GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a naturally occurring agent found in the central nervous system. It is made from glutamate, a product of glucose metabolism, in brain cells.
GABA is the body’s principal inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is responsible for pumping the brakes on our nerve impulses whenever we’re placed in less-than-ideal, stressful situations. A high level of GABA activity indicates a lower chance of overstimulation and a higher chance of feeling calm under pressure.
Glutamate, which is responsible for the creation of GABA, holds a stark contrast to the neurotransmitter in question. Glutamate acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter and sends nerve impulses when it attaches itself to surrounding brain cells, during those stressful moments. As we just learned, GABA does the complete opposite because it slows down those cells in order to avoid a nerve impulse.
Interestingly enough, GABA receptors are also found in the hypothalamus, which is involved in sleep and emotional activity.
Supplements containing GABA are out there and are said to help promote a restful night’s sleep as well as to help combat nerves and stress. There currently isn’t enough concrete research to support its alleged benefits. That being said, a diet rich in GABA may help promote similar benefits. Some of these food items include shrimp, cherry tomatoes and oolong tea.