What is GABA?
GABA (or Gamma-aminobutyric acid), is an amino acid that acts in mammals as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, i.e. it regulates excessive firing of nerves within our brain and body to control hyper-excitability and unwanted nervous impulses.
Its most obvious applications have been in treating conditions such seizures, or epilepsy, and in this regard several anticonvulsant drugs such as dilantin or gabapentin exert their actions through GABA receptors and pathways. Anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and other benzodiazepines also engage GABA receptors to achieve their calming effects.
Natural substances such as theanine, kava, skullcap, or valerian actually exert their calming effects by engaging GABA receptors as well, to relax not only nerves, but muscles too.
Numerous GABA benefits...
As many have already discovered GABA can be extremely valuable for people who, for example, just can't seem to quiet their mind when trying to sleep. (It can be a huge relief for those who "get on the gerbil wheel", and have their mind race the moment their head hits the pillow.)
Since GABA regulates unwanted firing of neurons not only in the brain, but in nerve connections to muscles and glands as well, in addition to improving sleep, it can also be useful in a wide array of situations including:
- calming nerves before performing in front of an audience
- improving mood and reducing anxiety
- reducing PMS and/or pain/cramping
- boosting human growth hormone production for athletes and "anti-agers"
- aiding concentration and focus in attention-deficit syndromes
- restless leg syndrome
- calming excessive immune response in autoimmune disorders
GABA and the Immune System
Some may automatically think of GABA for anxiety, but it has also been shown to reduce the autoimmune response in rheumatoid arthritis. In a 2011 mouse study entitled: "Oral GABA treatment downregulates inflammatory responses in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis", GABA reduced T cell activity and proliferation, producing less arthritis and milder symptoms.  This suggests important possiblities for those suffering with overactive and/or autoimmune conditions.
GABA and the Pancreas
Another interesting effect of GABA, possibly tied into its anti-inflammatory and immune-moderating effects, is its investigated ability to rejuvenate and protect the pancreas...specifically to regenerate the function of insulin-producing islet cells, improve insulin secretion, and blood sugar regulation. [4,5] Even though it’s only been studied in animal models so far, most recently human cells transplanted into diabetic mice and treated with GABA were shown to proliferate and enhance glucose regulation. .
GABA is available as a non-addictive and completely natural supplement.
If you want to try a GABA supplement, the adult daily dosage varies from 500 mg for helping you calm down for the night, to 750mg once a day, all the way up to 3000 mg divided and spread throughout the day. For best results take it on an empty stomach.
You need to find out what works for you, but be aware that GABA can make you drowsy, (proportional to your dosage). Even though it does combine well with other natural sleep aids like melatonin, and you can get combination products like this, do not combine it with such sedatives as alcohol, or with other medications without consulting your doctor. Consult a qualified health practitioner before using it for children, or more serious conditions like epilepsy, or if your symptoms persist or worsen.
I consider GABA to be kind of an unsung and under-appreciated natural substance, and as it becomes more widely discovered, expect its list of potential benefits and uses to grow.
Disclaimer: The above information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.