GABA, The Neurotransmitter Of Rest And Relaxation

GABA, the neurotransmitter of rest and relaxation

Do you feel excited, irritable, or sad for no apparent reason? Is that a feeling you have all the time? This can be explained in many ways. However, there is a chance that your brain is suffering from low levels of certain substances. Our brains use up to 100 different neurotransmitters. GABA is one of them. It is the neurotransmitter of rest and relaxation.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and a neurotransmitter that regulates brain excitability. It does this by preventing excessive firing of neurons. This leads to feelings of calm and relaxation.

Appropriate levels in GABA can reduce stress and make you feel less restless. It also reduces the chances of various health problems.

What is GABA and what does it do?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid is one of the most important neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are actually the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. GABA is the most frequently acting inhibitory neurotransmitter. Inhibitory neurotransmitters lower the chance that a nerve impulse will discharge.

Its main function as an inhibitory neurotransmitter is to slow down brain activity. In addition, it is involved in vision, sleep, muscle resilience and motor control.

It is also widely distributed on the inside and outside of the central nervous system. We find it in the intestines, stomach, bladder, lungs, liver, skin, spleen, muscles, kidneys, pancreas and the reproductive organs.

What is GABA and what does it do

Some diseases and disorders are linked to GABA dysfunction. These include autism, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, meningitis, some dementias, and some intestinal disorders.

  • Examples of these types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia.
  • These are examples of some gut disorders associated with GABA: Crohn’s disease, colorectal cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
  • In addition, it is also associated with certain conditions characterized by involuntary movements with low levels of this neurotransmitter. Examples include Parkison’s disease, tardive dyskinesia, and Huntington’s disease.

Rest and relaxation

One of the most important functions of GABA is to keep stress and anxiety as low as possible and to provide peace and relaxation. Low levels of this neurotransmitter thus lead to an increase in feelings of fear and sensitivity to stimulation.

Nature Magazine  has published an article about this neurotransmitter. It states that GABA reduces those unwanted thoughts that stimulate stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid also affects brain activity because it alters brain wave patterns. The presence of this neurotransmitter increases those brain waves associated with a relaxed state (alpha waves). It lowers the brain waves associated with stress and anxiety (beta waves).

The balance in brain activity

If we want to talk about how gamma-aminobutyric acid works, we also have to take into account another neurotransmitter: L-glutamate.

This neurotransmitter is a natural by-product of energy production in the brain. Actually, L-glutamate is one of the products of the conversion of glucose in the brain. So this means it is very important.

These two neurotransmitters complement and are opposites. L-glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter and balances the effects of GABA. Stimulating neurotransmitters increase the chance of a nerve impulse being released. While GABA slows down brain activity, L-glutamate speeds up this activity.

Both work together to control brain activity. They work as a team and also interact with each other. L-glutamate is the precursor of GABA. In turn, GABA can be converted to L-glutamate if necessary.

Are your GABA levels low?

In most cases, we can attribute GABA malfunction to a person’s lifestyle.

According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, says that too much stress, a poor diet, lack of sleep, too much caffeine and gluten intolerance are some of the causes of an “abnormality” of GABA. They prevent us from experiencing rest and relaxation.

It is also important to remember that gut bacteria produce this neurotransmitter. Dysbacteriosis is an imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria. It can cause a significant drop in GABA production.

In addition, we should note that too much L-glutamine is converted to GABA with the help of vitamin B6 and an enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD).

A deficiency of vitamin B6 or an autoimmune reaction can disrupt the production of this neurotransmitter. Autoimmune diseases, diabetes, gluten intolerance, celiac disease and Hashimoto’s disease can be the cause of this autoimmune reaction.

On the other hand, we must also remember that there are many internal chemical changes that affect the balance in L-glutamate-GABA. When we think of substance use, we know that caffeine prevents the activity of GABA. Alcohol and tranquilizers, on the other hand, make it rise.

Are your GABA levels low

How do we increase GABA levels?

Supplements

There are GABA supplements that contain a synthetic form of this neurotransmitter. However, there is disagreement about whether those supplements actually work.

It is still unknown whether GABA will reach the brain in the right amounts to have the effect it usually has. However, some people claim that these supplements are very useful and give them peace and relaxation again.

In addition, there is no established dosage for these supplements. There is also insufficient research on the possible side effects. Actually, there is no real research about the safety of these supplements.

Nutrition

However, there are many other natural ways to maintain healthy GABA levels. One way is through the diet. Researchers have analyzed the GABA content of an extensive number of foods.

This has happened with whole grain rice, brown rice germ, barley germ, beans, corn, brown rice, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale and chestnuts.

The study of a life sciences institute at University College Cork in Ireland has also revealed another fact. Probiotic foods increase gamma-aminobutyric acid. This group includes yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. After all, they contain the bacterial elements that produce GABA.

If you’re concerned about your GABA levels, it’s important to cut down on caffeine. After all, caffeine prevents the ability of this neurotransmitter to bind to its receptors. On the contrary, you can drink tea. Tea contains less caffeine and also contains the amino acid L-theanine. That amino acid increases the production of GABA.

Movement

Another very effective way to increase your GABA levels is through exercise. Any form of physical activity raises levels of this neurotransmitter.

Yoga is the best form of exercise in this case. A fun fact is that levels of this neurotransmitter in the brain can rise by up to 27% after a single yoga session. 

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