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Using GABA for Stress and Anxiety

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August 21, 2019 | Published by


Each year, tens of millions of Americans of all ages suffer from long-term anxiety. Among children, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness—one they may carry into adulthood. (5)

Unlike normal anxiety triggered by a major event or other stressor, social anxiety is long-term and can grows worse without treatment. Social anxiety can also be intensified if GABA, an important amino acid, is not working properly in the body. (4)

GABA is produced naturally in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter, allowing communication among brain cells. GABA is responsible for reducing the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system. This can affect the body in many ways, not limited to increased relaxation, reduced stress, balanced mood, enhanced sleep, and reduced pain. (2)

When GABA levels are low in your body, your nerve cells are switched on too often, which can exacerbate certain mental conditions including social depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety. (4)

Some effects of low GABA in the body are:

  • Chronic stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues
  • Muscle pain and headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Low GABA activity is also linked to substance abuse disorders

For those with anxiety disorders, fears and worries can cause so much distress that they interfere with daily life. The anxiety grows out of proportion to the stressful situation or occurs when there is no real danger. (5)  Maintaining appropriate levels of GABA can help soothe these symptoms, which can help lead to a more enjoyable life. (4)

A 2009 study showed that participants experienced reduced stress when tasked with performing a problem-solving task after eating chocolate containing 28 mg of GABA. Another study showed taking capsules containing 100 mg of GABA reduced stress in people involved with completing an experimental task. (3)

GABA has proved to be incredibly useful as an aid for people suffering from sleep problems. A study in 2018 not only showed that people given 300 mg of GABA an hour before sleep fell asleep faster than those given a placebo, they also reported improved quality sleep for weeks after starting treatment. (3)

GABA can be found naturally in fermented food, as well as in different types of tea, such as black, green and Oolong. Other types of food have also been found to either contain GABA or boost its production. These foods include soy, lentils, whole grains, certain types of fish, and nuts like almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. (2)

For more information about GABA, or if you feel you are suffering from the effects of low GABA, talk to a healthcare practitioner. For more information about supplements containing GABA, take a look at Dr. Wilson’s Cortisol Stress Reset.

References:

  1. Lydiard, R The role of GABA in anxiety disorders. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12662130
  2. Breus, M 3 Amazing Benefits of GABA. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201901/3-amazing-benefits-gaba
  3. Westphalen, D et al. What Does Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Do? HealthLine https://www.healthline.com/health/gamma-aminobutyric-acid#side-effects
  4. Cuncic, A How Can GABA Be Used for Social Anxiety? Verywellmind https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-gaba-3024566
  5. Worried Sick: Living with Anxiety Disorders. https://adrenalfatigue.org/worried-sick-living-anxiety-disorders/

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