GABA: Nootropic, Amino Acid, Neurotransmitter, or All of the Above?
6 Minute Read

Gamma-aminobutyric acid is, in fact, a nootropic, amino acid and neurotransmitter. As such, it is super interesting. Commonly referred to as GABA, because saying gamma-aminobutyric acid all the time would be unhinged, this nootropic is your body’s calm-down chemical. That is to say, in the dumpster fire that is a stressed-out brain, GABA is the guy running from person to person telling everyone not to panic. But GABA doesn’t just tell you not to panic; it also helps put out the fire.


How GABA Works in the Brain

GABA is your body’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. It basically blocks overexcited neurons from talking to the central nervous system too much and stressing it out. GABA works in tandem with a complementary neurotransmitter that excites underactive neuronal activity. Mental health is, in part, a delicate balance of these two chemicals.


Your body produces GABA naturally every time it metabolizes glucose. Your neurons have two types of GABA receptors. Bioavailable GABA will bind to these receptors, slowing the neuron’s ability to create, send and receive signals. Lower neuronal activity = a calming feeling. Which is why GABA is touted as an effective nootropic for several psychiatric conditions. You’ll also find it in plant-based energy mixes meant to balance your body’s system, as well as stress-relief drinks.


Clinical Uses of GABA in Modern Psychiatry

Modern psychiatry recognizes decreased or insufficient GABA levels in the brain as being a significant factor in several mental health conditions as well as a few neurological disorders. Several medications on the market today target GABA levels for the treatment of certain illnesses characterized by mood dysfunction, psychoses and/or seizures.


Many of these medications use serotonin as a modulator, as it enhances the effects of GABA, not to mention it’s its own feel-good neurotransmitter. However, others target the GABA receptors directly, indicating that GABA supplementation may be a viable alternative to such medications. 


The reason psychiatry has seen such a mix of mental and neurological conditions benefit from increased GABA levels is because many, such as certain mood and seizure disorders, originate or partially originate in the same sectors of the brain, despite causing completely different symptoms.


Other Health Benefits of Increasing Your GABA Levels

There are several other medical conditions where decreased GABA plays a part:


  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Neurodegenerative syndromes
  • Movement disorders
  • Chronic sleep disturbances


It appears as though the positive effects GABA has on mental and physical health are likely due in part to its stress-combating properties. Nootropics are thought to help your brain adapt to stress, which helps your body adapt to stress in turn. Clinical evidence suggests this may very well be the case:


  • In a sleep study, 40 people who took 300mg of GABA each night before bed all had lower sleep latency.
  • In a stress study, 30/30 subjects reported lower short-term stress levels after consuming a GABA-enhanced drink. Another stress study had all 63 participants report less daily stress when taking 100mg of GABA daily.
  • A study on cognition resulted in 30/30 subjects self-reporting better ability to plan and prioritize after taking an 800mg GABA supplement daily. Another study resulted in subjects who’d taken a GABA supplement performing better at a math-related task.
  • A study on GABA and athletic performance showed athletes supplementing with GABA had higher levels of growth hormones than those who did not.


A 2019 comprehensive review of the clinical literature on health benefits of increased GABA levels detailed studies that indicated GABA may function as a(n):


  • Anti-allergen (calms an overexcited immune system)
  • Anti-cancer (inhibits metastasis)
  • Anti-diabetic (lowers blood sugar)
  • Anti-hypertensive (lowers blood pressure)
  • Anti-inflammatory (inhibits cytokine production)
  • Antioxidant (protection from toxicity/free-radicals)
  • Hepatoprotective (promotes liver health)
  • Neurological disorder preventer (protective against degenerative disorders)
  • Neuroprotective agent (preventing neuronal damage and death)
  • Renoprotective (promotes kidney health)


Negative Indications of Messing with Your GABA Levels

Overall, GABA is safe to consume, and more than anything, the argument with GABA supplementation is how much of the supplement is actually getting to your brain. Because of the blood-brain barrier, it’s unlikely that the majority of a GABA supplement ever affects your mood at all.


However, there is clinical evidence to indicate that consuming GABA via drinks, particularly fermented liquids, is a more effective way of increasing your GABA levels, which is one of the many reasons GABA is one of the powerful nootropics included in MTE’s energy-multiplying formula.


However, cautions to take with GABA supplementation include:


  • Overdosing, which can cause nervous system depression
  • Medication interactions
  • Combining with alcohol


Basically, don’t triple up on downers; you can lower your blood pressure and nervous system so much that it could become life-threatening if left unchecked. When used non-medically as a wellness supplement, choosing something like a healthy energy supplement that includes complementary nootropics and adaptogens can ensure that the GABA you’re taking in is correctly-dosed and balanced by these other compounds. 


Note that there is also not enough information one way or the other to tell if GABA supplements are safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 


However, the amount of GABA you’d have to consume, especially with most of it not being bioavailable, makes this a generally safe supplement that many people find an effective ingredient in their daily health drinks. It’s never a bad idea to consult with your doctor first, though.


Relax! Just Get Yourself More (But Not Too Much!) GABA

There is a right way and a wrong way to incorporate important adaptogens, nootropics and superfoods into your daily diet. And the right way is also super-easy, so it’s really a win-win.


More Than Energy is a daily feel-good energy supplement in powder form – a mix-and-go healthy energy drink that helps you go through your day with calm, sustainable energy via ingredients that promote whole-body health and longevity. 


A 13-ingredient, all-green energy supplement, this GABA-enhanced, holistic drink is a great option for anyone looking switch out from stress meds or calm that coffee addiction. With safe levels of potent plants and natural chemicals that give your mind and body a boost, you can find out if GABA is a nootropic that would benefit you, easily and worry-free.

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