What Is GABA?
Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (GABA) works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter of our Brain and is a naturally occurring amino acid. It blocks impulses between nerve cells of the brain and decreases nervous system activity. GABA generates a calming effect by binding itself to a protein in our Brain called the GABA receptor. Our Brain produces GABA for sleep, restlessness, anxiety, stress, and more. It fabricates a feeling of tranquility and ease.
What happens when GABA is low?
Gaba is produced in the brain cells from glutamate. If due to dysfunction or illness, the brain stops producing GABA, nerve cells would pass impulses rapidly and wouldn’t know when to stop. This will lead to anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, panic attacks, Parkinson’s syndrome, seizure disorders, addiction, headaches, mood disorders, and various other conditions.
GABA is important for our body and mind as it modulates the balance for calmness. In case GABA produced by the brain becomes insufficient, various supplements are available in the market that can help.
Do GABA supplements actually work?
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a network of blood vessels and tissues, made up of cells that are tightly connected at junctions. It filters what goes to the brain. Its main job is to protect the brain from toxins and ion abnormalities that somehow manage to reach vascular space.
BBB keeps the brain safe from harmful substances. But it also denies passage to other important substances that might be beneficial for the brain like – medicinal drugs taken for the treatment of central nervous system disorder.
Hence, the passage of GABA to the brain as an external supplement becomes very difficult because of BBB. Initially, studies suggested that BBB doesn’t allow GABA to go through at all. Several studies since then showed that very little amount of GABA does manage to pass through and reach the brain.
To prove this, a study was conducted on epileptic patients. They were administered to high doses of GABA and as a result, a reduction in seizures was reported.
Can we use GABA for sleep?
GABA is known to have a positive effect on sleep disorders. GABA, when needed, boosts Brain alpha waves which increases calmness and relaxation while decreasing brain beta waves that are associated with nervousness and anxiety. Our Brain produces GABA for sleep and for reducing mental stress. It soothes the mind and elevates the sense of calm and peace.
Problems like overthinking, tension, sleep deprivation, and anxiousness are often associated with low levels of GABA. To cope with its deficiency, supplements are available in the market. As known, GABA supplements cross BBB in little amounts but despite that, they have an intense calming effect on our peripheral nervous system and help in improving sleeping habits.
Ways to naturally increase GABA?
• Food – Various foods are rich in GABA and can be taken as a natural stimulator of its production – Fish, mushrooms, broccoli, meat, cheese, soybeans, spinach, bananas, seaweed, green and black tea, Brussel sprouts, Noni fruit, potatoes, tomatoes, berries, cocoa, beans, walnuts, lentils, garlic, etc.
• Herbs – Certain herbs can activate GABA receptors and assist with its production – Kava – known for containing GABA activating compounds called kavalactones. Lemon balm – increases levels of GABA for sleep, anxiety, and stress. Improves overall mood. Magnolia bark – has GABA boosting abilities and induces calmness. Valerian – has high relaxing and stress relieving properties. Helps stimulate the production of GABA for sleep and calm. Ashwagandha – is known for activating GABA receptors in the brain. Passionflower – it contains GABA and even assists with its natural production in the brain.
• Meditation – Yoga or other meditative movements have a scientifically confirmed positive effect on the production of GABA for sleep, anxiety, tension, and other disorders in our Brain. People who constantly perform meditation have low levels of stress and increased calmness.
• Exercise – With regular exercise, one can stimulate GABA formation in the brain. For best results, it is important to stick to one particular type of exercise while maintaining consistency.
By increasing your intake of GABA naturally or through supplements, you can improve your sleep quality and relax your body and mind while easing out anxiety and stress.