Your Brain on Food and Supplements – GABA

by Stephen Mills on May 18, 2009

Calm

Some excellent sources for the material contained herein:

The UltraMind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind

The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage

The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions–Today

This is the third article in the series on how to balance your brain chemistry with food and supplements.  Please read the first two articles in the series:

Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Dopamine
Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Acetylcholine

GABA calms and stabilizes the brain.  It is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain.  It smoothes you out and gives you a more constant mood and performance.  According to Eric Braverman, 50% of the population are GABA dominant natures.  GABA natures are sociable and remain calm amongst the chaos.  They love organization and are dependable.  GABA natures don’t have wild mood swings and love team or group activities.

GABA deficiency displays as anxiousness, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, allergies, blurred vision, clammy hands, butterflies in the stomach, dizziness, IBS, constipation, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, headache, insomnia, trembling or shaking, tinnitus, manic depression, and mood disorders.  I had a severe GABA deficiency and I felt much, much better after I started taking supplements.

How to Increase Your GABA Levels

In general complex carbohydrates are good for increasing GABA.  Here is a list of the best food sources for GABA.  These foods don’t contain GABA but they contain glutamate or glutamic acid, which forms glutamine in your body and is a precursor to GABA.  The list is basically in descending order of how much you get from a typical portion.

  • Almonds
  • Whole wheat
  • Mackerel
  • Halibut
  • Whole grain oats
  • Beef liver
  • Walnuts
  • Rice bran
  • Lentils
  • Brown rice
  • Potato
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Orange

Supplements

L-Glutamine – This is a fantastic amino acid and is the most abundant in the muscle and blood plasma.  It makes up an astounding 61% of your muscle tissue.  It’s one of the most studied amino acids and it has numerous benefits, but for our purposes here it will increase your GABA levels.  As one of its other benefits it is a potent GH releaser.  It’s very cheap and you can take tons of it.  I think every body builder in the world takes it.  Take 2 to 15 grams per day.  I buy it in powdered form.

L-Theanine – This is a very beneficial amino acid and is involved in the production of GABA.  Take 100 mg 3 times a day.

Lifestyle

There is evidence that yoga increases GABA in the brain.

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What do you think?  Leave a comment below.

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  2. Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Acetylcholine Acetylcholine is important for memory and learning and is a...
  3. Your Brain on Food and Supplements – Dopamine Most people have some kind of dominate nature that centers...
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Stress Relief with GABA | Be Well Buzz
March 25, 2011 at 1:01 am

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Do You Dave Ramsey? May 19, 2009 at 7:59 am

Thank Stephen… this is an interesting series. I find myself reaching for my supplement bottle everytime to check and recheck its contents.

This may be a series wrap-up idea… but would you mind identifying specific supplements you’d recommend that provide appropraite doses for each of these elements? I doubt it’s a single tablet but perhaps a couple.

Also, would you mind elaborating on your background relative to this series and recommendations. I’m sure you talk about it in other articles but it might be cool to see that again as part of this series.

Ok, one more… how can one be tested for their dominant type? Is it something revealed via a blood panel or a personality-type test… it sounds like a little of both.

Thanks again… I am really enjoying this series!
Dave

Reply

Roger | A Content Life May 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Stephen,

Great series!

My wife is a yoga teacher, so hopefully that helps her.

“I had a severe GABA deficiency and I felt much, much better after I started taking supplements.”

Where do you get tested for these types of deficiencies?

Reply

Stephen Mills May 19, 2009 at 7:34 pm

@Roger, there are sometimes medical tests that will do this but you have to have a doctor that knows exactly what to look for. So many blood tests are worthless. For example, doctors test your blood for potassium deficiency. That’s a pretty worthless test. Your tissue cells can be depleted of potassium and yet your blood levels are fine because your tissue cells are depleted first. Many people have deficiencies that are not detected on blood tests because they have plenty of the substance in their blood. Their problem is that that have a genetic variation that prevents them from absorbing or utilizing the substance.

I’ve had Neuropsychiatric tests which are mostly just bunch of mental tests. I think I spent 5 hours of testing during one appointment. Based on this I know a great deal about my mental function. Specifically though on brain chemicals I use two primary sources although I have also done much other research. I have read many books on the brain and read web articles, etc. When I find something interesting I usually read extensively on it.

Dr. Mark Hyman has a book and program called the UltraMind solution. His tests are questionnaires. I think his tests have approximately 500 questions plus another 100+ rating scale questions. I also took a pretty extensive memory test from his program.

Another primary source I use is Dr. Eric Braverman and his The Edge Effect solution. I think his questions number around 400 and he also has an an addition memory test that is pretty good. I get the four natures directly from him although Hyman breaks things up similarly but more granular.

All of these test have very consistent results for me. For example both Braverman and Hyman have a GABA scale and on both of them I rated severe which means seek medical help. I have no intention of doing that because I have bad experiences with doctors.

Here’s an small sample of GABA questions:

I remember facts people tell me.
I focus very well on tasks and people stories.
I have low blood pressure.
I have little muscle tension.
I believe in meeting deadlines.
I fell shaky.
I tend to have cold hands.
I crave bitter foods.

And on and on it goes for about 100 questions just on GABA.

Next I experiment on myself. I change supplements or change diets and watch the differences in how I feel. I become very conscious of it.

Reply

Stephen Mills May 19, 2009 at 7:55 pm

@Dave, I think I answered some of your questions above in my response to Roger. I’ve had a lot of personal experience in this area, but I’m not a doctor or anything like that.

I cannot give you a supplement that has these ratios in them. The reason why is because I don’t think any exist. Individuals are just too variable. If you go through Hyman’s tests, he will give you specific recommendations on each supplement that fits what you need specifically. That’s probably the best single recommendation I can give. Some people need way more than others because they simply don’t absorb it as well. The future of medicine is individualized programs customized to your specific genetic makeup.

I take a very customized regime with my own personal research from multiple sources plus my own experience in exerimentation. My total supplement regime does not match any author’s recommendation. It’s a customized hybrid.

Reply

Roger | A Content Life May 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Stephen,

Thanks for clarifying!

Reply

Giovanna Garcia May 20, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Hi..
I am enjoying your series on how to balance your brain chemisty. I enjoy your work, keep spreading your message.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Reply

Venus May 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm

What about valerian root? I have read that this works on relaxation and sleep because of its positive effect on GABA. I tried it and…pretty much nothing. Even beyond not having any effect on my sleep other than maybe the first or second time I tried it, but no extra relaxation or anything. 450mg I think – a standard dose to take. I even tried 2 one night and nothing! I think I have tried it 4-5 different nights, not in a row but over a couple of weeks time.

Reply

SHEDAR June 27, 2010 at 12:36 am

What do you think about the physicians who claim that our bodies do not process any of these supplements (they do not cross the cell barrier)? Thanks.

Reply

Sandra June 27, 2010 at 11:52 am

There are studies that show some supplements DO pass the barrier.

Reply

Steven March 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Persons sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG) may want to avoid glutamine supplements as glutamine converts to MSG which is an excitotoxin which over stimulates glutamine receptors in the brain.

I know this because I have severe anxiety and can not tolerate glutamine or MSG what so ever.

Natural occurrences of l-glutamine can be found in foods with high protein, such as fish, red meat, beans, and dairy products.

However those are ‘bound’ glutamine and not ‘free’, which, the latter are the culprits in converting the glutamine into MSG and causing an adverse event, particularly in those with certain forms of anxiety and sensitivities to MSG.

Word to the wise. Be cautious of anyone who suggests something that is not otherwise proven to be affective for the masses on a large scale clinical studied basis.

Good luck to those who are struggling with anxiety as am I…all my best to you!
Steven´s last [type] ..Delicious Food – Killing Us One Bite At a Time!

Reply

Glenda September 12, 2011 at 10:53 am

Hi – I have a basic question about Wellbutrin. Does that medication increase or decrease levels of dopamine. It worked very well for 2 yrs, then stopped. Since then I’ve been trying to find other sources of Dopamine. Your site is very helpful.
Thanks.

Reply

Kelly December 7, 2011 at 10:45 am

I love your question. I also was on Wellbutrin for 2 yrs. I have been searching for ways to create the same feeling but with natural supplements. If you have any suggestions please send them my way. I am still seeking help!

Thank you
Kelly

Reply

Sam January 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I have been on Paxil for a couple of yrs. I’ve been trying to find a natural solution to replace the chemical. Any suggestions I need help thanks

Reply

Abdul March 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I have anxiety. I am on Xanax but I am trying to replace it with a natural solution. I tried GABA Calm and I think it works but it has side effects (punding heart that keeps me up at night).

I will try the supplements that Stephen recommanded.

Reply

Geri April 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

This was my first glance at your website, and it looks genuinely informative. (So many sites are just covers for product sales.) However, what I was specifically trying to find out was what exactly are “natural” Gaba supplements comprised of? You list possible food sources, but I couldn’t find any info on precisely what the natural ‘supplements’ would be comprised of. I’ve read that what presently exists in North America doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier, but there’s actually a supplement in Russia that combines the Gaba with niacin to combat this problem. 2nd question, therefore, would be, ‘would the supplements here work if taken with B-6′? But, primarily, I’m most curious about what is actually in a natural Gaba supplement, are there different sources and types/brands, dosages, prices, quality…? I’ve tried the synthetic pharmaceutical stuff (Gabapentin, Pregabalin), but couldn’t tolerate the side effects. I have fibromyalgia, but surprisingly my doc was trying it as a treatment for my anxiety/depression disorder. Initially, I’m sure I got some relief, so I’m very curious now about the natural supplements (and, later, any accompanying side-effects, and efficacy when combined with B-6, in general). Thanks for any info you can provide!

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