What is GABA?
GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that helps to calm the nervous system, both in the brain and throughout the body.
What are the claimed benefits?
Lowers blood pressure
Reduces digestive symptoms
What the science says
Pharmaceutical drugs that target GABA receptors such as Lunesta and Ambien can induce relaxation, sleep and reduction of symptoms of anxiety. However, oral GABA supplements do not cross the blood brain barrier and are therefore most certainly not effective for inducing sleep. Interestingly, GABA supplements may still act on the nervous system outside the brain to support anxiety symptom reduction. This may, in theory, support sleep if anxiety is the primary inhibitor for sleep, although research is still limited at best.
The Apeiron Life perspective
Rather than GABA supplements, supporting endogenous GABA production is much more efficient strategy for reducing symptoms of excessive stimulation, excessive thinking, anxiety and worry. Research supports a few potential alternatives for positively impacting GABA pathways
Stress management practices.
Time in nature
L-theanine compound from green, black and oolong teas
Drink these earlier in the day as the caffeine may negatively impact your sleep.
Herbs: lavender, lemon balm, valerian, hops and chamomile
Try these in tea forms before bed, but work with a Naturopathic Doctor or herbally informed Medical Doctor to find the right medicinal and supplemental forms for you.
Will a supplement benefit you?
Likely not. Don’t waste your time, money and energy unless you have been directed by an informed healthcare professional to take GABA.
Still curious to try it? If you do, here’s what to keep an eye on:
Because modifying neurotransmitters can pose serious mental health risks, working with your healthcare team is strongly recommended prior to taking any supplements that may do so. Experiment slowly with food and beverage forms as mentioned above and pay attention to how they impact you. The lowest risk is with mindfulness practices as adverse reports are nearly non-existent and the benefits are numerous!