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Top 5 Tips for Boosting GABA

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By: Natalie Collier, MScN

GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. If GABA had a personality type it would be cool, calm and carefree. GABA has a calming influence on the brain and is considered our natural “Valium-like” neurotransmitter. Symptoms of low GABA levels can include panic attacks, anxiety, sleep disturbances and restlessness. Here are some simple strategies to support GABA production.

  1. Power of Zen: The practice of yoga and meditation have both been shown to have a positive influence on GABA levels. 
  1. Eat GABA: Foods do not contain GABA. GABA is produced in the brain from glutamic acid/glutamate. 

Vitamin B-6 is a required co-factor for GABA synthesis. B-6 along with glutamate decarboxylase help to catalyze glutamate in the production of GABA. Including foods rich in B-6 helps to support the production of GABA in the brain. Some good sources of B-6 include: spinach, garlic, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and bananas. For good measure, include a multivitamin with the active form of B-6. 

Other GABA producing foods and beverages containing glutamic acid and various other GABA promoting compounds include varieties of green, black or Oolong teas, lentils, berries, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, seaweed, noni fruits, potatoes, and tomatoes.

  1. Ferment your way to calm: GABA can also be synthesized in the gut by beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods will help to increase GABA levels. Include foods rich in probiotics such as fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, plain kefir and coconut water kefir. Also, add a multi-strain probiotic to help synthesize GABA in the gut to your regimen. Specific strains of bacteria including Lactobacillus rhamnosus have been shown to boost the role of GABA. Other GABA producing strains include Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus brevis and Lactococcus lactis. 
  1. Support for GABA: Certain supplements are known for their ability to support GABA production. Always let your Physician know about supplements you are adding to your regimen.
    • L-theanine is a relaxing amino acid that is naturally occurring in green tea. It has been shown to increase GABA levels.
    • Inositol is a vitamin-like substance naturally produced in the human body that gives GABA a boost.
    • Magnesium is an essential mineral often called the “miracle mineral” due to its relaxing effect on the body. Magnesium can help stimulate GABA-receptors. Supplementing with magnesium may help address symptoms of magnesium deficiency which include muscle cramps, tremors, irregular heartbeat, memory problems and anxiety.
    • Taurine is an amino acid found throughout the human body. Taurine has been found to activate GABA receptors and encourage the release of GABA.
    • Herbs such as passionflower and valerian root have been shown to increase GABA in studies. 
  1. Supplement with GABA: Supplementing with GABA may have a direct impact on anxiety, sleep cycle disturbances, restlessness and muscle tension. Supplement with the naturally occurring compound itself. GABA supplementation will promote a healthy sleep cycle and calming neurotransmitter production.
    • 4-Amino-3-Phenylbutric Acid is a GABA derivative that easily crosses the blood brain barrier and works to increase GABA levels.
    • Gamma-Amino Butyric acid is sold as a supplement, but it has been shown to have minimal ability to cross the blood brain barrier unless used in combination with Nitric Oxide stimulators to help GABA cross blood brain barrier.

Curious about how your GABA is holding up? My Brain Balance is a simple, at-home urine test that will measure GABA along with 6 other key neurotransmitters.