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Do Gaba Supplements Improve Sleep, Panic & Anxiety?

By Brindusa Vanta ; Updated August 14, 2017

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, also known as GABA, is an amino-acid produced naturally in the brain from another amino acid and vitamin B-6. While GABA found in the brain does help to improve sleep, symptoms of anxiety and panic, the effectiveness of GABA supplements for the same conditions is not well documented in research studies. Talk to your doctor if you consider talking GABA supplements.

Functions

GABA is a key neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system. This amino-acid is responsible for suppressing excessive brain activity, thus it has a calming and relaxing effect. According to "Enciclopedia Britannica," decreased levels of GABA or impaired GABA function in the brain are correlated with anxiety, depression, insomnia, epilepsy and hallucinations. Same source indicates that in preliminary studies, a drug with similar function as GABA was effective for panic attacks. GABA also improves quality of sleep by promoting alpha waves in the brain, which normally occur in a state of relaxation and decreases beta waves that predominate in stressful, hyperactive state. Conventional drugs used for anxiety and sleep problems such as Valium or Xanax work by stimulating GABA receptors in the brain, thus having the same action as GABA supplement.

Controversy

GABA supplements are available as over the counter products in both natural and synthetic form. The efficacy of a GABA supplement is controversial among medical professionals, because it is questionable whether the active ingredient crosses the blood brain barrier, thus a GABA supplement may or may not increase the levels of this amino acid in the brain. According to Michael Murray, synthetic GABA does not work, however natural GABA supplement does cross the blood brain barrier. For optimal results he recommends GABA supplement derived from a bacteria, Lactohacillus hilgardii to be used.

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Research

According to Michael Murray, ND and author of “The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines,” GABA supplements are rated “C” for both effectiveness and safety in relieving symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. This means that GABA is generally considered safe at recommended doses, but insufficient studies found this supplement effective for anxiety and sleep problems.

Drug Interactions

GABA supplement may interact with other drugs that stimulate GABA receptors in the brain, such as benzodiazepines and some muscle relaxants.

Dosage

The recommended dose of GABA supplement is 100 to 200 mg two to three times daily. Up to 3 g daily supplementation with GABA is considered safe.

Considerations

Consult an alternative health care practitioner to find out if you can benefit from taking this supplement, as well as your optimal dosage, possible side effects and drug interactions.Supplementation with GABA does not replace standard treatment for anxiety, insomnia or panic disorder.

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