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GABA

  • Supports Healthy Sleep
  • Mood-Lifting and Stress-Reducing
  • Supports a Healthy Immune System

 

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a well-known hormone that is produced by the brain to help reduce signals from the Central Nervous System (CNS) and promote calm and relaxation. Receptors of this neurotransmitter system is a target for many pharmaceutical compounds and natural supplements that aimed at reducing stress or promoting sleep. When taken as a dietary supplement, it can be used as a natural sleep aid and to help reduce stress and promote a calm state of mind.

 

Secondary benefits include the ability to protect the brain from stress, to reduce inflammation, and to support a healthy immune system. The recommended serving size for this supplement is 1000 mg, taken once to three times daily. Side effects are extremely uncommon and tend only to be experienced at excessively high servings, making this a favourite for people looking for a safe alternative sleep aid supplement.

 

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GABA Supplement reviews 

 

I've been taking this just to see if it improves sleep. I can't say for sure if it did. However, I do enjoy taking it because I feel a sense of calm when talking it. I only take about 1 scoop because if I take 2 scoops I start to feel a warm tingly sensation on my body all over. But I do enjoy taking 1 scoop twice a day. I've taken it with a couple other products such as 5htp and Inositol... it's always worked well for me.” – John, LiftMode supplement review

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  • This supplement is a natural hormone and acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter to promote relaxation in the central nervous system (CNS)

  • When used as a dietary supplement, it is known for its sleep-promoting, relaxing, and calming benefits, and may also support a healthy immune system and offer neuroprotective effects

  • This supplement is normally used at a serving size of around 1000 mg, once to twice daily

  • Side effects are extremely rare due to the efficient blood-brain barrier efflux system but some people noted dizziness and headaches when taking large servings

 

Background

 

Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a naturally produced hormone and is the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS). Its primary function is to reduce signal transmission through the CNS. There are several subtypes of hormone receptors in the brain, each one being responsible for different things. In the brain, this important neurotransmitter is used for ‘calming’ central nervous system signals and reducing neurotransmissions which may have caused an ‘overload’ in the brain. These signals include signals for pain, stress (epinephrine and norepinephrine) and all general neurotransmissions in the CNS – feelings, lights, smells, sounds and tastes. 

This supplement has depressive effects on signals in the CNS, and the subjective effects of this supplement correlate to these (i.e., relaxation and calming effects). Heightened transmission through the central nervous system may induce irritability, insomnia, headaches, stress and anxiety. These symptoms of an overworked/stressed nervous system can be reduced tby using this supplement or by using alternative compounds that increase the activity of GABA in the brain, or bind to GABA receptors. This supplement is often used as a calming agent to increase mood, to promote a relaxed state of mind, and to help support healthy sleep.[1]

A number of mood disorders have been identified as having a correlation to low serum GABA levels. As a result, many anti-stress and mood-lifting compounds focus on targeting the brain’s receptors for this hormone.[2] The importance of this essential hormone in our bodies and our brains cannot be overstated. However, opinions about the efficiency of supplementing with pure GABA are still split in the scientific community. Some natural medicine advocates swear by it, while others may have the opinion that it is not very effective, as a result of the body’s well developed blood-brain efflux system.[3]

We believe that this supplement has a place in any list of the world’s top natural calming supplements and sleep aids, if only because of its raw power as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. Some studies are covered below but there is still room for a lot more research.

 

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Top 3 GABA Effects / Benefits

 

1.     Mood-lifting and Reduction of Stress

The primary role of this supplement is for its benefits in supporting a healthy mood and as a calming/anti-stress agent. While there is still a need for more research into using this essential neurotransmitter as a dietary supplement, some research has shown promising results. A few studies are referenced below with regards to using this supplement for mood or relaxation.

In one study, researchers monitored the occurrence of different types of brainwaves in 60 volunteers after drinking a.) only water; b.) water with GABA or c.) water with L-Theanine. Different brainwaves are associated with different ‘brain-states’. The study found that volunteers who took water with this supplement had significantly higher ‘alpha’ brainwave activity and significantly lower ‘beta’ activity after 60 minutes. Those who were given only water or water with L-Theanine had experienced no significant change. According to the authors of the study, this is evidence that GABA supplements may be useful in producing calming effects.[4]

According to an article published in the Scientific American, the difference between alpha and beta brainwaves are as follows:

-        Beta brainwaves are associated with brain arousal – the brain is engaged in a task, focused, hard at work. Examples, where Beta brainwaves would dominate, would be somebody giving a speech or a lecture since the person is actively engaged in their work. These are the highest frequency, high energy brainwaves.

-        Alpha brainwaves represent a state of non-arousal – the brain is relaxed and not actively engaged in a task. Examples would include somebody who just finished a task and has sat down on a couch. Relaxation is felt, but the person is still alert and awake.

-        Other brainwave states are slower and less active and include theta (drowsy) and various phases of delta brainwaves (representing different phases of sleep).[5]

In another study, researchers indicated that volunteer yoga practitioners had significantly increased serum GABA concentrations after a 60-minute yoga asana practice. Levels of this neurotransmitter increased by an average of 27% in those practising yoga, while no changes were observed in the control group. The effects of yoga have long been known to produce relaxation and mental calmness. Therefore, this study presents a significant correlation between levels of this compound in the brain and the associated feelings of relaxation and reduced stress.[6]

 

2.     Promotes Restful Sleep

In a study published in 2015, the effects of a single 100 mg serving of this supplement on sleep were researched. With the use of an electroencephalogram (EEG) test, researchers studied sleep latency time and REM sleep time. Subjects received either this supplement or Apocynum venetum leaf extract, or both together. The results showed that taking this supplement was able to reduce sleep latency time by an average of 5.3 minutes. These results point to an ability of this supplement to help reduce the time taken to all asleep and to act as a natural sleep aid. [7]

A lot of research has gone into the causes of difficulties falling asleep and studies have shown that low levels of endogenous GABA are sometimes responsible. As a result, many oft-prescribed sleeping aids target receptors for this hormone, by acting as positive influencers on these receptors to help produce healthy sleep. There is still a need for more research into whether supplementing with this supplement can produce the same effects as the natural compound.[8]

In terms of its ability to help induce sleep when acting in the brain, the mechanisms of this supplement are already well established. In fact, research into the effects of this hormone in the brain is what inspired the development of various forms of hypnotics and tranquillizers like barbiturates and benzodiazepines, as well as third generation hypnotics like imidazopyridines and cyclopyrrolones. These agents tend to target GABA-A and GABA-B receptor subtypes, with noticeable effects on motor coordination and increases in slow-wave sleep.[9]

 

3.     Supports a Healthy Brain & Immune System

This important natural sleep aid supplement has a host of previously unknown benefits on the circulatory system and brain, where it acts as a support for health. Two mechanisms are through its ability to work as a powerful anti-inflammatory supplement and immunomodulator.

In recent research papers, scientists have examined the effects of Gamma-amino-butyric acid on a variety of inflammatory markers. Receptors for this neurotransmitter are found on both immune cells and islet cells. In one study, researchers found that GABA was able to reduce inflammatory cytokine production and to protect cells from toxins. They also found that this natural sleep hormone has the ability to increase TGF-beta production and regulatory T cells. It also appears to have numerous other beneficial effects on the immune system.[10]

As another example, a research paper from 2010 published results of a study looking into the effects of this compound and its signalling-processes on inflammation in animal models of multiple sclerosis. The results showed that increasing GABAergic activity had the ability to reduce immune system inflammation and the associated paralysis.[11]

A variety of studies have also looked this hormone and its function as a neuroprotective compound. As an example, in one animal model study, the toxic effects of a lack of oxygen in the brain (hypoxia-ischemia) were ameliorated by the use of GABAergic agents.[12] In a similar study, the negative effects of induced seizures in laboratory animals were reduced through co-activation of these receptors in the brain. [13]

 

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GABA and the Blood-Brain Barrier

 

There is a significant debate about the ability of this supplement to cross the blood-brain barrier, especially when taken as a dietary supplement. The blood-brain barrier is a defence system that has evolved over millions of years to protect the brain from potential toxic damage. It limits the uptake of both endogenous and exogenous compounds from the blood into the central nervous system.

Interestingly, the uptake of this supplement into the brain is actually high at low levels, but the uptake decreases at higher concentrations.[14] This is the result of inbuilt feedback systems which effectively make GABA a self-limiting compound. What this means is that it is able to self-inhibit its own transport into the brain as concentrations increase in the bloodstream (presumably as a means to maintain constant levels in the brain).[15] This self-inhibitory action does prevent a significant amount of the supplement from crossing the blood-brain barrier, but it does not stop all of it.

A recent literature review examined the data published on this supplement’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. It showed conflicting data regarding its efficacy. However, the growing number of studies looking into its use as an effective dietary supplement (with human participants) show that it is physiologically active when consumed. The researchers suggest that there may be undiscovered mechanisms behind this supplement’s actions that are not dependent on it crossing the blood-brain barrier.[16]

 

GABA Recommended Usage

 

The optimum serving size is suggested at 1000 mg, taken once to three times daily. Despite the clear lack of side effects associated with this product, it is not recommended to exceed the serving suggestion. There is little evidence that exceeding the suggested serving size will increase effects or benefits of this product.

Side Effects and Warnings

 

Thes supplement is not known to produce unwanted side effects in healthy people, when used at the indicated serving suggestion. This is primarily because the supplement occurs naturally in the body and is subject to a highly effective efflux system that prevents excessive concentrations from entering into the Central Nervous System (CNS).

When taken in excessively large servings of 5 – 10 grams, some users have reported some negative effects such as dizziness, headaches, sweating, increased heart rate, and anxiousness.[17] In some animal models, researchers attempted to find the LD50 (the serving size at which 50% of the population die). However, even at incredibly high servings of 5000 mg/kg, no lethal effects were observed.[18]

Do not use this supplement if you are on any medication or have any underlying medical conditions, without first consulting with your doctor. There is limited research on the safety of this supplement for pregnant and breastfeeding women, consult your doctor before using.

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an endogenous hormone and neurotransmitter that is responsible for depressive effects in the CNS. This means that it helps to reduce signals from the nervous system, helping to promote calm. It has a wide variety of essential roles in the human body, and is especially useful for the promotion of relaxation and sleep.

 

When taken as a dietary supplement, it is best-known as a calming and relaxing supplement and is often referred to as a natural sleep aid. There are some interesting secondary benefits to this supplement, like the potential to support a healthy immune system and to protect the brain from stress. The recommended serving size is 1000 mg, taken once to three times daily. Any side effects tend only to experienced when using excessively large servings of 5 – 10 mg, as a result of the body’s effective efflux system.

 

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References

 



[1] (Author not listed). “Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)” Alternative Medicine Review Volume 12, Number 3 2007, retrieved online 20-12-2014

[2]  “GABA function in mood disorders: an update and critical review.” Shiah IS, Yatham LN, Life Sci. 1998;63(15):1289-303.

[3] Boonstra E, de Kleijn R, Colzato LS, Alkemade A, Forstmann BU, Nieuwenhuis S. “Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior.” Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6:1520.

[4] Abdou AM, Higashiguchi S, Horie K, Kim M, Hatta H, Yokogoshi H. “Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans.”, Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201-8.

[5]What is the function of the various brainwaves?”, Scientific America Blog, available online fom https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-function-of-t-1997-12-22/

[6]  “Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study.” HJ Cabral et al, J Altern Complement Med. 2007 May;13(4):419-26.

[7] Yamatsu A, Yamashita Y, Maru I, Yang J, Tatsuzaki J, Kim M. “What is the function of the various brainwaves?J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2015;61(2):182-7.

 

[8]Reduced Brain GABA in Primary Insomnia: Preliminary Data from 4T Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H-MRS)” Buxton et al, Sleep. Nov 1, 2008; 31(11): 1499–1506.

 

[9] Gottesmann C. “GABA mechanisms and sleep.” Neuroscience. 2002;111(2):231-9.

[10] Gerald Prud'homme, Yelena Glinka and Qinghua Wang “GABA exerts anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects (P5175)J Immunol. May 1, 2013, 190 (1 Supplement) 68.15

[11] Roopa Bhat, Robert Axtell, Ananya Mitra, Melissa Miranda, Christopher Lock, Richard W. Tsien and Lawrence Steinman. “Inhibitory role for GABA in autoimmune inflammation”. PNAS February 9, 2010. 107 (6) 2580-258  

[12] Clarkson AN1, Liu H, Rahman R, Jackson DM, Appleton I, Kerr DS. “Clomethiazole: mechanisms underlying lasting neuroprotection following hypoxia-ischemia.” FASEB J. 2005 Jun;19(8):1036-8. Epub 2005 Apr 4.

[13] Wei XW, Yan H, Xu B, Wu YP, Li C, Zhang GY. “Neuroprotection of co-activation of GABA receptors by preventing caspase-3 denitrosylation in KA-induced seizures.” Brain Res Bull. 2012 Sep 1;88(6):617-23.

[14] W. Löscher  H.‐H. Frey. “Transport of GABA at the Blood‐CSF InterfaceJournal of Neurochemistry. Volume38, Issue4. April 1982, Pages 1072-1079

[15] Al-Sarraf H. “Transport of 14C-gamma-aminobutyric acid into brain, cerebrospinal fluid and choroid plexus in neonatal and adult rats.” Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 2002 Dec 15;139(2):121-9.

[16] Boonstra E, de Kleijn R, Colzato LS, Alkemade A, Forstmann BU, Nieuwenhuis S. “Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior.” Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6:1520.

[17] GABA” Erowid Experience Vaults, available online from

[18] Hussein MF, Ahmed NA, Rawi SM .“The alterations of rat brain GABA and glutamine induced by the organophosphorus compound cyolane”. Comp Biochem Physiol C. 1986;84(1):165-70

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