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GABA: Can This Neurotransmitter Supplement Boost Your Health?


Story at-a-glance -

  • GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter responsible for calming excited neurons, as well as playing a role in managing mental disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Find out if you need to take it as a supplement, and why going with a natural approach may be more beneficial for you

The human brain relies on various neurotransmitters to communicate with different systems throughout the body. One important messenger is gamma-aminobutyric acid, often shortened to GABA. Its primary role is to inhibit the activity of excited neurons or nerve cells, thereby playing a role in behavior, cognition and your response to stress.1

GABA works by binding with a receptor to prevent the stimulation of glutamate, a major neurotransmitter that does the opposite job of GABA, which is to excite the brain. A deficiency in GABA creates distinct symptoms, such as:2

  • Depression: Those who are diagnosed with depression have the lowest GABA levels.
  • Anxiety, panic and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): These mental issues are typically caused by imbalances in your GABA levels.
  • Insomnia: Research has discovered that those who have this problem generally have lower brain levels of GABA.

If you notice any of these aforementioned symptoms, most likely your GABA levels are below the healthy range. So what can you do to improve your well-being? Fortunately, the answer is right there in front of you: the food you eat.

Natural Sources of GABA Are All Around You

GABA itself can’t be acquired through your diet. However, foods that contain glutamate/glutamic acid can help stimulate the production of GABA and benefit your well-being. The most beneficial choices include:

Grass fed meat

Pasture-raised eggs

Raw, organic dairy

Sea vegetables



In addition, fermented vegetables and beverages may also help boost GABA production. In one study, researchers noted that the Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain helped reduce anxiety and depression-like behaviors in healthy animals, which were associated with positive alterations of the GABA system among the tests subjects.3

I also recommend you consume foods rich in vitamin B6, because if you lack this vitamin, your GABA synthesis will suffer. You may improve on this regard by consuming wild-caught Alaskan salmon, chickpeas, pasture-raised chicken and grass fed beef. Green tea may also help boost GABA, because it contains theanine, which is known to help increase the production of the neurotransmitter.

On the other hand, GABA supplements are often made synthetically from the industrial solvent pyrrolidinone. However, there is a more natural approach via fermentation using the Lactobacillus hilgardi strain.

Studies Regarding the Benefits of GABA

GABA plays a central role in the function of your nervous system, as it is responsible for controlling your mood and certain physical functions. Low levels of it has been linked to anxiety, mood swings, epilepsy and chronic pain.4 Research regarding the benefits of GABA as a food supplement has been steadily growing in the past decades with varying degrees of success. It may be useful for conditions such as:5


A study from 1960 reported that GABA helped reduce seizures in epileptic patients who are administered a very high dose of GABA (0.8 grams/kilograms daily). However, this effect has only been observed in four out of 12 participants, and the participants were under the age of 15.


A small study published in 2006 noted that GABA supplements increased alpha waves and reduced levels of immunoglobulin-A in healthy participants, which had a positive effect on their acrophobia (irrational fear of heights).


People diagnosed with depression typically have low levels of GABA. In this regard, supplementation may benefit their well-being.


According to a study published in Biofactors, administration of GABA in humans induced relaxation and also helped relieve anxiety. Furthermore, researchers noted that it may also help enhance immunity under stressful circumstances.6


Upping your GABA levels may help with insomnia since the activation of GABA receptors favor sleep.7

Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy

Taking GABA may help support muscular hypertrophy after an intense workout. Research has shown that GABA elevates the growth hormone, helping improve tolerance to exercise.8

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The Dosage for GABA Varies Depending on the Product

The dosage for taking GABA supplement varies from person to person because there’s very little data available regarding this matter. However, certain standards have been followed over time — the minimum dose is typically 250 milligrams, which can be taken three times a day for maintenance-type treatments. For mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and insomnia, the dosage is usually increased to 1,000 milligrams.9

Most GABA products are sold in various dosages, such as 500 or 700 milligrams. Depending on the product you buy, you may have to adjust the amount of capsules you have to take to make sure you don’t go overboard the recommended dosage.10

Lastly, before purchasing any GABA supplements, visit a doctor first to get an idea the best dosage for your situation. They may also provide helpful insight if you actually need to use these products in the first place and offer safer alternatives.

Side Effects of GABA Are Usually Minor

Like other supplements, GABA has its own set of potential side effects. Fortunately, they are few and mild, such as:11

  • Sleepiness
  • Tingling sensations
  • Shortness of breath

However, note that these issues were reported using a very high dosage (3,000 milligrams). In an extreme case, a dosage of 10,000 milligrams induced nausea and panic. While a normal person probably won’t need to take such a high dosage in the first place, it is better that you be aware of the possible side effects just in case they do appear.12

Overall, GABA supplements are considered safe, but I recommend that you talk to your doctor to find the ideal dosage for your needs. You may be able to start off with a small amount and work your way up to minimize your risk of possible complications.13

GABA Supplements May Be Beneficial, but It Might Be Better to Take a Natural Approach

Based on the published data, GABA supplements may benefit your health, but whether it can be consistently effective remains to be seen. I recommend that you boost your GABA levels instead by consuming a healthy diet that consists of high-quality protein, healthy fats and dietary fiber. This approach is more beneficial as nutritious food also has other nutrients that may help optimize your health further.

Frequently Asked Questions About GABA

Q: What does GABA do?

A: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that regulates communication between the brain and the nervous system throughout your body. Its main role is to reduce the activity of neurons or nerve cells.14

Q: Do GABA supplements work?

A: Current studies provide show some promise regarding the benefits of GABA supplements. However, more research needs to be performed.15

Q: What does GABA do in the brain?

A: GABA works by inhibiting nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity. It also plays a role in motor control, vision and regulating anxiety.16

Q: Is gabapentin a blood thinner?

A: Yes, gabapentin may be used for anticoagulant therapy.17

Q: Are GABA supplements safe to take?

A: Overall, GABA supplements are possibly safe to consume, but there have been reports of sleepiness, tingling sensations and shortness of breath after use. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop any of these side effects.18

Q: What are GABA supplements used for?

A: GABA supplements are used to help ease a variety of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and acrophobia.

Q: Where can you buy GABA supplements?

A: GABA supplements can be purchased online. However, if you do decide to use these products, focus more on the quality and the reputation of the manufacturer to safeguard your health. The fermented varieties are potentially more effective and safer than the synthetic ones.

Q: How much GABA should you take?

A: A typical dosage is around 250 milligrams three times per day. However, this may change depending on your doctor’s recommendation.