GABA: One of the Brain’s Controlling Captains

GABA: One of the Brain’s Controlling Captains

There is an amino acid neurotransmitter that your body naturally produces found to have a significant effect on the brain. It’s called Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and it is linked to some significant systemic processes.

The Lone Neurotransmitter

An amino acid neurotransmitter is part of a category of chemicals responsible for transporting crucial information from one cell to another. GABA has been found to work on the other spectrum of neurotransmission.

Natural News describes this unique chemical,

“GABA was discovered as an amino acid in 1863 but it wasn’t until 1950 that it was found that GABA works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA is made in brain cells from glutamate [another amino acid] and works by blocking nerve impulses. Glutamate fires the nerve impulses and GABA does the opposite by telling the nerves not to fire. In the case of GABA deficiency, nerve cells fire too often and too easily.”

In a study conducted by Drs. Andrea J. Levinson and Zafiris J. Daskalakis of Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), GABA is referred to as “putting on the neurotransmitter brakes”.

Drs. Levinson comments,

“It’s a little like driving a car. You need the accelerator, but at every stage you need the brakes to work. Some of our neurotransmitters apply the spark and the gas to the engine, and GABA supplies the brakes…GABA provides the necessary inhibitory effect that we need in order to block out excessive brain activity that in depression may lead to excessive negative thinking.”

GABA and Sleep

As a result of GABA “putting on the brakes” it may also help with your sleep cycle. Some researcher’s believe that when sleep is challenged there is a GABA deficiency. In the event of an assumed or diagnosed GABA deficiency supplementation is sometimes recommended. Some believe that by taking a daily dose of GABA, there is the potential to relieve depression, anxiety, mood fluctuation, hypertension and sleep disorders.

The journal, Science Translational Medicine, cites a study where researchers obtained cerebrospinal fluids from 32 insomnia patients. When GABA was added to the fluid, “This triggered significantly electrical activity in the cells.”

This direct application was successful for increasing GABA deficiency and potentially enabling more positive sleep patterns as well as assisting in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. This was due to the fact that cerebrospinal fluid is within the blood brain barrier.

However, taking a GABA supplement may not be as effective. Although many other studies confirm the effectiveness of GABA they also show that oral supplementation (500-1000mg) is used only in the hope that some may reach the brain, however ingested supplements rarely permeate the blood brain barrier.

In addition, it is possible that these high supplemental doses could backfire resulting in actually triggering more anxiety than suppressing it.

Currently, GABA is being used in pharmaceutical recipes specifically designed to surpass the blood brain barrier and directly affect neurotransmission for sleep and mood disorders.

If you are considering GABA supplementation it is important to check with your physician first as self-supplemental dosing may be contraindicative.

Naturally Increasing GABA Levels

Various studies have also researched the effects of physical and herbal supplementation in which GABA levels are naturally increased.

A 2010 study from the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests the aroma from the flower jasmine may assist in surging GABA levels. You can dab the essential oil of jasmine on some of your pulse points such as your wrists, neck, sternum and temples before bed. It is also recommended to spray jasmine on your pillow and/or burn jasmine candles or incense throughout your bedroom.

Another 2010 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that participating in yoga may also increase GABA levels due to mood increase and anxiety reduction as a result of this practice.

Natural News also reports some other supplementation as well as dietary choices that may increase GABA levels,

“Vitamins B6 and B12 are essential nutrients required in the synthesis of many neurotransmitters including GABA. Natural sources of GABA are foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice and oats. Foods that are high in glutamine, glutamic acid and glutamate (NOT monosodium glutamate), include bananas, beef liver and other organ meats, broccoli, citrus fruits, halibut, lentils, molasses and nuts.”

If you are struggling with sleep, depression and/or anxiety, talk to your doctor about GABA supplementation and GABA related medicines.