You may have never heard of Gamma-Amino Butyric acid…
But- this tiny brain chemical has the power to rule over your mood and more. Gamma-Amino Butyric acid, or GABA for short, is a neurotransmitter that research has shown can help promote relaxation. In fact, for many people suffering from anxiety and depression, GABA production maybe key to helping reduce these symptoms.
Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers in the body, sending signals to communicate between neurons. GABA’s role is to signal the body to calm down. When you have anxiety your brain activity increases, and becomes over excited. GABA relaxes these hyper neurons, creating a soothing effect.
Sometimes your body’s natural GABA production can be compromised, or can malfunction. Abnormal GABA function can contribute to a plethora of unwanted symptoms including depression, anxiety and disordered sleep. Fortunately, there is are ways we can naturally support the body’s GABA production, that in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, may help to alleviate some of these problems.
The Benefits of GABA
Help Improve Your Mood: Anxiety and Depression
GABA’s main function is to calm down nerve excitability. This in turn can help reduce feelings of anxiety and fear. Many anxiety disorders have been associated with lower levels of GABA in the brain. In addition to its role in anxiety and stress, GABA also has a key part in depression. Research has found that people with depression tend to have low GABA production and levels compared to those without depression.
Help Improves Your Sleep: Quality and Duration
GABA’s calming and sedative effects have shown to be a viable treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia. A recent study found that taking GABA helped individuals fall asleep quicker by about an average of five minutes. Research has also shows that patients who suffer from insomnia have an average brain GABA level nearly 30% lower then patients who do not have disordered sleep. Not only can GABA help you to fall asleep quicker, it also may help improve quality of sleep and increase REM sleep time.
Acts as a Natural Pain Reliever: PMS and Chronic Pain
Ladies out there know that PMS can really throw your body into chaos. Symptoms of PMS include cramps, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, food cravings and more. GABA production and levels are disrupted by menstruation and research has found that GABA may help to mitigate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome including cramps.
GABA may also impact chronic pain, especially nerve pain. When nerves become overstimulated they can cause discomfort and pain. GABA calms nerve receptors making them less reactive to stimuli.
Helps to Decrease Inflammation:Chronic Inflammation and Rheumatoid Arthritis
In addition to its important role as a neurotransmitter, GABA is also provides the body with built-in anti-inflammatory. Research has shown that GABA may reduce inflammation, especially when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis. Conversely deficient GABA production and function may contribute to uncontrolled inflammation.
Helps to Improve Brain Function: Focus and Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
Impulsivity, hyperactivity and problems focusing are all symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. This study shows that reduced levels of GABA have been found in individuals with ADHD and were associated with more impulsivity and less inhibition. GABA may be able to help individuals who have issues with concentration, and with low control over impulsivity.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is a protein that helps the growth and function of neurons. Low BDNF is associated with impaired memory and Alzheimer’s disease. Normal GABA levels are important because they can increase BDNF, which could possible help improve memory.
So what can you do to help increase GABA levels. There are herbs and supplements that may work to increase the activation of GABA receptors. Here are a few of our favorites!
- Valerian root
- Lemon Balm
Foods That Contain GABA
You don’t need to rely solely on supplements to increase GABA. GABA-rich foods in your diet can also help promote healthy GABA levels. The top food sources for GABA include:
- Brown Rice Germ
- Sprouted Grains
- Spinach and Kale
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Sweet Potatoes and Yams