GABA: Understanding This Amino Acid

You may have heard of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, if you are interested in health and wellness. It is not possible to get it from many food sources, so it has become a popular supplement that people take in pill form.

Whenever you wish to start a new supplement, it’s best to read up on it to find out what it does, how it could help you, and what the risks are. This guide explains everything that you need to know about GABA supplements to discover whether it is something you should buy. Read on to discover dosage, uses, and side effects.

What Is GABA?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the human body. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain; in other words, it’s a messenger molecule. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it blocks specific brain signals and reduces nervous system activity.

The body naturally produces GABA when it is required, and it attaches to a protein in the brain called the GABA receptor. When the two bind together, it has a calming effect.

Unlike many other supplements, GABA is not commonly found in food sources.

Unlike many other supplements, GABA is not commonly found in food sources. However, it’s possible to get it from fermented food items like kimchi, miso, and tempeh. This is a limited selection of foods that doesn’t feature in many people’s diets, and so those wanting to consume more GABA will have to look to supplements.

How to Take GABA Supplements

Like many other vitamins and amino acids, you take GABA supplements via the mouth. Typically, they come in capsule form, and you can swallow the recommended amount with water.

As for dosage, GABA is unfortunately understudied. The amount consumers require can change depending on their age, health, and body composition. Furthermore, they may need to adjust the dosage depending on the ailment they are trying to help.

Individuals needing advice on GABA supplements should be sure to speak to their doctor about the correct dosage for them.

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GABA Supplement Benefits

There are several purported GABA supplement effects. Commonly, it is used for anxiety and stress due to its inhibitory effects on the nervous system. However, there are reports that it may also help with seizures, sleep, and motion sickness.

Below, learn about the potential benefits of GABA and its common uses, along with the relevant scientific studies that exist to date.

GABA for Anxiety

GABA is a commonly used supplement for anxiety since it has calming effects on the nervous system. There have been several studies on this, with one 2015 review suggesting that the application of GABA is a promising route for the treatment of this disorder.

A limited amount of conclusive evidence means that the best GABA dosage for anxiety is uncertain. Generally, it’s recommended to consume a low dose of 100mg daily to start with, increasing as necessary.

GABA for Sleep

A 2018 study administered 300mg of GABA to participants an hour before going to bed. Those who took the GABA supplement fell asleep faster than those who took the placebo; similarly, the GABA group reported improved sleep quality for four weeks.

gaba-for-sleep

Notably, this was a small study of just 40 participants. Unfortunately, this is the case with most of the human studies on GABA to date.

More recently, a 2020 study reported that the optimum GABA dosage for sleep was 100-300mg. However, it’s best to begin at the low end of this spectrum to see how GABA affects you.

GABA for Weight Loss

Since GABA primarily interacts with the nervous system, its effects on weight may not immediately be apparent. However, it is commonly found in sports supplements. GABA supports the production of growth hormone, helping to build muscle and reduce body fat, as well as improve metabolism.

Of all the reported benefits, weight loss has perhaps the least scientific evidence. That said, studies have shown that those with a higher amount of growth hormone have a tendency to lose body fat. The link to GABA is promising, but it remains unclear whether GABA and weight loss go hand in hand.

GABA and Blood Pressure

Some older studies on GABA suggested that it can reduce blood pressure. There is more research in this area, though it may be slightly outdated by this point. An animal study from 2015 revealed that rats injected with GABA experienced a reduction in blood pressure. Whether this link between GABA and blood pressure applies to oral consumption in humans remains to be seen.

The older studies have focused on humans as well as animals, and some users have seen a beneficial reduction in blood pressure.

GABA for Stress

GABA and stress have a well-established link. In 2018, Chinese researchers reviewed the evidence and found that GABA reduced both acute and chronic stress in study participants. As such, GABA may be a promising solution.

gaba-for-stress

Interestingly, the recommended dosage of GABA for stress is lower than other recommendations. Many studies found that between 25-50mg per day was adequate, although sometimes up to 100mg was used.

Does GABA Have Side Effects?

Like any supplement or pill, there are a few potential side effects of GABA. Fortunately, they are mostly short-term effects that will quickly subside. Commonly reported GABA supplement side effects include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness

Sleepiness may be a benefit to those taking GABA for insomnia, but for others, it can be an unwanted side effect. When taking GABA for the first time, consumers should avoid driving and operating heavy machinery until they know how it will affect them.

It’s unclear whether GABA supplements can interact with other medications.

At present, it’s unclear whether GABA supplements can interact with other medications. There has been no research on this to date.

Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers should also avoid using GABA supplements due to the lack of research. It’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid it altogether.

In summary, GABA is likely to be safe when taken in small amounts for periods of up to 12 weeks. Hopefully, more research will shed some light on this popular supplement in the future.

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