3 Amazing Benefits Of Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)

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Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) emerged as a crucial therapeutic neurotransmitter, just over 50 years go – yet, its significance did not emerge until 16 years later. Researchers now know that 40% of all inhibitory synaptic processing utilizes GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it blocks certain signals, such as anxiety, stress, and fear to your brain and central nervous system. We’re going to discuss a few of the amazing benefits of GABA and how it can help you achieve better quality of life. 

GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which blocks or inhibits certain brain signals in your central nervous system. GABA inhibits excitatory neurons, promoting a sense of calmness, relaxation, and anxiolytic effects. When GABA receptors are activated, it also promotes sleep. Studies suggest that GABA can benefit and improve mood state, sleep quality, reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure.

Studies show that sleep inducing minerals and compounds, such as theanine, ashwagandha, valerian root, and magnesium have direct mechanisms through the stimulation of GABA. GABA significantly increases alpha waves and decreases beta waves, inducing relaxation and exhibiting anti-anxiety effects [R]. In order to derive better quality sleep, your mind and body must be in a relaxed and calm state.

A systematic review identified a large body of evidence, that shows GABA can improve sleep latency, sleep quality, sleep efficiency, wakening frequency, and sleep duration. Evidence suggests that the sleep stage-related benefits of GABA consumption could be associated with GABA’s stress reduction and anti-anxiety properties, rather than direct sleep inducing and/or maintaining benefits [R].

Increased stress has been linked to poor sleep quality, weakened immune system, and suboptimal quality of life. Studies have shown that GABA has anxiolytic effects and induces a natural calming effect from regulating alpha and beta brain waves. Electroencephalogram EEG assays have revealed that the significantly roles of Gaba in increasing alpha waves, decreasing beta waves, and enhancing IgA levels under stressful conditions. Essentially, this indicates that indicates that Gaba is able to induce relaxation, diminish anxiety, and enhance immunity under stressful conditions. Research suggests, that 100mg or more of GABA can significantly reduce stress markers and feelings of anxiety.

Given its role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, less stress and anxiety directly translate to an improved and more positive mood state. Certain mind-body practices can actually elevate GABA levels and improve positive mind-set. An interesting study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that practicing yoga may lead to higher GABA levels, thus and, leading to better mood, and less anxiety. This study compared people who exercised by walking to those who practiced yoga, suggesting that the yoga in particular—rather than exercise in general—improved mood [R].

Unlike many dietary supplements, GABA is not available in many food sources. Certain foods, such as fruit, vegetables, tea, and red win can have an impact on GABA modulation, yet the only foods that contain GABA are fermented ones such as kimchi, yogurt, miso, and tempeh [R].

Because of the lack of research, there is no specific clinical dose of GABA. However, efficacious doses used to produce sleep and anxiolytic benefits, range between 50-100mg per day.

More research is needed to determine potential side effects of GABA. However common anecdotal side effects include upset stomach, headache, sleepiness, and muscle weakness. Since GABA is a sleep aid, you should not operate heavy machinery after taking GABA. Always consult a healthcare professional or physician, when introducing or changing your supplement protocol.

References

Abdou AM, Higashiguchi S, Horie K, Kim M, Hatta H, Yokogoshi H. Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201-8. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520260305. PMID: 16971751.

Ngo, Dai-Hung, and Thanh Sang Vo. “An Updated Review on Pharmaceutical Properties of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,15 2678. 24 Jul. 2019, doi:10.3390/molecules24152678

Maskevich S, Cassanet A, Allen NB, Trinder J, Bei B. Sleep and stress in adolescents: the roles of pre-sleep arousal and coping during school and vacation. Sleep Med. 2020 Feb;66:130-138. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2019.10.006. Epub 2019 Nov 2. PMID: 31877504.

Abdou A.M., Higashiguchi S., Horie K., Kim M., Hatta H., Yokogoshi H. Relaxation and immunity enhancement effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. BioFactors. 2006;26:201–208. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520260305. [PubMed] [CrossRef[Google Scholar]

Bowery NG, Smart TG. GABA and glycine as neurotransmitters: a brief history. Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Jan;147 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S109-19. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0706443. PMID: 16402094; PMCID: PMC1760744.

Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS studyJ Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(11):1145-52. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007

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