Stress has become an all-pervading part of everyone’s life. Whether it’s down to financial uncertainty, working longer hours, social media, or the current state of the globe, stress is often running high.
These days, it’s essential to have strategies in place that allow you to de-stress, reflect, and unwind, which will help you stay healthy, mentally and physically.
Keeping stress in check will help reduce the risk of issues associated with chronic stress, such as heart problems, mental health issues, and chronic disease.
One effective way of supporting your brain and body is to increase your levels of the amino acid gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.
What is GABA?
GABA is a neurotransmitter (one of the brain's chemical messengers), which facilitates communication between your brain and your nervous system.
GABA is your body’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that its primary job is to inhibit, or reduce, the activity of nerve cells in your nervous system. This means that it helps keep your mind relaxed and peaceful as it disengages from an alert, wakeful state.
It does this by binding to GABA receptors in the brain, acting as a brake on the more stimulating neurotransmitters in the brain, causing you to feel more relaxed.
Low levels of GABA are linked with feelings of anxiousness, overthinking, and tension, which can have a negative impact on mood, sleep, motivation, and much more.
It’s not yet fully understood what causes low levels of GABA, though it’s speculated to be largely down to genetics, stress levels, lack of exercise, and poor diet.
Focusing on increasing your GABA levels would provide many calming effects—let’s take a closer look!
Benefits of Increased GABA
As GABA has calming effects on the brain, increased levels may result in:
- A reduction of mental and physical stress
- Easing symptoms of anxiety
- A decrease in muscle tension
- A calm mood
- Balanced blood pressure
- A better night’s sleep
Sounds like something we should all be focusing on, right?
Let’s take a look at the top 5 natural ways to increase GABA!
5 Natural Ways to Increase GABA
1) De-stress with Meditation and Yoga
Studies have shown that activities such as meditation, yoga, and other movement practices have confirmed benefits such as increased GABA levels and easing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Additionally, lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels have been reported in those who regularly meditate and partake in movement practices such as yoga and tai chi.
2) Exercise and Physical Activity
Increasing your exercise and physical activity would be highly beneficial in many areas of your life, particularly physical health. However, regular exercise also helps increase GABA signaling in the brain.
While this isn’t an instant effect of exercise, regular and consistent exercise will increase GABA levels over time.
3) Increase Consumption of GABA-Rich Foods
A short science lesson: GABA is produced by another amino acid found in the brain—glutamate. This amino acid is relatively abundant in the diet and is found in high concentrations in these foods:
- Cured and preserved foods such as cheeses and meats
- Slow-cooked meat and poultry
- Bone broths
Our brain also requires other co-factors such as vitamin B6, which supports the production of GABA. So, it goes without saying that there may be additional benefits to increasing your intake of B6 rich foods, such as:
- Brussels sprouts
Additionally, GABA may also be synthesized by gut bacteria, so increasing your consumption of probiotic-rich foods such as fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kefir will all help increase your GABA levels.
4) Consider GABA-Activating Herbs
Some herbs are also considered GABA activators that help support our brain’s natural production of GABA. Here are some noted effective herbs for increasing GABA levels:
Kava: Popularly consumed as a tea, rich in GABA-activating compounds called kavalactones.
Ashwagandha: The king of the Ayurvedic herbs, ashwagandha contains compounds called withanolides which are thought to activate GABA receptors in the brain.
Valerian: A traditional sleep aid with compounds that are thought to help increase GABA.
Passionflower: A herbal sleep aid containing GABA.
Lemon Balm: Commonly consumed as a tea and known for its calming properties.
5) Take a Supplement
GABA is also available as an amino acid dietary supplement. GABA supplements have been shown to be fairly effective in easing feelings of anxiousness and promoting restful sleep.
Though, one of the best GABA supplements available is Mind Lab Pro. Mind Lab Pro combines 11 research-backed nootropic ingredients that help you unlock 100% brainpower by optimizing numerous brain pathways.
Ingredients such as Bacopa Monnieri, L-Tyrosine, and L-Theanine, all help promote the production of GABA and other brain chemicals tied to focused thinking, clear memory, and a healthy mood.
Suitable for every individual, Mind Lab Pro boosts all aspects of cognition in all types of people, from students and professionals to athletes and competitors!
A Final Word
While GABA is a naturally occurring brain chemical, you can undoubtedly make minor lifestyle changes to ensure this key neurotransmitter is being produced in healthy amounts.
Whether you choose to incorporate more GABA-rich foods into your diet, experiment with herbs, or consider a supplement, it goes without saying that you would benefit from prioritizing your brain health!