GABA, also known as the amino acidγ-aminobutyric acid, is the most abundant inhibitory chemical messenger within our central nervous system, in fact, 30 to 40% of the brain neurons use GABA as a neurotranmistter.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that plays the role of a neurotransmitter which inhibits the transmission of nerve impulses, especially in situations of nervousness, helping to calm states of excitation. GABA is therefore a "natural sedative" for the brain.
Its presence within the nervous tissue guarantees a balance between excitation and neural inhibition, something vital for the correct maintenance of sensory, cognitive, and motor functions.
Taking into account what has been said, we would be right to think that imbalances in GABA related functions may trigger the development of various neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, or even drug addiction.
According to clinical studies, it has been shown that GABA dietary supplements contribute to the relaxation and calming of the nerves, especially in situations of arousal, anxiety, or stress. It also reduces worry and obsessive thoughts, and promotes a deep and restful sleep.
New research is currently under way to verify the possible link between low levels of GABA receptors and depression, as well as motor neuron problems and seizure disorders.
GABA, unlike painkillers and common prescription psychiatric drugs, has no risk of dependence or the other harmful side effects of these medications.
As we grow old, the GABA levels in the brain deteriorate, which results in a lower GABA activity.
This, among other factors, may be the trigger for the development of several disorders and diseases related to aging, such as an increased vulnerability to stress, depression, sleep disorders, and even loss of cognitive faculties (memory, coordination, etc.).
Moreover, GABA promotes the synthesis of the growth hormone (GH), one of the most important hormones in the body, which is produced and secreted by the pituitary gland.
The growth hormone is, among other things, vital in order to increase muscle mass and it also has significant anti-aging properties which are very beneficial for the prevention of several diseases.
GABA is a natural nutritional supplement with soothing effects, which can be a great alternative to various drugs such as sedatives (anxiolytics, painkillers) and sleeping pills.
Among the multiple benefits of the GABA receptors we can find:
They reduce anxiety
Calm the nerves
Promote the release of the growth hormone
Support the functioning of the immune system
GABA reduces stress and anxiety
The health benefits of GABA are the result of a synergistic process:
GABA blocks the nerve transmission of motor neurons in tense situations. It functions as a receptor that inhibits and reduces anxiety. This helps the person to feel more relaxed and get a better sleep.
Nervousness and lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, which triggers the development of all kinds of diseases and health problems. GABA helps to keep the immune system in optimal conditions.
Normally, the most common symptoms of stress are:
Difficulty to sleep
Increased susceptibility to develop diseases and suffer more health problems
The benefits of GABA for depression, epilepsy, and other disorders
Depressive states appear to be related to a low level of GABA. Clinical investigations have found other benefits of this neurotransmitter in order to improve several health problems such as depression, epilepsy, convulsions, and motor neuron disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and Tourette's Syndrome.
A study conducted in 2006 found out that women who suffer from postpartum depression have low levels of GABA receptors.
A similar study, showed that patients who suffer from chronic depression also have low levels of this neurotransmitter. However, studies that measure the real effects of dietary GABA supplements on the reduction of depression still have not been done.
More clinical studies are currently underway to assess the properties that GABA supplements may have on seizures, since it has been proven that people who suffer from seizures or epilepsy have low levels of these receptors.
The latest research has shown that low levels of GABA are associated with motor neuron disorders, such as Tourette's syndrome, and Parkinson's disease. A study published in 2014 suggests that high levels of GABA improve movement control and reduce the seizures in patients with Tourette's syndrome.
GABA and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
Several studies have proven that people with mood disorders have low levels of GABA in the blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. It has been detected that women who suffer from the premenstrual syndrome have lower levels of GABA when compared to women who do not suffer from these symptoms.
Therefore, using a GABA product during this period can help to cope with the symtpoms and to improve women's moods.
GABA and the increase of the growth hormone
Several scientific studies have proven that using GABA supplements increases the release of the GH, which also stimulates the development of muscle mass and accelerates the recovery processes.
The intake of this amino acid, along with proper physical training, favors the growth of the muscles, fat loss, and a better recovery. The results of consuming GABA can be seen after 8 weeks of its use.
Another advantage of GABA supplements for athletes is that it functions as a pain inhibitor.
Competition athletes that habitually use GABA products usually perceive a reduction of the pain associated to training. Therefore, this amino acid increases the pain tolerance threshold.
Who can benefit from GABA supplements?
GABA supplements can help people who feel weak, have a low state of mind, feel depressed, or are experiencing any of these symptoms:
A clinical study on the efficacy of dietary GABA supplements found that anxiety was considerably reduced after its intake. During this study, 13 subjects who used GABA had reduced anxiety levels and showed a more relaxed state in less than an hour.
In another clinical study, it was observed that using GABA in nervous situations not only produced a lessening of fear but that it also helped to increase the immunoglobulin levels. This shows that GABA nutritional supplements also improve the immune system.
Several studies show that consuming GABA can be a key element for the treatment of drugs addiction, such as cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and nicotine.
GABA is very beneficial for women with premenstrual syndrome, who often have depressive episodes.
Athletes can also benefit from the intake of this amino acid, because it supports the release of the growth hormone (which means that it helps the body to recover after training, develope muscle mass more easily, and lose fat more quickly).
Studies on the benefits of the consumption of GABA nutritional supplements for the brain still have not ended, but it has been proven that people who consume them on a regular basis experience a reduction of the state of anxiety, and can sleep more easily.
How can we naturally increase GABA levels?
Alternatively, those who cannot use GABA may consume plant extracts and dietary supplements that also increase gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain. These include:
Magnesium. Magnesium links with gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors and activates them.
Taurine. According to a clinical study published in 2008, taurine increases the GABA levels.
Pasiflora. The passion flower extract also has a calming effect and helps to increase the level of GABA in the brain.
Does GABA have side effects?
An excessive consumption of GABA can cause fatigue, tiredness, and drowsiness. In this case, the intake should be reduced and the side effects will immediately disappear. Those who experience fatigue when using GABA during the day should take a GABA dietary supplements preferably before bedtime.
GABA can cause interactions when it is used with some antidepressants or other psychotropic drugs prescribed for patients who suffer from bipolar disorder. In this case GABA should not be consumed.
To date, no serious side effects of GABA consumption have been observed. However, there may be isolated cases of people who perceive an itching sensation on the skin, breathing problems, as well as a slight increase in the heartbeat, although nothing to be worried about.
Pregnant or lactating women, as well as persons under continued medical control should consult a specialist before using it.
There are no studies on the effects of GABA in pregnant and lactating women, but it is recommended not to consume it for safety reasons.
GABA therapy should be done under strict medical control at all times.
Recommended intake of GABA
The intake of GABA should be adapted to each specific personal situation. For the treatment of anxiety, the recommended intake is from 100 to 200 mg daily, divided into three servings, one of them must be before bedtime. It is advisable to start with a smaller amount and gradually increase the intake according to the results.
If we want to promote the release of the growth hormone, GABA should be consumed immediately before going to sleep, not during the day. This is basically due to the fact that the release of the growth hormone takes place two hours after falling sleep.
The sedative effect produced by GABA provides a restful sleep. It is also essential to wait at least 45 minutes after your last meal before consuming GABA.
To achieve a calming effect, this amino acid should be consumed during the meals. GABA may also be a suitable product for children with hyperactivity symptoms and/or concentration problems.
However, you should consult before consuming a GABA supplement.
Other names for GABA
GABA is also known as Phenibut acid, γ-aminobutyric acid, beta-phenyl acid, and gamma amino-butyric acid.
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