An important inhibitory neurotransmitter known as “nature’s valium,” gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) causes you to feel happy and relaxed. And if you have too little of it you can feel overstimulated and overwhelmed. Here are three ways GABA can make life better for you.
1. Calms and controls anxious thoughts
People deficient in GABA find it difficult to control their anxiety. They often dwell on everyday worries and feel stressed as a result. Fixing the deficiency can help to bring relief from this.
2. Helps you get to sleep
GABA quiets the excitatory neurotransmitters that keep you up nights. Most healthy people with insomnia have reduced levels of GABA, so taking GABA supplements or eating foods that promote GABA production can help improve your quality of sleep.
3. Helps with weight loss
People whose GABA levels are low tend to overeat because, as research has shown, their brains don’t signal to their stomachs that they’re full. By reducing stress GABA helps to regulate your appetite.
Common signs of low GABA
- Anxiety, sometimes verging on panic
- Stress or nervousness for no apparent reason
- Increased appetite
- Inability to shut off your mind and just relax
- Insomnia caused by anxious thoughts
- Cravings for carbohydrates
- Physical aches and pains as well as headaches
- Inability to concentrate
- Drug and alcohol dependence
Foods to avoid include:
- Refined carbohydrates
They promote anxiety and depression.
Grab a GABA boost
To boost your GABA levels naturally you should:
• Eat foods that contain higher levels of glutamic acid
Glutamic acid helps your brain to form GABA. Foods rich in glutamic acid include:
- Beef liver
- Brown rice
- Rice bran
- Whole grains
• Exercise at least five times a week
Exercise helps to restore levels of all neurotransmitters. In fact, it promotes serotonin and GABA production, helping you feel happier and more peaceful. Research shows that yoga especially helps to increase GABA levels.
• Boost your Vitamin B-6 intake
Low levels of vitamin B-6 can keep your brain from making GABA. You can either take a supplement or eat foods rich in vitamin B-6, such as bran rice, pistachio nuts, fish, liver, and turkey
• Get enough rest
Eight hours of rest a night helps to ensure peak neurotransmitter levels and optimal levels and balanced hormones. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try taking magnesium-l-threonate and such natural aids as valerian root, lemon balm, passionflower, chamomile, l-theanine, and melatonin. Research also shows that taking magnolia bark for a short time can help to boost your GABA levels.
• Drink oolong tea instead of coffee
The caffeine in coffee and other beverages actually causes your brain to produce more dopamine in the short-term. But later anxiety and insomnia set in. Oolong tea, on the other hand, contains GABA, so it will give you the calm and stamina you need for getting things done without feeling worn out.
• Eat more cherry tomatoes and olive oil
Cherry tomatoes are rich in GABA and olive oil balances your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio This can help balance all of your brain chemicals and leave you feeling happier.
• Drink the probiotic drink kefir
It contains GABA and helps to promote gut health. What’s more, kefir boosts serotonin, another neurotransmitter in your brain associated with feel-good, peaceful brain chemicals.
• Meditate at least 30 minutes a day
Meditation can help to promote feel-good chemicals, including GABA and serotonin.
Feel GABA fabulous
Gamma-aminobutyric acid — it’s a long name for a little neurotransmitter that can help you during waking and sleeping hours. Plus, it can help you slim down. You definitely owe it to yourself to find out more about this amazing compound.
- "For a Healthy Brain and Nervous System — Gotta Hava GABA," Natural News, August 13, 2012.
- "GABA Benefits for your Mood, Mental Health and Cognitive Function," Nootriment.com, November 21, 2016.
- "GABA Supplements Benefits and Side Effects," Organic Newsroom, November 21, 2016.
- "GABA: Uses and Risks," WebMD, December 27, 2014.