GABA and its effects: the neurotransmitter as a natural anti-stress agent for relaxation and sleep

GABA and its effects: the neurotransmitter as a natural anti-stress agent for relaxation and sleep

Have you suffered from insomnia or stress for a long time? The neurotransmitter GABA could be related to this. Here you can find out what GABA is exactly and how it works in your body.

Many people suffer from insomnia, including restless sleep, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up frequently and waking up too early. Around the world, around 30% of adults do not get a good night's sleep. Perhaps you've heard of GABA and that it can help you sleep better. If you want to find out more about GABA, you've come to the right place.


young man is stressed, annoyed and tired


γ-aminobutyric acid: what is GABA?

GABA is the abbreviation for gamma-aminobutyric acid  or in English gamma-aminobutyric acid and a naturally occurring amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. In order for your body to produce proteins, it needs amino acids. Non-proteinogenic amino acids, including GABA, fulfill important functions in the body, even if they are not used to build up the body's own proteins.

GABA accounts for around a third in the brain. This makes the GABA neurotransmitter, the most common neurotransmitter of all others. It is also the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in humans. Inhibitory means that these neurotransmitters have a calming effect. Excitatory neurotransmitters would encourage arousal.1

Neurotransmitters such as glutamate, Adrenalin or dopamine belong to the excitatory neurotransmitters. Gamma-aminobutyric acid, on the other hand, blocks certain signals in the brain and reduces the activity in your nervous system. Thus, GABA is viewed as an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces the excitability of nerve cells. This means that the excitable stimuli are slowed down and your body is relaxed.




What do the receptors do Gamma aminobutyric acid?

Gamma-amino-butyric acid receptors are transmembrane proteins in nerve cells. When a GABA molecule binds to a protein in your brain, it inhibits the excitation of your nerve cells and has a calming effect on you. This helps with feelings of fear or stress, for example, and can provide mental relaxation and balance.

In addition, GABA can also indirectly lead to an increased release of growth hormones, which support fat metabolism.


young woman is lying on the bed and cannot concentrate


How is GABA created?

GABA is made from the non-essential amino acid glutamate - on the one hand in the brain and on the other hand in the pancreas. The reason is that GABA cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore does not enter the brain from outside. This is why your GABA level in the brain can only be measured using MRI methods.

In contrast to GABA, glutamate has a stimulating effect on your nerves, but its biological path is the same.

When your nervous system is working optimally, the activity of glutamate and GABA is in balance. If you are now struggling with a cold, for example, and your inflammation levels are increased and your immune system has to work harder, the activity of glutamate increases. In order to get back into equilibrium, the GABA activity also increases. If the activity is out of balance and your glutamate level is higher, you may experience symptoms such as

  • Trouble sleeping
  • decreased concentration
  • Feelings of fear


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GABA + effect: how and where does gamma aminobutyric acid work?

In the brain, the GABA transmitters and receptors play a major role in To initiate and maintain sleep. However, drugs that aim to induce sleep or reduce anxiety, such as narcotics and benzodiazepines, also bind to the GABA receptors and inhibit the excited nerve cells.

As already mentioned, gamma-amino-butyric acid is also found in larger quantities in the pancreas. There it is involved in controlling blood sugar levels by inhibiting the production of the hormone glucagon.

In calming and relaxing GABA effect on your body comes from that the stimulus entering your nervous system slows down and reaches your nerves more slowly.


young asian woman is sitting outside on the stairs and is thoughtful


GABA: How do I recognize a deficiency in gamma-amino-butyric acid?

People who have certain medical conditions may have lower GABA levels. For example, a 2012 study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found something about the effects of gamma aminobutyric acid in relation to children: Children who suffer from ADHD have lower levels of GABA.2 People with depression often have low GABA levels.3

Indications and symptoms that can indicate a GABA deficiency or low GABA level:

  • Seizure disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson's)
  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • headache
  • lack of concentration
  • Muscle spasms
  • muscle tension
  • nervousness
  • Panic disorder
  • sleep disorders
  • Mood disorders (e.g., depression)
  • Stress
  • unrest


    Make-up woman ties her hair together


    Taking GABA

    Because of the natural calming effects of taking GABA, claims have been made about the use of supplements designed to reduce stress. Those who suffer from high stress are probably familiar with the health effects in the form of poor sleep and a weak immune system. There is also an increased risk of depression.


    GABA Recommended Use: When should I take it?

    Some people who suffer from poor sleep, have a weak immune system or are depressed, use food supplements with the GABA amino acid, such as GABA powder and capsules or GABA tea, to alleviate their symptoms. Due to the effect this may seem sensible at first, there is not much evidence that taking it can really help with these diseases - anxiety states are excluded from this.

    If sleep problems are your concern in order to take GABA, it makes sense to take it before bed. You should do this just like the GABA dosage discuss this with your doctor in more detail - especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have kidney and liver problems.

    Another way to promote your sleep is ours DEEP SLEEP with melatonin. The natural sleep hormone helps you fall asleep faster, as it regulates the day-night rhythm.



    How is GABA taken?

    GABA is available in the form of capsules, powder or tea. The cheapest way to consume GABA is tea. However, you have the lowest dose in here, which is why capsules and powder are probably more profitable. Those who do not like to swallow capsules will be satisfied with powder, which is simply dissolved in water. Here, however, you have to pay attention to the dosage, whereby you don't have to worry about the capsule form and are more practical to take with you.

    Since there are not very many and only very small studies with GABA preparations, the results are not very meaningful. Therefore, more major long-term studies are needed to explore the benefits of such supplements. We recommend that you always speak to your doctor before taking any preparations.


    Advantages of GABA: It can help with that

    Not much is known about the effectiveness of GABA supplements. So are themselves Researchers disagree on how much of the GABA reaches the brain if you supplement with capsules or ingest food. However, some experts believe that it is only a small amount.

    In the following we present some research results related to GABA and its application:

    • Anxiety
    • Hypertension
    • insomnia
    • Stress and fatigue


      Man sitting stressed on the sofa


      In 2006, an article from two very small studies reported that participants who took a GABA supplement during a stressful event had an increased sense of relaxation compared to those who took a placebo or L-theanine (another popular supplement). It was also found that the relaxing effects of the GABA preparation were noticeable within an hour of taking the dietary supplement.4



      A 2003 study looked at GABA in relation to blood pressure. In people with slightly elevated blood pressure, daily consumption of a fermented milk product containing GABA lowered blood pressure after 2-4 weeks. The study compared with a placebo.5

      In 2009, another study found that taking a GABA-containing Chlorella supplement (twice daily) lowered blood pressure in patients with borderline hypertension.6


      young woman lies tired on the bed



      Do you know that when you are in constant stress, have a lot of thoughts, have to cough from one appointment to the next, are on the road a lot or work on several tasks and projects? These are just a few examples that can lead to sensory overload.

      After all, your brain has to process every impulse, impression, and information it receives. Whether from the outside or the inside, your body cannot relax properly in the end. This makes it more difficult for you to rest and have a restful sleep in the evening. The next day you may be irritable, nervous and suffer from a lack of concentration.

      Regeneration and a good night's sleep are necessary so that your body and mind function optimally and you can achieve your full performance. This is where GABA can help - with its calming effect on your nerve cells, it inhibits stress signals to your brain and slows this process down.

      In 2018, 40 participants in a small study took 300 mg of GABA one hour before going to sleep and felt they fell asleep faster than participants who were given a placebo. The quality of sleep is also said to have improved four weeks after the start of treatment.7




      During the day, you get many different stimuli that your brain has to reach and process - many stress hormones are released in the process. As you may already know: Exercise and exercise are good ways to lift your mood. Researchers also investigated this in 2010 and looked at the GABA concentration during exercise. They came to the conclusion that the concentration of GABA has decreased by almost 20%.8

      Another study related to stress is from 2009 and found that consuming chocolate containing 28 mg of GABA reduced stress in participants doing a problem-solving task.9

      In another 2011 study from Japan related to stress and fatigue, researchers gave 30 participants a drink that contained 25 mg or 30 mg of GABA in a drink to investigate its effects. There was a reduction in mental and physical fatigue when doing a problem-solving task. However, the 50 mg drink appeared to be slightly more effective on the participants.10



      Dietary supplement: white capsules


      GABA side effects: is GABA dangerous?

      The investigations into a possible GABA side effect of food supplements have not been properly investigated. However, some people often reported

      • stomach pain
      • headache
      • sleepiness
      • Muscle weakness


      Therefore, you should know your body and the effects of such preparations on you well before you drive or operate machines.

      Interactions with GABA have also not been clearly researched. So if you want to try GABA, you should definitely talk to your doctor about it beforehand.


      Woman with a cup of tea


      Foods that contain GABA

      Because of its calming effect, the neurotransmitter has now become a popular supplement. Because GABA cannot be obtained from many food sources. Only fermented foods contain GABA, for example

      • green and black tea
      • yogurt
      • Kefir
      • Kimchi
      • miso
      • tempeh

      You can also use foods that L-Tryptophan, Contain serotonin or glutamate, help your body produce GABA. Especially the neurotransmitter Serotonin is important for the effectiveness of GABA because serotonin stimulates GABA synthesis.


      Foods that support the production of GABA:

      • Bananas
      • Brown rice
      • broccoli
      • Oats
      • hazelnuts
      • halibut
      • Almonds
      • brown rice
      • beef liver
      • spinach
      • tomatoes
      • Parmesan cheese
      • whole grain products
      • walnuts
      • wheat bran


        Walnuts in a bowl: a good snack between meals



        GABA (GABA-aminobutyric acid) acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and is a naturally occurring amino acid. As a chemical messenger, GABA plays an important role in our body. If you suffer from stress, anxiety and sleep problems, a food supplement with GABA could help you, as it has an anxiolytic and calming effect on you and thus contributes to your well-being.

        However, the study situation on supplements is not so clear, as the studies are still too small and too few. Since the side effects, interactions or a GABA overdose have not really been investigated, you should definitely discuss the intake with your doctor beforehand. Only he can judge whether taking GABA could be harmful to your health.

        If you have discussed the use of GABA with your doctor, we recommend that you analyze your sleep behavior and optimize your sleeping environment. Get used to sleep rituals to calm down in the evening and get in the mood for a restful night. You can find out how this can work in our Sleep in the category ahead Academy














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