GABA, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter

GABA, is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the human body. Gamma-aminobutyric acid was first synthesized in 1883, and was first known only as a plant and microbe metabolic product. The first noted discovery of the amino acid was in potatoes in 1949, by G. R. Steward, et al., in the journal "Science. In 1950, however, GABA was discovered to be an integral part of all mammals central nervous system. In 1950, Eugene Roberts and J. Awapara discovered that GABA acted as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It seems that anybody that has heard of GABA really doesn't know what it is and how exactly it can affect us. Well GABA in the brain has some well-known effects, primarily that of encouraging sleep and inducing relaxation. Glutamate and GABA are the most abundant neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, and especially in the cerebral cortex, which is where thinking occurs and sensations are interpreted. GABA is an amino acid that is produced by the human body. It's main function is to inhibit the firing of neurons in the brain due to over stimulation. Because of this inhibitory function, GABA sends messages to the brain, spinal cord, heart, lungs, and kidneys to slow down.

Tiny sacs filled with neurotransmitters are stored at the end of each neuron. When a nerve impulse reaches the cell's end it triggers these sacs to dump the neurotransmitters into the gaps that separate one nerve cell from another. These spaces are called synapses. The neurotransmitters float across the synapse. When they reach the neighboring neuron, the neurotransmitters click into specialized receptor sites like a key fits into a lock. When enough neurotransmitters attach to the receptors, the neuron fires, sending an electrical impulse down its length.

With no, or low levels of GABA, nerve cells fire too often and too easily. Anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, seizure disorders, and numerous other conditions including addiction, insomnia, headaches, Parkinson's syndrome, and cognitive impairment are all related to low GABA activity. So, GABA hinders the transmission of nerve impulses from one neuron to another. That means GABA has a calming or quieting influence. That means it reasonable to assume that GABA can address issues that help you get sleep better. It also considerably reduces the levels of stress. It calms the nerves, consequently, ensuring that you feel more relaxed.

Now you can greatly improve the absorption of GABA in your body if you take supplements of taurine and glycine, which are amino acids known to enhance the production of GABA. Both these amino acids are made in the body but if you take them as supplements, they will also positively affect the production of GABA. For GABA to be synthesized in your body, you need to have Vitamin B6 as well, so make sure you eat organic foods high in the B vitamins, or take B vitamins supplements.

There are over 43,000 published papers on GABA. Only a handful of these papers focus on using GABA orally as a nutritional supplement. Although the billion dollar supplement industry would have us believing that oral supplementation with GABA can positivly affect, sleep as well as anxiety disorders, PMS, male contraception, depression, and insulin levels, to name a few. Some nutritional writers even suggest a conspiracy on the part of the drug industry to suppress GABA research so as to promote their drugs such as Valium. A more likely explanation is that the more common belief among scientists is, GABA supplements will not cross the blood brain barrier. If GABA does not reach the brain, it will have no effect. However there are areas of the brain that do not contain a blood brain barrier such as the composite structure of the hypothalamus. Although I have found no direct published evidence proving that oral GABA supplements will changes brain levels of GABA, some scientists suppose that with large enough doses some may cross over. This amount may vary from person to person, because of their nutritional habits, physical conditioning and activity level. However this is merely speculation with no hard science to back up these claims. If you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket though, just consult an alternative health care practitioner to find out if you can benefit from taking this supplement, as well as your optimal dosage. Supplementation with GABA should NEVER replace prescribed medical treatment for anxiety, insomnia or panic disorder. Lot's of athletes recently have been reporting several benefits from GABA supplementation. Including perceptions of extra clarity and focus.

Now let's get serious. The best way to enhance GABA levels is naturally with your diet. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates will increase GABA in the brain because they increases glutamine, an amino acid that is needed in the formation of GABA. Introducing GABA friendly foods into meals and avoiding excess simple sugars, white flours and wheat products, except for whole grains, can help elevate and maintain GABA levels. Cherry tomato's for example have as much as 50% of their free amino acids from GABA.
The following foods are also high in glutamic acid / glutamate, which forms glutamine a precursor to GABA:
  • Almonds, tree nuts
  • Bananas
  • Beef Liver
  • Broccoli
  • Brown Rice
  • Halibut
  • Lentils
  • Oats, whole grain
  • Oranges, citrus fruits
  • Rice bran
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Green and Black & Oolong Tea 
  • Tomatoes
Also there are several other products to consider that help with relaxation. These include kava, passionflower, ashwagandha, 5-HTP, valerian root, ginseng, and tryptophan. Try a yoga class or just get some structured consistent exercise. If your the type that likes to be a "lab rat" for new ideas go ahead and try the oral supplements. It may work for you. Always check with your doctor first, especially if you are taking any prescription medications. From where I stand though, doing things the natural way, with a healthy diet, always trumps making supplement companies rich. Good Luck...

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