GABA to Calm the Brain

By Dori Cranmore R.N.

 

GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is a non-essential amino acid found mainly in the human brain and eyes.  It is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it regulates brain and nerve cell activity by inhibiting the number of neurons firing in the brain.  GABA is referred to as the “brain’s natural calming agent”.  By inhibiting over-stimulation of the brain, GABA may help promote relaxation and ease nervous tension.

Mostly GABA is used for overactive brain activity such as those with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Autism. ADHD is one of the most common behavioral disorders in America. It has affected millions of children and the process still continues. Because of the over activity with these disorders the body will use up the GABA leaving the inability to focus and concentrate.

People with a GABA deficiency may experience:

  • anxiety/nervousness/jumpy or on edge
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • heart palpitations
  • seizures
  • hypertension

A deficiency of GABA in people with autism can contribute to the poor inhibition that allows their brain to become over stimulated, which results in their living in a constant state of anxiety.

GABA has also been named as “anxiety” amino acid as it utilizes vitamin B and Vitamin B3. In case of a proper functioning brain, vitamin B3 unites with benzodiazepine receptors, which helps in dealing with stress, properly. If there is a lack of vitamin B3 or improper utilization of the vitamin, it can affect the proper brain function.

Factors that can reduce GABA levels include:

  • B1, B6, zinc, manganese and iron deficiency
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic pain
  • Mercury or lead exposure
  • Inadequate sleep

 

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 and red wine.

Drugs for treating ADHD are often over prescribed and are not always very helpful. The medicines are basically anti-depressants or stimulants. Parents become extremely frustrated with the side effects. Amino acids, however, help in restoring the balance and keeping the mind and body calm.

GABA is not recommended for pregnant women or those with Bi Polar disease. Benzodiazapines, barbiturates and alcohol can decrease the effect of Gaba.