May 16, 2024

GABA: Find your peace

Anxious feelings and stress are a part of modern life and our bodies have the capacity to flow in and out of those activated states. However, when such activation becomes chronic, it can impact your wellbeing and potentially health. Fortunately, we have a natural shield against those negative effects in our own brains and it’s called GABA.

 

What is GABA?

 GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is produced in various regions of our brains and it is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Glutamate and GABA are two key neurotransmitters, working together to maintain a delicate yin and yang balance between stimulation and inhibition. Think about driving a car - glutamate acts as an accelerator, while GABA is the brake. Glutamate excites neurons and it increases their activity. When GABA binds to a receiving neuron, it essentially calms it down and decreases its firing rate. The balance between glutamate and GABA is crucial for proper brain function.

Understanding the dynamic between those two neurotransmitters explains why high levels of GABA help you feel calm and relaxed. Conversely, insufficient GABA levels are linked to anxiety, low resilience to stress, insomnia and even seizures.

 

How do I boost my GABA levels?

Research around GABA supplements reports mixed results. Some studies indicate that GABA supplements do not cross the blood-brain-blood and are therefore ineffective in boosting levels in the brain. Before taking any supplements, it is always advisable to speak to a health professional.

 

Luckily, there are lots of safe, enjoyable and natural ways to help your body produce enough GABA.

 

Number 1: Healthy Lifestyle

Studies have shown that meditation improves production of GABA in the brain. Even a short daily practice can make a difference. Various forms of meditation, relaxation and breathing exercises can be incorporated into a daily routine to naturally boost GABA levels.

 

Moving your body for at least 30 minutes is another natural way to help your body synthesise enough GABA neurotransmitter. This does not have to be strenuous exercise, aim for moderate intensity but keep it up most days of the week.

 

Good sleep hygiene is another key factor as sleep deprivation depletes GABA resources in the brain. While healthy sleeping habits can be individual, in general 7-8 hours of quality sleep are recommended for adults.

 

You’ve heard it before: sleep, exercise and relaxation are key. However, now that you know about the delicate balance between glutamate and GABA neurotransmitters, perhaps it makes more sense why exactly they are so important.

Number 2: Healthy Diet

Your diet matters, because certain nutrients are building blocks that your body uses to produce GABA. What should you put on your plate?

 

·       Whole grains such as oats or quinoa

·       A variety of fruit and vegetables (including leafy vegetables)

·       Fish, ideally wild-caught fish such as salmon or tuna

·       Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds or walnuts

·       Foods rich in B6 vitamin which is co-factor in the production of GABA e.g. chickpeas or bananas

 

So here’s the good news – you can help your body produce GABA! I highly encourage you to incorporate those strategies to experience a more relaxed state of mind. Processes in our bodies are very complicated and interconnected, so please keep in mind that combining various tips into a holistic approach is likely to have a greater impact than choosing a single strategy.

 

I hope this is useful, but sometimes those strategies on their own may not be sufficient. If you would like to talk about anxiety with a professional, please feel free to schedule your free initial Zoom meeting with Alicja today.

 

*The information provided in this blog post is for general educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical or mental health professional advice. If you are struggling with any of the issues described in this post, please seek appropriate professional help from a qualified professional.

Sources:

What to know about GABA by Medical News Today

Meditation-related increases in GABAB modulated cortical inhibition by L. Guglietti et al

Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression by Harvard Health Publishing

8 Natural Ways to Increase GABA to Calm Your Mind and Soothe Anxiousness by Amen Clinic

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