Neurotransmitters are essential substances that control the functions of your brain and nervous system.
There are two main groups of neurotransmitters: excitatory (which increase the synaptic transmission between neurons) and inhibitory (which slow it down).
One of the primary inhibitory neurotransmitters is GABA or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. When taken as a supplement, GABA can improve mood, help you combat stress, anxiety, and depression, and promote good sleep.
Continue reading to learn about the best GABA supplements for money and the considerations you need to make when choosing the right one for yourself.
- 1 Best GABA Supplements on the Market
- 2 What Is GABA and Why Do You Need It?
- 3 How Does GABA Work in Your Brain?
- 4 Main Signs and Symptoms of GABA Deficiency
- 5 Can You Get GABA from Food? Ways to Naturally Boost Your GABA Levels
- 6 Most Common Benefits of GABA Supplements
- 7 Dosage and Side Effects
- 8 FAQ for GABA Users
- 9 Final Word
Best GABA Supplements on the Market
NOW Supplements GABA Caps
One of the best GABA supplements on the market, according to user reviews and recommendations of nutrition experts, is this supplement by NOW. It offers you 500 mg of GABA, additionally enriched with 2 mg of vitamin B6 for even stronger mood-boosting properties.
The manufacturer packs their product into a vegan-friendly cellulose shell and offers you to choose between 100 and 200 capsule count.
The NOW uses only certified components and excludes any unwanted additives and harmful chemicals, so you can be sure about the quality of the product. The only issue with the capsules is that they may be a bit too large to swallow, so some people might find them unsuitable.
OLLY Goodbye Stress Gummies
OLLY offers you the best GABA supplement in the form of jelly gummies, which is excellent for those who are struggling with swallowing large tablets or for children that may need such supplementation.
One serving is equal to two gummies and contains 100 mg of GABA along with 75 mg of Lemon Balm extract and 50 mg of L-Theanine for a more potent calming effect. Options with 42 and 60 gummies are available.
The problem with this supplement (just like with all the supplements that come in the form of gummies) is that they contain animal-based gelatine, so they aren’t vegan-friendly. Also, the OLLY has 2 grams of added sugars per serving, which may also be a concern for some individuals.
Amazing Nutrition GABA Caps
Another tablet form of GABA supplements is offered to you by Amazing Nutrition. This supplement delivers to you 750 mg of pure GABA without any additives in one serving. Moreover, the shells of the capsules are made of plant-derived cellulose, so the Amazing Nutrition product is suitable for vegans.
You can buy a 100-count package, which will last you for more than three months, or purchase a 200-count package for a more prolonged supplementation.
The manufacturer suggests you take one capsule daily between meals or with foods that don’t contain protein.
Source Naturals GABA Caps
Source Naturals provides you with the best GABA supplement for overcoming anxious thoughts and relieving stress symptoms. One capsule contains 750 mg of GABA without any additives.
The manufacturer produces its supplements on a separate equipment line, so they are devoid of potential allergens, such as soy, nuts or wheat, and can be suitable for individuals with specific dietary needs.
The only problem with this supplement is that the capsule contains gelatine as one of the ingredients, so vegans and vegetarians need to look for other options.
Jarrow Formulas GABA Soothe Caps
And the last option in this selection of the best GABA supplements is offered by Jarrow Formulas. It provides you with a mood-enhancing complex that contains 100 mg of GABA, 100 mg of Theanine and 225 mg of Sensoril ashwagandha extract.
The Jarrow Formulas is suitable for people with allergies and food intolerances. The manufacturer runs third-party lab tests to ensure product quality and standardization.
The only downside of the Jarrow Formulas GABA caps is that they’re only available in the 30-count package, so they might take a lot of space in case you decide to stock up for long-term supplementation.
What Is GABA and Why Do You Need It?
GABA is a non-proteinogenic amino acid, which means it doesn’t take part in protein synthesis.
However, non-proteinogenic acids are still crucial to your body because they work as neurotransmitters and may also aid in nutrient absorption.
Speaking of GABA, its inhibitory effect on neural cells begins in the brain and moves down to motor neurons, which results in the following outcomes:
- deeper sleep;
- muscle relaxation;
- anxiety and stress relief;
- blood pressure regulation.
Less potent effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid include hormonal regulation and immunity control.
How Does GABA Work in Your Brain?
Along with glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter, GABA is the most abundant brain chemical. It’s secreted by brain cells, and some parts of your brain, especially those that are responsible for emotional regulation and memory formation, have higher levels of this neurotransmitter.
When a brain cell produces GABA from glutamate, it can bind with one of the GABA receptors in neurons and block nerve impulses, which, in turn, promotes a feeling of calmness and relaxation by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. So, basically, glutamate and GABA are the ‘go’ and ‘stop’ signals for your brain.
There are two main types of GABA receptors in your brain:
- GABAA receptors. These are called fast-response receptors because they quickly block the synapses. GABAA receptors are responsible for sleep improvement, sedative effect, slowed breathing, and the feeling of euphoria that comes from the stimulating effect on a reward system.
- GABAB receptors. These are slow-responding receptors, and when they become activated, they inhibit the production of stimulatory neurotransmitters, which, again, may aid with better sleep and relaxation. GABAB receptors promote stress reduction, the feeling of empathy, and may boost your cognitive and social skills.
“Medications that interact with GABA receptors in the brain include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and anesthetics.”
Main Signs and Symptoms of GABA Deficiency
Since gamma-aminobutyric acid plays a lot of roles in your body, the signs that you’re not getting enough of this substance are very diverse. At the first stage, symptoms of low GABA can be monitored through mood problems:
- depressive thoughts and mood swings during the day;
- lower stress resistance;
- increased anxiety.
Studies show that people with affective disorders, such as major depression and bipolar disorder, typically have lower levels of GABA, compared to healthy individuals.
Also, individuals that are prone to or have schizophrenia may have lower levels of glutamate and the ferments needed to produce GABA.
Physiological symptoms of GABA deficiency typically include:
- gastrointestinal problems: irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, cramps;
- loss of appetite;
- tremors and tingling sensations;
- ringing in ears;
- carbohydrate food cravings.
“GABA takes part in the regulation of habit-forming mechanisms, so individuals with low levels of this neurotransmitter have higher chances of developing substance abuse.”
Can You Get GABA from Food? Ways to Naturally Boost Your GABA Levels
Unlike essential amino acids, GABA is very hard to get from whole foods. However, certain foods can help your body produce it so that you could replenish the levels of this substance.
Here they are:
- Fermented foods. GABA is created through the process of fermentation with the use of lactic bacteria. So, if you incorporate more foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, and soy products, such as tempeh or miso paste, you can help your gut produce GABA naturally.
- Fermented teas. As well as foods, some types of drinks also go through the fermentation process. These typically are Oolong and black Pu-Erh teas, which have a milder taste and more potent relaxing properties. According to an article in the Journal of Biomedical Science, Pu-Erh tea contains abundant amounts of GABA as a bioactive component.
- Foods that are rich in flavonoids. Blue, black, and red berries, as well as black tea, chocolate, and wine are rich in flavonoids. These substances have a pronounced antioxidant effect and neuroprotective properties, so they may help your brain cells produce more GABA.
Along with that, you can boost your GABA levels by practicing yoga or meditation, which can help you manage stress levels by yourself and increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid in your brain cells.
“If you’re trying to increase GABA levels for sleep improvement, note that any physical activity should be performed at least 2 hours before bedtime.”
Most Common Benefits of GABA Supplements
GABA can alter your brain chemistry, which is why it may affect you in different ways. Here are the most common ones that are proven by studies.
GABA is a common ingredient in supplements for anxiety relief. It can reduce the nervous excitation, which is often linked to the feelings of fear, panic, and anxiety. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that disturbances in the brain metabolism of GABA may be the critical factor for developing anxiety and panic disorders. So, taking GABA supplements may improve the situation for those suffering from these disorders.
Mood enhancing supplements that contain amino-butyric acid are also pretty common. This chemical may alleviate high levels of excitatory neurotransmitters and help manage mood swings.
Taking GABA as a mood enhancer is even more beneficial for women that experience a pronounced premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A 2002 study concluded that the GABAergic system is substantially modulated by menstrual cycle phase in healthy women, and GABA levels may decrease during PMS or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, which leads to mood swings and anger flashes.
Taking gamma-aminobutyric acid in the form of a supplement may help manage these symptoms and provide relief.
Helps Deal with Depression and Other Affective Disorders
As mentioned above, individuals with depression typically have lower levels of amino-butyric acid in their brain. Thus, taking GABA as a supplement for depression during complex therapy may speed up the recovery process and promote remission in depressive patients.
Also, the cortical concentrations of GABA can increase by themselves after the depression treatment. A 2003 study on patients who went through electroconvulsive therapy, which is considered the most effective method for treating recurrent depression, showed the increased levels of GABA during the treatment.
And finally, taking GABA may be beneficial for individuals with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD can affect both children and adults, with the main symptoms being:
- concentration difficulties;
- limited attention span.
Studies found that individuals with ADHD have lower GABA concentrations, compared to healthy people. So, GABA supplementation may help improve the chemical balance in the brain and thus reduce the symptoms.
Other Benefits of GABA
Along with cognition-related effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid, other GABA benefits are related to an improvement of certain physiological functions:
- GABA may increase the levels of human growth hormone (HGH). Human growth hormone plays a crucial role in body metabolism, muscle growth, cell repair, and is especially important for athletes. Interestingly enough, GABA can help you increase its levels. A 2008 study on 11 men who performed resistance training found that supplementing with GABA elevated the levels of HGH by about 400%. However, more studies are needed.
- GABA helps with blood pressure regulation. Thanks to its relaxing properties, GABA also promotes vessel dilation, which results in lower blood pressure levels. A study published in the Japanese Pharmacology and Therapeutics journal found that adults with mild hypertension who took 80 mg of GABA had a significant reduction in their blood pressure levels.
- GABA improves sleep. The use of GABA for sleep improvement is also common today. Because of the activation of both types of GABA receptors, this chemical is beneficial for relieving anxiety-induced insomnia and promoting total body relaxation, which results in better sleep.
Dosage and Side Effects
Since gamma-aminobutyric acid is a dietary supplement that isn’t regulated by the FDA, there’s no standard GABA dosage for everyone. That’s why you should consult with your doctor to find the dosage that will work for you.
Some healthcare practitioners suggest that up to 1,000 mg of GABA a day is a healthy dose for most individuals without chronic underlying conditions.
You may want to start with a smaller dosage and gradually increase it before you achieve the desired effect.
Although gamma-aminobutyric acid is naturally produced in your body, sensitive individuals or those who started using high doses of this chemical without gradual increasing may experience typical GABA side effects, which include:
- digestive distress;
- excessive sleepiness;
- slower reaction.
If you’re driving or working in an environment that requires a lot of focus and attention, taking high doses of GABA can create potentially dangerous situations and increase the risk of accidents.
FAQ for GABA Users
How long should you take GABA supplements?
This depends on the effects you expect, your initial condition, and the level of deficiency. Because of these factors, no one except your healthcare practitioner can give you an exact answer as to the duration of your GABA supplementation course.
Can you combine GABA with other anti-stress supplements?
GABA neurotransmitter can interact with medications and other supplements, and these interactions may have various effects. Experts suggest that taking GABA along with L-Theanine, valerian root, lemon balm or ashwagandha can increase its impact and shorten the delivery time. However, you still need to discuss this supplementation with your doctor first.
What is the best time of day to take GABA?
It depends on your goal. If you want to treat sleep issues, you may want to take high doses of GABA 20-30 minutes before sleep. For individuals who wish to manage stress or control their blood pressure, it’s better to split one daily dose throughout the day and take it between meals.
Does GABA make you gain weight?
Actually, it has the opposite effect. Stress is one of the critical factors of insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity and other metabolic disorders. Turns out, anti-stress neurotransmitters can help you manage stress and balance brain chemistry, which makes it easier for you to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
Can you determine GABA levels through blood tests?
No. Neurotransmitter levels are hard to measure through blood or urine tests, and today, lab GABA tests require so much time and resources that they’re used for research purposes only. The diagnosis of low GABA levels is clinical, meaning your doctor gathers your symptoms, medical history, and analyzes your mental health condition without making you go through any tests.
GABA is the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. It calms you down and helps manage stress and combat bad mood.
Some individuals initially have lower levels of this neurotransmitter, which makes them more prone to mood disorders and physiological problems, such as hypertension or gastrointestinal issues.
There are many ways to increase GABA levels naturally, including the implementation of certain lifestyle changes. But one of the most effective ways is taking supplements, either as an individual treatment or as a part of complex therapy.