Photo:Tom Werner/Getty Images
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced in your brain, and according to a recent study, it helps relax your body and mind. "After 60 minutes of administration," the clinical trial's abstract reads, "GABA significantly increases alpha waves and decreases beta waves compared to water or L-theanine." The findings denote that GABA not only induces relaxation but also reduces anxiety. In fact, studies have found GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Its levels are affected by diet, illness, age, and environmental toxins. Plus, an insufficient amount of GABA in your body can lead to anxiety, irritability, and sleep disorders like insomnia.
According to recent sleep studies, GABA levels are up to 30% lower in people suffering from insomnia. Similarly, GABA levels are also lower in patients with depression or mood disorders. But here's the thing: There isn't evidence proving that oral GABA supplements increase its levels in the brain. Instead, experts recommend you take supplements with ingredients that increase GABA's effects by helping it better bind to your brain's receptors. That can be helpful in getting a more restful, deep sleep and can minimize stress overall. Sound good? We thought so, too. So we asked a nutritionist for his recommendations. See below for his advice.
1. Neutein Supplements
"Neutein contains patented antioxidant extracts from spearmint, which work to improve ease of falling asleep by increasing GABA levels in the brain," explains Mike Roussell, Ph.D., co-founder of Neutein. He notes the supplements improve focus, attention, and short-term memory.
2. Now GABA Supplements
"Many people supplement with GABA itself to increase their GABA levels," says Roussell. "Unfortunately, GABA does not cross from your bloodstream into your brain. However, some researchers think that supplementing with GABA can have a relaxing effect by interacting with other parts of your nervous system, not your brain directly," he says. This option relieves nervous tension, promotes relaxation, and has a calming effect after absorption.
3. Jarrow Formulas Theanine 200
These supplements can help you relax and boost your mood.
4. Life Extension Taurine Supplements
"Taurine is an amino acid that can increase levels of GABA in our brains," notes Roussell. Though you should avoid taking it with caffeine, Roussell says the supplement will help promote GABA in the body and increase alertness during the day.
5. Suntheanine L-Theanine in Cold-Pressed Organic Coconut Oil
"L-theanine is a unique amino acid found in tea that can aid in the production of GABA," says Roussell. But he admits that the amount of L-theanine in tea is small, and it's best to take a supplement in order to get the full effect.
6. Bestvite Gaba
You don't have to worry about added ingredients with these GABA supplements—they don't contain fillers.
7. Thorne Research PharmaGABA-100
Thorne's GABA supplement supports calmness and sleep. The best thing about Thorne products is that they're tested over and over (four times to be exact).
8. Source Naturals Serene Science GABA Calm Mind
With one capsule daily, you might feel calmer and more relaxed. One reviewer said, "These work great for going back to sleep in the middle of the night—it's not really like taking a sedative, so you won't feel awful when you have to get up."
9. Pure Encapsulations GABA
Not only will this GABA supplement provide stress relief, but it may also support the immune system. The capsules themselves don't contain artificial flavors, colors, or coatings.
10. Nutricost GABA Powder
You can also take GABA supplements in powder form. Just mix a scoop of this with eight ounces of water or juice.
11. Solgar GABA
You can take this vegetable capsule before bed to help you relax and fall asleep faster. It's free of gluten, wheat, and dairy.
12. Olly Ultra Strength Goodbye Stress Softgels
Olly's supplement is packed with soothing ingredients like GABA, L-theanine, lemon balm, and ashwagandha.
13. Jarrow Formulas GABA Soothe
In addition to GABA, this formula contains L-theanine and ashwagandha to promote relaxation (without drowsiness) and stress relief.
Make sure you talk to your doctor and discuss any possible negative effects before taking a new supplement.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.