GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a naturally occurring amino acid that your body produces under normal circumstances. It is the most widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain and helps in maintaining a proper balance between the mind and the body. Neurotransmitters are chemical molecules that brain cells and nerve cells use to communicate with each other. GABA is found in almost every region of brain, and is formed through the activity of the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase. Drugs in the benzodiazepine-receptor-agonist family exert their effect by facilitating the ability of GABA to bind to receptor sites in the brain.
In the brain, GABA insufficiency is believed to cause rapid firing of nerve cells leading to increases in agitation, anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, Parkinson’s disease and thought disorders. Because the chemical is a component of the body’s neurological system, deficiencies have also been linked to a number of neurological conditions, including seizures and fibromyalgia. GABA analog gabapentin has been approved in the United States for the treatment of epileptic seizures and postherpetic neuralgia.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an important neurotransmitter that is abundant and widely distributed throughout the central nervous system. It is produced by the body from glutamate, although this process becomes less efficient with age. Low levels or decreased Gamma-aminobutyric acid function in the brain is associated with different neurological and psychiatric problems, but most primarily depression, anxiety, insomnia and epilepsy. A study reported in the journal “Biological Psychiatry” in 2010 indicates that individuals with major depression may be more likely to have low levels of Gamma-aminobutyric acid. British scientists have found that the age-related decline in higher brain functions is due, in large part, to a lack of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, Gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Some anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines and barbiturates generally work by increasing the amount of GABA in the synapses that is available to bond to GABA receptor sites. While many individuals diagnosed with anxiety take prescription medications such as Xanax, Valium or Ativan, benzodiazepine drugs that stimulate GABA receptors, these drugs often produce negative effects.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid is named to as the ‘brain’s natural calming agent, and by inhibiting over-stimulation of the brain, GABA may help promote relaxation and ease nervous tension. Initial studies in the 1950s suggested that GABA had a relaxing effect on the brain and could be useful in the therapy of anxiety and schizophrenia. Gamma-aminobutyric acid may help to lower the effects of stress via its calming role by attaching to the benzodiazepine receptors in your brain. GABA hinders the transmission of nerve impulses from one neuron to other. It has a quieting or calming influence. Unlike benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium that are created to enhance the effects of GABA in your brain, GABA provides the same relaxing anti anxiety without the addictive side effects.
GABA stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to secrete higher levels of HGH (human growth hormone). The researchers of study reported in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” in 2008 found that oral GABA supplements elevated growth hormone levels.
GABA Dosage for Anxiety
Clinical studies show that doses of 800 mg a day are effective for insomnia and anxiety. Some physicians prescribe GABA in doses of up to 200 milligrams, 4 times a day, for a maximum daily dose of 800 milligrams.
GABA Side Effects
GABA may produce excessive drowsiness when taken with other drugs that have a tranquilizing property, including codeine and other narcotic pain relievers, sedatives, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants. Always let your physician know if you are taking GABA or other supplements. Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with severe kidney or liver illness have not been established.
Natural GABA Enhancers
• GABA is formed through the activity of the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD). GAD requires vitamin B6 as a cofactor, which can be used to regulate the levels of GABA. Also works in synergy with nutrients such as inositol and niacine to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. The tolerable upper intake level of vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) for adults is 100 mg per day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
• L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the primary component in green tea. This amino acid primarily affects dopamine, serotonin, and especially GABA levels. By increasing the levels of GABA in the brain, theanine is considered to produce calming effects. According to a 2006 info in the “Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy“, L-theanine not only increases GABA levels in the brain, it also increases serotonin and dopamine levels. L-theanine supplements are taken in doses ranging from 200 milligrams to 800 milligrams per day. (Suntheanine® is the patented form of L-theanine and the trademark of Taiyo International, the firm that originally isolated the amino acid into an effective supplement for consumers). L-Theanine Dosage For Anxiety
• Valerian Root comes from the Valeriana officinalis plant. Has a long history of use as a tranquilizer by increasing the effect of GABA on its receptors. Scientists, they believe it increases the amount of a chemical called GABA in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and has a calming property on anxiety. Valerian root extract is given in supplement form in doses of 100 to 600 milligrams before or after stress related events.
• Magnesium Glycinate is a soluble form of magnesium. Deficiency in magnesium may lead to anxiety-related behavior, according to a 2004 study reported in “Neuropharmacology“. Work up to a daily dose of 400 to 1,000 mg. provides a highly natural approach when paired with vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine).
• Kava Kava is a shrub belonging to the pepper family, Piperaceae. The kavalactones found in kava kava appear to alter levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which are 2 chemicals that promote a happy mood and feelings of pleasure. The lactones contained in kava kava may also stimulate the production of more attachment sites in the body for a different neurotransmitter, GABA. A study reported in the November 2003 of Phytomedicine found that 73 % of patients treated with kava kava extract over 4 weeks experienced decreased anxiety. The German Commission E (an official government agency similar to the FDA), recommends taking a kava supplement that supplies 60 mg to 120 mg of kavalactones daily for no longer than three months at a time. (Look for standardized kava root extract in tablet or liquid form that contains 30 to 70 % kavalactones, the active ingredient in kava root)
• Taurine is a non-essential amino acid produced by the body through the synthesis of 2 other amino acids, cysteine and methionine. Taurine increases the effectiveness of GABA. Typical doses of 1,000 to 5,000 milligrams per day have been used safely.