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How does GABA affect your mood?

How Does GABA Affect Your Mood?

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February 17, 2021 | Published by


Like SAMe, GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) is an amino acid naturally found in the body that works as a neurotransmitter. GABA is classified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it blocks or restrains certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system.

When GABA attaches to a GABA receptor in your brain, a calming effect is produced. This process can help you cope with stress, fear, and anxiety. You can think of GABA as the brakes of the brain, lowering the body into a lower gear by telling the brain to relax. Along with glutamate, your body’s chief excitatory neurotransmitter, GABA plays a vital role in the body’s overall mental and physical sense of balance.2

In addition to functions in the brain, GABA also plays a role in the body’s immune and endocrine systems, as well as regulation of appetite and metabolism. Recent research suggests GABA is also active in gut health and gastrointestinal function, where it may work to support motility, control inflammation and support immune system function, and help regulate hormone activity.2

Because of these calming effects, GABA has recently become a popular supplement. This is also due to GABA being hard to obtain through food sources, as the only foods that naturally contain GABA are fermented ones like kimchi, miso and tempeh.

Low GABA activity in the body can result in:2

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
  • Muscle pain and headaches
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems

GABA’s primary role in the body is to lower the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, putting you in a greater state of relaxation by alleviating stress and anxiety. Taking supplemental GABA may help with sleep by aiding in the relaxation process and quieting the noise of stress and anxiety. One small study showed GABA to be an effective relaxant and anxiety reliever, showing results within an hour of consumption. The same study also found a boost to the immune system also occurred, suggesting GABA may enhance immunity in stressed-out people.2

A larger study focused on the effects of 100 milligrams of GABA on people who had recently performed a stressful mental task. The researchers noted a slowing down of brain waves in the people who had taken GABA, denoting an alleviation of mental stress.2

Since GABA enables the body and mind to relax, it is crucial for solid sleep. Low GABA activity is linked to poor sleep and insomnia. In one study, GABA levels in a group of people with insomnia were almost 30% lower than in people without insomnia. Lowered GABA levels were also connected to more restless, disrupted sleep. A recent study showed that a combination of GABA and 5-HTP may improve quality of sleep, as well as increase the amount of uninterrupted sleep.2

There are certain types of medications that have confirmed interactions with GABA. If you’re currently taking any medications, it’s best to check with your practitioner before using supplemental GABA. Some examples of possible interactions are high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and neurally-active medications.

References:

  1. Westphalen, D. What Does Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Do? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gamma-aminobutyric-acid#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
  2. Breus, Michael J. 3 Amazing Benefits of GABA. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201901/3-amazing-benefits-gaba

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