Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS), and is necessary to balance the natural excitatory nature of the CNS. GABA helps prevent stress, irritability, seizures, insomnia and movement disorders.
Inadequate GABA is seen in psychiatric and neurologic diseases, such as anxiety, insomnia, depression and epilepsy. Low GABA levels are found in chronic depression and in post-partum depression.
GABA supplementation improves sleep and relaxation. GABA can be natural or synthetic and is produced by fermentation with Lactobacillus hilgardii. L. hilgardii is also used in the fermentation of vegetables such as Korean kimchi. Glutamic acid is converted in the brain to GABA by an enzyme, glutamate decarboxylase. When GABA is released, it stimulates inhibitory nerve fibers to reduce brain excitability.
Gabapentin is a synthetic form of GABA. Many treatments for stress and anxiety are aimed at the GABA receptor. Valerenic acid from valerian, an herb, acts on GABA receptors and a one hour yoga session was found to increase GABA levels.
Studies have shown an improvement in seizures by supplementation of a combination of GABA (1500-2500 mg. daily) and phosphatidylserine (PS) (300-500 mg. daily). Movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome, can be benefited by natural or synthetic GABA.
Side effects of synthetic GABA include drowsiness, dizziness and addiction. Natural GABA does not have significant side effects, although GABA, synthetic or natural, should not be used during pregnancy since it is a neurotransmitter.
CONCLUSION: GABA is a neurotransmitter which is inhibitory and has been found to benefit excitatory CNS disorders, such as movement disorder, seizures, anxiety and depression.