GABA - The Amino Acid For Stress

GABA - The Amino Acid For Stress

Good physical health has been a topic of research and conversation for decades, even centuries, but good mental health has only recently become a point of focus. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and is all about how we think, feel, and act. It includes many factors such as how we handle stress, having a sense of meaning, and feeling confident in who we are.

Good mental health does not necessarily mean we never feel sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, but rather that we are able to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner and bounce back from life’s adversities. Like good physical health, good mental health means taking care of ourselves and investing in wellness on a regular basis.

Our mental wellness can be improved by moving our bodies, connecting with our loved ones, eating nourishing food, engaging in meaningful activities, being out in nature, enjoying a good laugh, and more. We can also improve our mental health with supplements that impact our brain function. In this series we are looking at different supplements that can support mental wellness.

GABA, short for Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid produced naturally in the brain. It has been linked to a number of different benefits including, reducing the effects of anxiety, improving sleep quality and helping the body "calm down".(1) GABA functions as a neurotransmitter, which means it facilitates communication between brain cells. It’s biggest role is actually to inhibit the activity of excitatory impulses in the brain, which normally lead to feelings of panic, worry, or alarm.(2) It basically shifts the brain into a lower gear which can help when the mind is racing or feeling perpetually fearful or anxious. This calmer state means that GABA can lead to feelings of relaxation, reduced stress, and improved sleep.

Too little GABA in the body has been connected with higher anxiety, chronic stress, depression, difficulty concentrating, and insomnia.(2) Supplementing with GABA can enable the mind, and therefore the body, to relax, alleviating stress, leading to sound sleep, and providing relief from anxiety and worry. These are all crucial components of good mental health.

There are certain supplements that can help to increase the activation of GABA in the brain. Lets take a look at the top five:

1. Kava

This tropical shrub is loaded with kavalactones, which have been shown to reduce anxiety and affect neurotransmitters in the brain like GABA. 

 

2. Ashwagandha

This adaptogen has been shown to increase resistance to stress on the body and help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

 

3. Skullcap

This plant has been known to positively impact mood and help reduce anxiety by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter that helps calm nerves.

 

4. Lemon Balm

This lemon scented herb contains a compound called rosmarinic acid, which can help increase GABA. Try drinking a cup of tea or taking it in capsule form, to help soothe and calm the body.

 

5. Green Tea

Green Tea is naturally high in an amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid has been known to promote relaxation and increase cognitive performance. Enjoy a warm cup of matcha tea which has 3x more antioxidants than green tea!

 

If we are wanting to increase the level of GABA, by supporting our neurotransmitters we have to encourage a healthy environment for them. Remember that our gut-brain connection plays a vital role in our mental well-being and we need to encourage a healthy gut flora. 

References:

(1) Gaba Benefits & Side Effects: How This Brain Chemical Rules Your Mood & Anxiety Levels. More author: - https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/gaba-benefits

(2) “Gaba Supplements: Glorious, Gimmicky or Just Garbage?” Office for Science and Society, 18 June 2019, www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/gaba-supplements-glorious-gimmicky-or-just-garbage.

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