GABA is a popular supplement that not many people understand. And yet it’s absolutely essential for good sleep as well as stress and anxiety management. GABA hasn’t received as much scientific attention as supplements with similar actions like melatonin. But if you’re struggling with mood swings, sleeping problems, or general poor health, then you need to know about GABA and whether you should be using it.
GABA, also known as gamma-amino butyric acid, is an amino acid that has several important functions in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter (NT) that helps the brain cells communicate and also calms the brain. GAGA directly reduces the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system. And when your mind is relaxed, your body relaxes as well, which is why it’s important that you learn about GABA if you’re under stress.
Some of the effects that GABA can have include:
GABA is particularly important if you’re stressed. The body has many regulatory pathways that respond to stressful triggers. One of these responses is the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS is a part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls your “fight or flight” response as well as the “rest and digest” response, in appropriate situations. Each of these responses is controlled by a branch of the autonomic nervous system. “Rest and digest” is directed by the parasympathetic nervous system, and “fight or flight” is directed by the sympathetic nervous system.
The “fight or flight” response was beneficial evolutionarily because it stimulated the body so it could respond effectively to danger. It does this using the NTs epinephrine and norepinephrine. These control the stress response, increasing your heart rate and breathing rate, and activating systems that make energy available for you to escape or fight off a threat.
These days the sympathetic nervous system might be triggered on your commute to work, after a fight with a co-worker or partner, or another event that leaves you angry and stressed. This shows the importance of the systems that counteract this stress response. This is where GABA comes in. GABA works to relax your body and has the opposite effects to epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Activation of the sympathetic nervous system leaves you feeling anxiety, fear, restlessness and the inability to fall asleep because of racing thoughts and “what if’s”. When active and functioning correctly, GABA is then released to deactivate or inhibit these effects. GABA is referred to as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, because it temporarily turns these functions of the brain off. This is one of the most important functions you need to know about GABA.
Some signs that you might have low GABA levels include:
GABA deficiencies aren’t well understood, but when you learn about GABA, you will realize that there are several important benefits to ensuring that your levels are adequate. These include:
What about GABA and sleep? Well, on top of helping reduce anxiousness in the body, GABA is also great for sleep. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that allows you to relax. It also increases slow-wave sleep by reducing the firing rate of neurons found in the posterior hypothalamus. By doing so, it enables deeper sleep. This effect also helps GABA rebalance the biological rhythm and sleep-wake cycle.
In fact, studies have found that GABA levels can be up to 30 percent lower in insomniacs. So, if you suffer from sleeping problems, then talk to your doctor about GABA.
By reducing the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, GABA helps promote relaxation and alleviates stress and anxiety. There is some argument about whether this benefit is the same when it comes to supplementation, as there is little evidence that supplemented GABA actually reaches the brain. However, it will still work to encourage relaxation and anxiety relief throughout the body.
GABA may also help to lower blood pressure by calming the excitation of the nervous system and promoting feelings of calm and relaxation. It may also help alleviate sleeping disorders, which can also increase your blood pressure. This makes GABA an effective and natural high blood pressure remedy.
According to a small study, GABA supplementation may enhance your ability to plan and prioritize, enhancing thinking. It may also help alleviate fatigue, which will further boost your cognitive abilities.
A single study has shown that GABA may help to build muscle and assist with workout recovery. More research is needed on this benefit.
So, what else should you know about GABA? GABA is produced naturally in the body but it can also be taken in supplement form. This may help to correct imbalances due to illness or chronic stress.
There isn’t a lot of research about appropriate GABA doses, but the studies that exist give a general guideline:
Please talk to your health care practitioner before starting any supplementation. GABA often works best when used synergistically with other supplements such as:
There are some herbals available that mimic GABA. These include kava and valerian root. These herbal supplements do not directly increase levels of GABA, but rather have a response on the GABA receptor to either enhance the effects that GABA has or mimic the response of GABA on the receptor.
Here are some things you should know about GABA if you are thinking of taking supplements. Some people who take GABA experience side effect such as:
As with most supplements, seek advice from your healthcare provider before starting any type of treatment. This will help you identify the right dosage and to explore whether this supplement is right for you. If you’re wondering if GABA supplements are right for you, learn more about GABA and talk to your doctor about what specific reaction you’re likely to have when taking it considering your health concerns and risks.
The Neuroaffect Circuit is regulated by the gut, the autonomic nervous system, and the microbiome, or the bacterial balance in your body. The gut, commonly known as the second brain, produces many neurotransmitters and plays a major role in influencing your mood. That feeling of butterflies in your stomach whenever something exciting happens is just an example of how your stomach can influence your mood. The microbiome of your gut and the rest of your body always has a vital role in influencing health and the functioning of the other components of the Neuroaffect Circuit.
The nervous system also plays an obvious role in your cognition and emotion by helping to regulate your mood during times of duress. When the body is in harmony, these three systems work together to keep your mood stable. However, when under chronic stress or fatigue, the response system is thrown out of balance and NT levels can become dysregulated.
When these neurotransmitters are dysregulated, epinephrine and norepinephrine are usually put on overdrive while GABA levels reduce. When the balance of these neurotransmitters is off, you might feel anxious in situations most people would not, or get panic attacks in seemingly mild situations. The ultimate goal in instances like this is to make the neurotransmitter levels balanced.
One way to do this is by increasing the levels of GABA available in the body or by enhancing and mimicking the effects of GABA. One of the good things about GABA is the fact that your body creates it naturally, but occasionally the stress response overpowers the amount of GABA you can produce. GABA supplements and herbal supplements that enhance the effects of GABA can be incredibly helpful in these situations and often provide relief from anxiety, restlessness, and racing thoughts.
GABA affects the brain and turns off certain functions after a stressful situation. Your adrenal glands also respond to stress, but their way of communicating is mostly through a hormone cascade by way of the hypotahlamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
GABA does not affect the adrenal glands directly, but it does help alleviate some of the anxiety and related symptoms associated with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), particularly in advanced stages when the flight or fight response is activated.
When you’re under stress, your adrenal glands produce cortisol, which helps your body manage stress through inflammatory regulation, normalization of blood sugar, and physiological stress management. The adrenal glands produce cortisol through a cascade known as the HPA axis, or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
In stressful times, the HPA axis causes the release of the corticotropin-releasing hormone, CRH, from the hypothalamus in your brain. It acts on the pituitary to release the hormone ACTH. ACTH then binds to the receptors on the adrenal glands, and triggers the release of cortisol. When the cortisol has completed its job in the body, any excess cortisol will travel back to the hypothalamus and shut off its own production. However, this effect does not function normally in advanced stages of AFS.
As AFS progresses, cortisol levels eventually fall because the body can’t produce enough cortisol to meet the demand. The autonomic nervous system continues to release epinephrine and norepinephrine. In response, your body tries to produce enough GABA to compensate, but levels become erratic. These erratic levels can lead to feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and feeling wired.
Making GABA more accessible in the body, either through GABA supplements or other herbs that stimulate the GABA receptor, can relieve some AFS symptoms. As you relax, your stress levels will decrease and you will start to feel more balanced, steady, calm, and grounded.
When you learn about GABA, the first thing you’ll realize is how essential it is for regulating stress and anxiety. If you have AFS, you need to be even more aware of this NT and the effects it might have on your body if your GABA levels aren’t appropriate. If you think you might be deficient, here’s what to do:
If you’re worried about getting enough GABA or think you might be deficient, then call +1-626-571-1234 to talk to the team or click here to use the Ask The Doctor System.