GABA Supplement Health Benefits and Side Effects

Oct 25, 2017

What's all the fuss about GABA? Or, perhaps it should be said, "What's all the 'calm' about GABA?" In our high-stress, fast-paced society, many people are looking for something to help calm them down. GABA has become a popular supplement for a variety of conditions, especially for anxiety and insomnia.

Others claim that GABA helps improve mental focus, decrease racing thoughts, and helps post traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks. It is reported to help with fibromyalgia, pre-menstrual tension, irritability, adrenal fatigue and menopause.

Nerve problems like neuropathic pain, restless leg syndrome, tremors, and epilepsy are also reported to be helped by GABA.

Even body builders and athletes are taking GABA. GABA influences the production of HGH (human growth hormone.) GABA is taken before exercise or sports performance to increase endurance and the building of lean muscle.

How Does GABA Work?

GABA, or more formally, gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a non-essential amino acid. "Non-essential" does not mean we do not need it; it means that the body produced it, as opposed to "essential amino acids" which must come from food (or supplemental) sources. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.

More simply put, it keeps activity in the brain from going overboard. If you have ever experienced anxiety, racing thoughts, or restless leg syndrome, you certainly wish you could calm things down in the nervous system. That is GABA's job.

The Pros and Cons of GABA

Pros: Thousands of people are taking GABA supplements and reporting relief from a variety of conditions. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in favor of GABA.

Also, a 2002 National Institutes of Health study stated that, "GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the CNS. It is well established that activation of GABA(A) receptors favors sleep."

Cons: Other scientists say that a GABA supplement does not cross the blood-brain barrier. They say that any help by a supplement is only a placebo affect. GABA proponents say that at least some must be crossing the blood brain barrier.

Can I Increase GABA Activity in the Brain Without a GABA Supplement?

There are many supplements, herbs and vitamins that are taken to help with anxiety and other similar problems. It is suspected that these work by facilitating GABA activity in the brain.

Calming Herbs

Chamomile, Valerian, Passionflower and St. John's Wort are four herbs with a long history of having a calming effect, reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. This may be in part because of the effect that have on GABA activity in the brain. They are supporting healthy brain function.

  • Chamomile and Passionflower can be taken as a tea or in a tincture.
  • Valerian and St. John's Wort are usually taken in tincture or capsule form, as they do not make a very tasty tea.

Foods that Naturally Increase GABA in the Brain

Vitamin B-6, Taurine, and Zinc are all precursors or cofactors in GABA activity. Foods with the amino acid glutamic acid are needed to produce GABA in the brain. Glutamic acid is not to be confused with monosodium glutamate, which is a chemical and excitotoxin which is not good for the brain.

Making sure to eat foods high in glutamic acid is a natural way to increase the GABA activity in your brain.

  • These foods include oats, wheat, barley, almonds, oranges, potatoes, and brown rice, chicken, sea vegetables, peanut butter, walnuts, eggs, and plain yogurt.
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha also help with GABA production.

Green Tea is Relaxing

The amino acid theanine encourages GABA activity. Theanine is found in green tea. Having a cup of green tea, though it has caffeine, may actually help you relax!

Avoid Coffee

Coffee inhibits GABA activity. This may be why people that suffer with anxiety find that giving up coffee decreases anxiety symptoms. And most people know that trouble sleeping is a consequence of having coffee too late in the day.

Exercise Relieves Stress

It is generally understood that exercise is good for the brain and decreases stress and anxiety. This may be in part because it helps your body to make GABA.

Of course, many people choose to take a supplement because in the middle of a health issue (especially anxiety issues) it can be hard to modify a diet or figure out just what to take. In those cases, just trying some GABA to see if it helps may be ideal. Once you feel less anxious, you might be able to figure out other ways to decrease anxiety, if desired.

Dosage Information

Dosage recommendations for GABA vary from 500-1000 mg one to three times a day. There are a variety of different companies making GABA supplements, each a little different. Many of them will also include some of the complementary nutrients, like B-6, l-theanine, or taurine. It is recommended that GABA is taken on an empty stomach with water or juice.

GABA can also be bought in bulk. Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper, you can avoid the fillers in the pill forms, and you can adjust the dosages to suit your needs very easily.

Side Effects

As always, when starting a new supplement, start small and increase slowly so that you can monitor its effect on you.

Because GABA promotes good sleep, avoid taking GABA before driving or using heavy equipment until you know how it works for your body.

Always watch for side effects when taking a new supplement. Side effects of GABA including a "flush" feeling (similar to a "niacin flush,") nausea, headache, vomiting, sweating, sleepiness, and vivid dreams. Other side effects include restlessness, grogginess, panic attacks, shortness of breath, increase in blood pressure, tinnitus, panic attacks, tingling feeling in the face, neck, tongue or whole body, racing heart, and withdraw symptoms.

GABA and Special Needs Children

Some parents with special needs children are learning about the benefits of GABA for their children. Parents whose children suffer from autism, attention deficit disorder, Tourette's syndrome or obsessive compulsive disorder have often searched tirelessly for years for soutions to help their children. Some medications prescribed for mental health work by improving GABA activity. But many parents prefer a more nautural approach.  This is where GABA may be part of the solution. Because GABA is often used in conjunction with other supplements, like B-6, it is best to have a qualified health practitioner working with a parent and child to maximize the child's potential and health. 

Cautions!

GABA may not be suitable for people with bi-polar disorder or depression. A supplement that "calms down" an already depressed system is not likely to be the best solution.

If you decide to take GABA for insomnia, do not take it on a night that you do not expect to be able to get a normal night of sleep (8 hours.) Because GABA promotes deep sleep, if you only have 5 hours in which to sleep, you may have a hard time getting up in the morning!

Pregnant and nursing mothers should speak to their doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant if they feel a GABA supplement is needed.

Have you tried GABA? Please be sure to share your experience with us!



Anxiety in Pets  

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Posted by Robert (Martinez, Ca) on 02/03/2016
5 out of 5 stars

Anxiety and Stress Cures for Pets

Per Journal of Vet. Med. Science: "GABA dosage of 30 mg/kg of body weight once per day" will alleviate stress/anxiety without 'side effects'. This study was performed on aged dogs, 15+yrs., to calm them for vet visits.

Personally, I would lessen the dose as I am familiar with GABA's human use. My 10lb. dog would use 136mgs. per above dosage, however, I would start with half & this depends on the stress level. Example: for humans, mild stress dose is 100mgs., 3 x's per day. Severe stress is 250mgs., 3 x's per day per 'PharmaGaba' mfgr. GABA is avail at most health food stores. It's effects are similar to valium, however, mild. I would purchase the capsuled powder & break open the cap. to sprinkle in water or food. Buy the lower dosage if avail to make it easier to dose. GABA is a amino acid derivative & the human brain has GABA receptors, however, I don't know about canines.

Last note: I have an animal feed store nearby which does have "calming" supplements for various animals such as horses, dogs, etc. The price is inexpensive compared to the human stores. Read the ingredients & research them online.

Replied by Glendalough
Northern California
02/04/2016

I have used Gaba for myself for my anxiety in the past, Now Foods True Calm, and it works everytime. I wouldn't give her this product as it contains other things besides Gaba (valerian, glycine, niacin). My cat has cancer and is very stressed, overgrooming and pulling out her fur, due to my having to give her supplements and assist feed. I need something urgently for her, thank you for posting this. She weighs about 12 pounds, do you know approximately the dose I would give her?

Replied by Robert
Martiinez, Ca
02/04/2016

For a 12 lb DOG the dose is as specified at 30mgs per kg. One 'kg' is 2.2lbs. Divide 12lbs by 2.2 to get, 5.45prox. (x) 30mgs. = 164mgs. I would halve the DOG dose to observe relief. Animals have a high tolerance for pain & difficult to discern their pain level, however, signs might include watery eyes, tearing, etc. You may want to search out a site called, "The Prudent Wife"(dot) com, who has many suggestions for both dogs & cats.

Replied by Lynne
North Carolina
06/07/2016

I suggest Bach Flower Rescue Remedy for your kitty's stress and anxiety. My vet approves it and uses it herself. Read up on the remedy. I've fostered over 70 kitties that were abandoned or abused, it worked so well in getting them socialized for their forever homes. Love and light to your kitty...

Replied by Monika
Colorado
03/31/2017

Does GABA supplements act similarly to CBD oil? My standard poodle already takes that but still has occasional seizures despite it and phenobarb. Thank you.

Replied by Anon
Anon
10/24/2017

I realize it has been a while and your poor friend may have passed away by now, but there are rave reviews for raw food diets. If nothing else, adding raw egg yolks and cream to her diet may be very beneficial. My furry friend is going on 15 years and still acts like a kitten. He eats a grain free wet food with access to a grain free dry food at all times. I add an egg yolk and 1/2 tsp. chia seeds to the wet food to help with constipation and an ear infection. Periodicly he gets colloidal silver in the wet food. His teeth have been cleaned once his entire life. He gets catnip and valerian now and then. I avoid taking him to the vet, don't trust those vaccinations. He was on dry food most of his life and grain free the past few years. He is also toilet trained.


Concentration  

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Posted by Alex (Eugene, OR) on 05/24/2009
1 out of 5 stars

Hi everyone, I love Earthclinic and am very thankful to everyone who makes this site available. My feedback is on GABA. I have taken it in the past and it did NOT work for me. I believe that, as with everything, different things work for different people, so it may be worth trying it. The one I took was of a very reputable brand and the purpose of my taking it was to make me calmer and help me concentrate while I was studying for an exam.


General Feedback  

Posted by Vinumentis (Belgium) on 12/08/2010

I use GABA from organic green tea (sencha). Very easy to order your loose tea leafs online from respectable tea farms in Japan, from different regions. Not to mention all the other postive side effects of every single cup of tea. IMHO, why taking the pill when brewing a cup of tea will bring you much more relief on different levels then a simple tablet? With my warmest thanks to all the people who share their experiences and knowledge.


Increase HGH  

Posted by Carol (Cumming, Ga) on 12/24/2012

I want the benefical effects of human growth hormones (hgh) there are expensives ones on the market like symbiotropin, Does anyone know of a way I can take a similar product under a different label for less expense? Thanks

Replied by Timh
Louisville, Ky, Usa
12/24/2012

Carol: Deer Antler Velvet supplements have had some good results.

Personally I take GABA (which has been clinically shown to boost HGH by up to 40%) 1-2 grm about 3 times per week (just took some a few minutes ago). As an adjunct therapy I also listen to YouTube HGH harmonic music tracts which are developed to stimulate the Pituitary Gland. GABA is said to be directly taken by Pituitary as that gland just loves to be fueled by it. I do experience a noticeable increase in my overall stamina.

The amino acid Arginine, Ornithine, and Glutamine also stimulate HGH production. One can also take a Raw Anterior Pituitary supplement for HGH boosting.

Rapid Cardio Workouts are also being touted as a major means of HGH boosting (YouTube vids for this also).


Insomnia  

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Posted by Lora (D.c) on 09/18/2016
1 out of 5 stars

I was so hopeful especially reading the mood cure book and how Gaba is a miracle otc aid for insomnia. Within 30 minutes my heart was racing and I was very alert. It's morning and I feel like crap, I'm tired and am now looking for something else to help with my sleep.

Replied by John
Cambridge
09/18/2016

You may have taken too high a dosage of GABA. If you try again, try chewable 100mg of GABA. GABA should be taken carefully as needed. I occasionally use low dose GABA with melatonin drops at night and it helps me sleep deeply. However, I don't take GABA every night. In my opinion, the brain only needs a GABA boost once in a while unless you are severely GABA deficient.


Stroke Recovery  

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Posted by Bilja (Canada) on 12/19/2015
5 out of 5 stars

20 years ago, my father had stroke when he was 69 y/o. Being heavy smoker, first three weeks in hospital were very difficult, he was blind, not able to move/talk, having crisis on 7th, 14th, 21st day after stroke incident. Days in between, he would be smoking, (Bosnia in the 90s, patient could smoke in the hospital) it was really a battle to get him off.

Things gotten really bad, family thought we lost him. The most amazing thing, friends recommended to take Russian pills Aminalon 2x 250mg with each meal, so 3 times a day. We were told, as much as he recovers in next 18 months will be the best he can ever get. To my amazement, 2 months after the stroke, he was released from hospital, able to move, but having difficulties with orientation. He wouldn't know the way around, not knowing where kitchen or bedroom is. He did stop smoking, but kept taking Aminalon like religious thing. 6 months later, he was able to go to the city downtown by himself, not getting lost, finding way back to the apartment.

I lived with him for the first 1.5 years. After that, he was on his own, and lived for 12 years in great health after the stroke. He was active till the last day, he died in his sleep.

When I looked up Aminalon, I discovered it's called GABA here in the west, but never heard anyone suggesting for stroke patients. Back home, it's been known to help recover brain function and memory. One year after stroke, 50 y/o actor was able to get back to theater, memorizing script better than any young guy, thanks to Aminalon aka GABA.

Wish all the best, hope for Ted's recovery.


Temper  

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Posted by Kathy (Las Vegas, Nv) on 02/07/2010
5 out of 5 stars

I feel much more calmer when I take GABA and my thought process is clearer. I have my husband on it because he has such a hot temper and it works for him too.