0:20 – What is GABA?
1:02 – Valium and Other Benzodiazepines Mimic GABA
1:48 – Blood-Brain Barrier Conflicting Research
2:55 – GABA Might Be a Little More Complex
3:15 – Should You Try Other Amino Acids First?
4:18 – My Honest Experience With GABA’s Effects
GABA is said to be ineffective yet so many people have benefited from it. We’ll dive deeper into why this is a little later, but in case you are a little unfamiliar with this amino acid, let’s review the facts.
The body makes GABA from glutamine. GABA is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the body that calms you down. It inhibits activity in the brain and therefore calms you down. Things like valium mimic GABA in the brain and central nervous system. GABA calms down the hypothalamus and amygdala which can help lift your depression and calm down your anxiety.
If you don’t have enough GABA, you will also have a hard time sleeping. The body makes gamm-hydroxybutyrate, otherwise known as GHG, from GABA. Hibernating animals have higher levels of GABA. GABA can control aggression, help patients not just with depression and anxiety but also suffering from schizophrenia, and too little GABA has been shown to result in “mental inflexibility.”
An imbalance of GABA has been shown to be common in people suffering from seizures. It also has been shown to be lowered in autistic individuals.
Symptoms of Having Low Levels of GABA in The Brain
A GABA deficiency will result in a low level of anxiety. It might not be crippling anxiety, but an overall sense of stress and inability to relax. Not having enough GABA can also result in other poor moods such as depression. Many people who have found relief by taking a GABA supplement feel “uneasy” all the time. Nothing feels as if it is alright even if external conditions are normal.
A deficiency can also result in a lack of patience. GABA keeps you calm and if you don’t have enough it can present itself like ADHD.
More general symptoms include:
- Having a low stress tolerance. You “snap” easily under stress.
- Insomnia and inability to fall asleep
- Using drugs for the purpose of calming yourself down.
- Being constantly overwhelmed by daily tasks.
- Having anxiety and nervousness even in periods where you don’t have external stressors.
- Craving starches, sweets, wine or marijuana in the afternoon, late night, but never in the morning.
- Feeling overworked, pressured, and always having a looming sense of deadlines.
- Can’t laugh at the TV – You can’t relax and “loosen up”
- Feeling weak or shaky at times
- If you skip a meal, you feel horrible
- Being sensitive to bright light, noise, or chemical fumes. You have to wear sunglasses a lot.
Why Did I Make a NOW Foods GABA Review?
Throughout my own struggle in overcoming depression, I could never turn off my fight or flight response. I always felt a little tense and nervous everywhere I went. The build up of stress would eventually wear me down. I had social anxiety, feared public speaking (a little fear is OK but I was terrified like I was going to die), everything from school to basic tasks that needed to be completed stressed me out, and every day seemed to be filled with terrifying situations.
Naturally, GABA was something I wanted to try and NOW Foods GABA because the company typically makes products that work for me. I bought a bottle of GABA for $15 and tried it out.
I never really felt any effect. I couldn’t tell if it was making me relaxed or not. With other amino acids, I could literally feel the effects within a half hour. If I took L-Tyrosine, I’d start to get edgy and a little angry. If I took L-Phenylalanine, I would feel excited about the day and feel as if everything was a little more pleasurable. If I took L-Tryptophan I’d feel confident and happy.
With GABA, I didn’t feel anything, despite wanting to. Unfortunately, I didn’t even get a placebo effect from it. It didn’t seem to help with stress levels during the day or with sleeping at night.
For many people that are depressed, my guess is that you also have issues with serotonin production. My first recommendation would be to try something like L-Tryptophan or L-Theanine for stress and calming yourself down. It seems as if GABA has a lot of mixed reviews. Also, GABA has been reported to be unable to cross the blood-brain barrier in the brain.
The Blood-Brain Barrier Debate Concerning GABA
People in the study might have had effects from GABA because the people that would need these effects could have a weakened blood-brain barrier due to inflammation. If their blood-brain barrier is messed up due to inflammation that person is likely going to be depressed and anxious.
Even with all the confusing information on GABA and crossing the blood-brain barrier, it also has other effects on the body that might be the result for why people have lowered anxiety when taking it as a supplement.
GABA is found in the adrenal glands, pituitary, pancreas, uterus, ovaries, and testis. It is involved with issues concerning reproductive systems and the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are what produce your fight or flight hormones. If your reproductive systems are out of whack it can cause some serious issues with anxiety.
Other than affecting your adrenal glands and reproductive systems, GABA is also anti-inflammatory. GABA can be found in immune cells. This means that if you don’t have enough GABA, you can have issues with inflammation. Inflammation causes all sorts of problems in the body and can lead to anxiety as a result. Inflammation is higher metabolic activity which increases the activity in the brain. If you have inflammation issues long-term, you will have problems not just with anxiety.
In other words, we aren’t quite sure why taking GABA in supplement form gives some people great effects. It could either be from those people having weakened blood-brain barriers or from the other effects that GABA has on the rest of the bodily systems.
NOW Foods GABA 500mg with B-6
The kind of GABA that I tried was NOW Foods GABA 500 mg with Vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 is involved in numerous interactions in the brain and a lack of Vitamin B-6 can make it hard for you to process amino acids effectively. I chose 500mg over 250mg or NOW Foods GABA 750mg because with the conflicting research on GABA I figured I could try the middle dose and not worry about it too much.
Even taking several of these capsules, I never really felt much of an affect myself. However, I still can’t deny that GABA appears in almost every book I read on using nutrient therapy to overcome mood disorders and there are 39 4-star and 5-star reviews on the product. And there still might be effects from the other ways in which GABA interacts with the body.
NOW Foods GABA Orange Flavored Chewable
For everyone that doesn’t want to take GABA as a supplement and hate swallowing pills, you can always get the chewable kind. The people that have tried the Orange Flavor Chewable of NOW Foods GABA report that it works for them and is especially useful if you want to give it to your children.
If the only thing holding you back from trying out amino acids in becoming depression free is you hate swallowing pills, I always advise people to try liquid forms or chewable versions of the supplement.
NOW Foods GABA Powder Review
If you don’t like pills and even hate chewing tablets you can always get the powder version. Some people even report that taking a scoop of the powder is more effective than taking it as a supplement. Many people need to take high doses of GABA in order to feel anything and the powder allows them to do so.
If stress and turning off your fight-or-flight response is a major issue for you and other things don’t work and you are ready to give GABA a try, you can get the powder version to make sure you can take higher doses. Some people need a few grams at a time to feel anything.
If you are burnt out and seriously need some help, consider getting the powder and taking some higher doses to see if you can get GABA through your blood-brain barrier and have the beneficial affects on the rest of your body.
With all the confusing research out there yet so many people that have benefited from taking GABA, it seems as if GABA does cross the blood-brain barrier, but just not that much. Even if it does not effectively cross the blood brain barrier, it may cross the blood brain barrier more easily in the people that are suffering from things such as anxiety and inflammation because their blood brain barriers will be weakened. If it still doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier, then the effects it has on the rest of the body, such as the adrenal glands, may be the result in its anti-anxiety effects.
If it is something you need or have been thinking of trying, just try it. If it doesn’t work, something like L-Theanine, L-Tryptophan or glycine may work better in dialing down the stress in your life. You can look at the master list of other supplements in helping depression if you are lost.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to try GABA (and symptoms of low GABA is the main factor in your problems) think of it this way: Best case scenario is you just found something that helps you in life immensely. Worst case scenario is that it does nothing and you lose a few dollars. When it comes to something as important as your well-being and mood, if you are constantly stressed out and on edge, give GABA a try and see if it is something you benefit from if you haven’t already tried serotonin boosting supplements like L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP and supplements like L-Theanine. I’d rather try something and risk losing a couple dollars then stay stressed and unhappy all the time because I am unwilling to try new things.