Trying to Find Your Calm? Get Your GABA Flowing
These are such stressful times. Climate change, politics, social media, inflation, and deadly viruses are all blowing up the status quo. How are we reacting? Have we the resilience to push through and release the chronic stress we have been living under?
As it turns out, our miraculous brain produces a neurotransmitter – GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) that inhibits or slows the brain’s functions. Its primary function is to reduce the activity of neurons in the brain and the central nervous system. That, in turn, has a broad range effect on the body and the mind, including increased relaxation, reduced stress, a more calm, balanced mood, alleviation of pain, and a boost to sleep.
The GABA neurotransmitter helps brain cells to communicate with each other. There are also receptors in the gut that use GABA to interact with the brain and impact our emotions.
There are certain neurologic and mental health conditions that are thought to be related to times when GABA messaging activity (signaling) isn’t in balance and working as it should. Decreased GABA activity may contribute to:
· Anxiety and mood disorders
· Autism spectrum disorder
· Epilepsy, seizures
These are serious outcomes of low GABA. Does it feel like everyone’s GABA is on the low side these days? If it is produced naturally, is there any way that we can increase our GABA output? You might have heard of the class of drugs that are Benzodiazepines. Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Ativan are medications commonly prescribed for anxiety issues and other mental health conditions. These drugs are very effective at reducing anxiety because they are GABA activators. Benzodiazepines are heavily prescribed and can often result in addiction. There is a serious risk of dangerous side effects, including fatal overdose, especially when mixed with other substances like alcohol or opioids.
We have heard all about benzos relieving anxiety and many of us may know people who are addicted. What we didn’t know was that low GABA was the cause and that there are natural options available to increase your GABA flow and offer us relief.
Let’s look at:
Six Ways to Increase GABA Naturally:
1. GABA Foods
Consuming foods rich in glutamic acid, which helps create GABA in the brain, is a quick and easy way to increase and maintain proper GABA levels.
- These are foods like citrus fruits and bananas, or certain nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Vegetables like spinach, potatoes, broccoli, and lentils are also high in glutamic acid.
- A meal with brown rice and halibut packs a one-two-punch of glutamic acid to increase GABA for sleep and other health benefits
2. Exercise Regularly to Increase GABA Naturally
- Cardiovascular exercise has shown to increase GABA levels.
- Running, jogging, hiking, or walking at least four times a week, at whatever intensity you can manage can create a better overall mood.
3. Take up Yoga
- A session of yoga is an excellent way to cool down, stretch, and boost GABA production after some cardiovascular exercise
- Research has shown that holding the posture sequences involved in yoga can have a beneficial effect on mood and anxiety because of GABA activation.
4. Meditation and Mindfulness Boost GABA
- Regular meditation and mindfulness are ways to boost GABA production through relaxation and deep breathing.
- Find a comfortable spot at home or in another relaxing space. Get in a comfortable sitting position, close your eyes and practice inhaling through the nose for a five count. Hold it for a second or two and exhale through the mouth for the same amount of time.
- Carve out five to ten minutes each day, even if it’s before work or school, to meditate and breathe. Not only does it boost GABA, but it also helps clear the mind, and improve focus when you need it the most.
5. Avoid Drugs, Alcohol, and Junk Food
- While some drugs and alcohol activate GABA in the brain, making us feel good in the process, it’s the after-effects that are problematic.
- Junk foods can have similar results, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish, while having a negative impact on mood.
6. GABA Supplement for Anxiety and Sleep
- There are a handful of GABA supplements to increase the inhibitory neurotransmitter that are safe to take regularly.
- These can include things like:
o Green tea
o The amino acid taurine
o Magnesium, B6, and Zinc supplements
- Some people need to boost GABA for anxiety for anxiety, while others want to increase GABA for sleep, and these have shown to be effective for many people
- Straight GABA supplements are also available, though some experts argue that they don’t work because GABA is not actually reaching the brain.
Sometimes when you experience bouts of anxiety, it is hard to clear your head and feel better. But understanding that you can change your GABA level and relieve anxiety or naturally fall asleep should be empowering. You don’t have to be medication dependent to feel better. High fives for our miraculous brain!
Cleveland Clinic. Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22857-gamma-aminobutyric-acid-gaba#:~:text=Gamma%2Daminobutyric%20acid%20(GABA)%20is%20a%20neurotransmitter%2C%20a,for%20producing%20a%20calming%20effect.
Oro House Recovery Centers. (August 4, 2021). 6 Ways to increase GABA naturally for anxiety without benzos. Retrieved from: https://www.ororecovery.com/ways-to-increase-gaba-naturally-for-anxiety-without-benzos/