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Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, discovered in 1950 is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the human body. GABA is known best for its ability to calm the nervous system. GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.
GABA is present in many different plants. It is not a required nutrient because the body can naturally produce it. Ways to increase the body's production of GABA include:
- Increase foods high in L-theanine which when taken moderately can produce a calming effect and can lower stress. Foods high in L-theanine include green tea, nuts such as walnuts and almonds, and foods such as oats, spinach and whole grains.
- Increase foods high in glutamine such as beef liver, citrus, broccoli, halibut and lentils.
- Increase foods high in B Vitamins such as Vitamin B6 and B-complex vitamins.
- Increase foods high in magnesium and calcium which can help you improve sleep and reduce anxiety.
- Bacteria in the Lactobacillus family produce GABA as a byproduct while fermenting milk and soy foods.
- Herbs which increase the production of GABA include Valerian and Passionflower.
- Practicing Yoga can increase GABA production.
GABA is effective in the treatment of:
- Chronic stress
- Increases thermogenesis which makes it helpful for people who exercise, but do not sweat.
The recommended dosages have not yet been established. To determine what your specific requirements are talk to your naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional.
GABA is generally considered safe.