieties.
Balancing out GABA and glutamine levels in the brain can also improve focus. More specifically, it helps people perform taxing mental tasks that require high levels of concentration by relieving feelings of psychological fatigue that typically impair the ability to concentrate.
Healthy Blood Pressure
Some researchers believe that GABA supplementation may help people with high blood pressure. More studies are needed to understand how effective it will be, but the current theory is that GABA could be promoting healthy blood vessel dilation, which, in turn, improves blood pressure.
Ways to Boost GABA Levels
There are many pharmacological solutions for boosting GABA levels, but most of them produce unwanted side effects, and all require a prescription. Thankfully, taking pharmaceutical drugs is not the only way to boost GABA levels in the brain. In fact, the most effective way to achieve healthy GABA and glutamate levels is to determine and address the underlying cause of the neurotransmitter imbalance. This can be accomplished by:
- Eating GABA-promoting foods.
Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and junk food.
Increasing exercise levels.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness.
Trying herbal supplements.
For some people, most notably older adults affected by the natural decrease in GABA levels that occurs over time, lifestyle and diet changes aren’t enough. When that’s the case, trying a natural GABA supplement can also be helpful.
Keep GABA in Balance for Better Mood and Mental Health
Supplementing GABA will not necessarily benefit people who are not already deficient in this key neurotransmitter. However, increasing the intake of GABA-containing foods or trying natural supplements should not be harmful to otherwise healthy people. Just keep in mind that some pharmaceutical drugs also alter the concentrations of GABA in the brain and nervous system, so people who are taking medications should speak with their doctors before taking the supplement.