3 Amazing Benefits of GABA | Psychology Today – Michael J Breus Ph.D. – Posted Jan 03, 2019
GABA is both a chemical produced within the body and a supplement that’s made for ingestion.
Many medications interact with GABA and GABA receptors in the brain, altering their function to achieve certain effects, typically
- pain relief,
- stress and anxiety reduction,
- lower blood pressure, and
- improved sleep.
GABA supplements are often used to treat high blood pressure, stress and anxiety, and sleep, as well as to stimulate the body’s natural growth hormone, often by athletes.
How does GABA work?
I call GABA the brakes of the brain.
And I certainly need brakes on my hyperactive brain!
It is the body’s most important inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it lowers the activity of neural cells in the brain and central nervous system, having the effect of moving the brain and the body into lower gear.
GABA also plays an important role in regulating muscle tone.
In combination with glutamate, the body’s most important excitatory neurotransmitter, GABA is an important contributor to the body’s overall mental and physical homeostasis, or balance.
Low GABA activity in the body can result in:
- Chronic stress.
- Difficulty concentrating and memory problems.
- Muscle pain and headaches.
- Insomnia and other sleep problems.
Low GABA activity is also associated with substance use disorders.
scientists have not reached consensus about whether, or how effectively, supplemental GABA crosses what’s known as the blood-brain barrier
Below, I’ll discuss what science tells us today about the potential effectiveness of GABA supplements for sleep and other conditions
Benefits of GABA
The body’s own GABA activity is important for sleep. GABA enables the body and mind to relax and fall asleep, and to sleep soundly throughout the night.
Sleep medications including those with zolpidem (Ambien and others) and eszopiclone (Lunesta and others) target the body’s GABA system to increase sedation and sleep.
For stress and anxiety:
As a natural chemical the body produces, GABA’s primary role is to diminish the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which puts the body in a greater state of relaxation and alleviates stress and anxiety
some studies have shown GABA to be effective in lowering anxiety and boosting relaxation. One small study of 13 adults showed GABA to be effective as a relaxant and anxiety reliever, with slowed brain waves seen within an hour of taking the supplement.
For high blood pressure:
GABA supplements are sometimes used by people as a natural way to lower blood pressure.
In one study of people with borderline high blood pressure, 12 weeks of use of the supplement chlorella, a type of algae rich in GABA, significantly lowered blood pressure.
The following doses are based on amounts that have been investigated in scientific studies:
- For sleep, stress and anxiety: 100-200 mg and higher doses, in scientific studies. Individual dosing and length of use will vary.
- For high blood pressure: 10-20 mg, in scientific studies.
Possible side effects
GABA oral supplements are generally well tolerated by healthy adults. Some people may experience negative side effects, including:
- Gastric distress.
- Diminished appetite.
- Burning throat.
- Drowsiness and fatigue.
- Muscle weakness.
- Shortness of breath, at very high doses.
Below is a more recent article from a respected institution, also showing promise for GABA supplementation:
GABA is an important neurotransmitter and GABAergic drugs are crucial for a variety of conditions, but GABA supplements (including GABA tea) might just be useless.
– gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a major neurotransmitter that regulates much of our brain function. It was previously thought that ingested GABA could not cross the blood-brain barrier, but new research suggests that it may be able to.
– Drugs that mimic the action of GABA are numerous, work in a variety of ways, and can have effects ranging from treating epilepsy to causing it.
– GABA supplements have shown some promise in early, small-scale studies, but a lot more research is needed to know if they truly help.