GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) is a neurotransmitter helps calm the brain and balance the brain chemistry. Low levels of GABA may be linked to:

  • Anxiety or mood disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic pain

Researchers suspect that GABA may boost mood or have a calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system.

Why take GABA?

People take GABA as a supplement to try to:

  • Improve mood
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Improve sleep (Insomnia)
  • Help with premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

They may also take GABA to try to:

  • Relieve pain or discomfort from injuries
  • Increase tolerance to exercise
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Burn fat
  • Increase the growth of lean muscle mass

Limited studies have shown a possible link between GABA and lowered blood pressure. But research on GABA supplements is lacking. Researchers haven’t confirmed whether or not it works for the many reasons people take it.

It is not clear whether GABA taken as a supplement reaches the brain in large enough quantities to have an effect1 [6]. There isn’t a set dosage for GABA at this time.  However, common dose ranges somewhere between 250mg-750mg. taken two or three times throughout the day. As with any supplement, starting off with a lower dose and slowly working your way up to find out what’s right for you. (Although some users report taking higher doses, exceeding 2000mg (2 grams) per day is not recommended.)

Also, there has not been enough research to be sure of the side effects of GABA. Though, anecdotal reports suggest the following possible side effects –

  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Rapid Breathing or Shortness of Breath
  • Sensation of Tingling, Itching, Tickling in the Neck, Face, and Limbs
  • Drowsiness

Among these more common side effects, the effects on breathing and heart rate dissipate fairly soon after onset. Tingling, itching or tickling sensations typically lasted no longer than 20-40 minutes.

It appears that changes in the brain and body interact and that changes in one of these may induce changes in the other.2[2]  The separate levels also seem to balance each other out so that high doses may not have a significantly stronger effect that one might expect after testing a low dose3 [4], however, extremely high doses may overcome this effect but may have other adverse effects.

Not enough is known about how GABA may interact with drugs, foods, or other herbs and supplements, but use with caution if taking blood pressure medications. However, Nitric oxide (NO) seems to be able to increase GABA uptake into the brain significantly.4[7]  This may be something to consider for the body builders out there or if you have minimal success when trying it out yourself.

GABAs influence on Growth Hormone secretion seems to be changed with resistance exercise, with the greatest effect after taking it occurring 30 minutes later with exercise and 75 minutes without exercise.5[10] These increased effects are thought to come from possible increases in Nitric Oxide levels that help GABA enter into the brain. It should be noted that Growth Hormone exists in over 100 different forms, and the affected forms may not exert the same benefits typically associated with the most common forms of Growth Hormone.6[11] & [12] & Growth hormone isoform increase in response to exercise

In addition, people report finding help in breaking addictions to tobacco or alcohol by using GABA supplements. Those suffering from fibromyalgia also have provided many anecdotal reports indicating a relief of their symptoms when adding a GABA dosage to their daily regimen.

Can you get GABA naturally from foods?

You cannot get GABA naturally from foods. But a variety of foods contain substances such as flavonoids that influence how GABA works in the brain. These foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Teas
  • Red wine

 

Be sure to tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications, foods, or other herbs and supplements. He or she can let you know if the supplement might raise your risks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.

 

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