What is GABA Deficiency and How to Improve Your Levels

What is GABA Deficiency and How to Improve Your Levels

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) has a calming effect on the body. Those with too little of this neurotransmitter may suffer from stress and anxiety. Read on to learn all about GABA supplements and if they are effective for improving a GABA deficiency.

What Is GABA?

Amino acids are essential to health [R]. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is one amino acid that works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. This means it works to prevent nerve impulses from being delivered to brain cells. 

Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) in brain cells converts glutamic acid into GABA. GABA synthesis is also controlled by an enzyme called transaminase. [R].

How Does GABA Work?

In the brain, GABA receptors are found on nerve cells. GABA will attach to these receptors and block the nerve transmissions. When the nerve is blocked from firing a calming and relaxing effect takes place.

Signs of a GABA Deficiency

Low GABA levels are associated with the following conditions [R, R]:  

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Insomnia and poor sleep 
  • High alcohol intake 


GABA deficiency also occurs in those with disorders affecting GABA production and/or GABA receptors in the brain. These include [R, R]:  

  • GABA-transaminase deficiency 
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Spasticity, 
  • Stiff-person syndrome
  • Movement disorders 
  • Schizophrenia
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Benefits of GABA Supplements

Increased GABA activity can reduce pain, anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep [R, R, R, R, R].  

On its own very little GABA crosses the blood-brain barrier to get into brain cells. [R, R]. However, the presence of nitric oxide helps GABA pass into the brain. 

Nitric oxide and GABA concentrations increased in the brains of rats after taking a combination of GABA and L-arginine [R]. 

GABA supplements may also increase dopamine production. This can increase the activation of brain receptors increasing brain levels of GABA [R]. 

How To Increase GABA

Those with a GABA deficiency should look to increase GABA production. This can be done by eating foods with GABA and other nutrients. Taking supplements may be another way to increase GABA levels. 

GABA Supplements Dosage Recommendations

GABA supplements have been created as a way to improve GABA levels. Look for a product with quality ingredients that have been third party tested. 

There is not enough research to determine the recommended intake dose. Follow product instructions and start as low a dose as possible to see how it affects you [R]. 

Food Sources of GABA

GABA can also be obtained from food. It is found in the following [R]: 

  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Soybeans
  • Adzuki bean
  • Lupin bean
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Buckwheat
  • Oat
  • Rice
  • Sweet Potato
  • Wild celery
  • Chestnuts

GABA works best when it is consumed with foods containing serotonin, B6, and the amino acids taurine, glutamine, and theanine [R, R, R, R, R]. 

Contraindications and Risk with GABA Supplements

Like any supplement, there can be side effects and contraindications with using GABA.

Side Effects of GABA Supplements

Short-term use of GABA is likely safe when used for up to 12 weeks at a time. Long-term effects have not been determined [R]. 

Side effects have been reported with GABA use. These include upset stomach, headache, sleepiness, and muscle weakness [R]. 

Contraindications of GABA Supplements

There is no information on medical interactions with GABA Supplements. It is best to talk to a health professional before starting GABA if you are on medications or have any health conditions [R]. 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid this supplement.

Final Thoughts on GABA Deficiency and Supplements

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) supplements have shown positive effects on anxiety, stress, sleep, and blood pressure. If you have signs of a GABA deficiency getting GABA from food sources or taking a supplement may be helpful. There is still a lot unknown about these supplements and their long-term effects. If you are someone who has health conditions or is on medications. It is important to talk to a health professional to find out if GABA supplements are right for you


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