GABA Foods: Natural Anti-Anxiety Nutrition

GABA's role in the brain's delicate balancing act is crucial. It assists in regulating the body's internal rhythm while it helps people manage stress and maintain mental focus. GABA Deficiency Wreaks Havoc On The Brain

As one of the primary neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA is an inhibitory (vs. excitatory) chemical responsible for creating the calming, rhythmic electrical impulses in the brain. It elevates the production of alpha waves associated with feeling relaxed (without drowsiness) and boosts mental alertness. GABA lowers beta waves, impulses that contribute to a state of nervousness, racing thoughts and hyperactivity.

While a balanced brain receives regular, smooth electrical impulses, a GABA deficient one receives them in spurts. As a result, the brain experiences arrhythmia, or dysrhythmia which directly affects overall emotional well-being.

3 Ways to Naturally Increase GABA

To avoid taking prescription anti-anxiety medications or to *reduce dosing in prescriptions such as Xanax, Ativan or Valium, consider the following natural alternatives:

1. Load Up on Green Tea. Green tea contains the anxiety-reducing amino acid L-theanine which is involved in the formation of GABA. You will however, have to drink large amounts to obtain any affect. Most green tea sold in the United States contains less than 10mg of L-theanine while the suggested dose to decrease symptoms is 50-200 mg.

2. Supplement with the amino acid L-Theanine rather than GABA supplements. L-theanine is more effective than GABA supplements in crossing the blood-brain barrier. Take only the Suntheanine® form of L-theanine as indicated on the label in brands such as Enzymatic Therapy, Natural Factors, NOW Foods, Bluebonnet, etc.

3. Eat complex carbohydrates to increase glutamic acid/glutamate which forms glutamine, an amino involved in the production of GABA. Cooking destroys amino acids so eat as many raw foods as possible.

GABA Stimulating Foods

Dr. Eric Braverman, an authority on brain chemistry and author of the book, The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity With The Balanced Brain Advantage, lists the following foods which are high in glutamic acid/glutamate. “The more GABA-producing foods you eat, the more you will be able to create,” Dr. Braverman explains. “If you can incorporate these into your diet, the occasional fast-food meal or sinful dessert will have no harmful effect at all,” he explains.
  • Almonds
  • Tree nuts
  • Bananas
  • Beef Liver
  • Broccoli
  • Brown Rice
  • Halibut
  • Lentils
  • Oats, whole grain
  • Oranges, citrus fruits
  • Rice bran
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Whole wheat, whole grains.
According to an article posted on Supplement News, "GABA" (Accessed December 5th, 2008), the highest concentrations of naturally occurring GABA are found in fish (particularly mackerel) and wheat bran. While it's easy to burn out eating large amounts of fish, wheat bran can be blended into an assortment of soups, salads, cereals and even some meat dishes.

The term "comfort food" takes on new meaning when referring to foods that stimulate the production of this calming chemical in the brain. People who exhibit symptoms of low GABA levels can reduce their anxiety, increase mental focus and lower irritability without the use of prescriptions, by drinking green tea, supplementing with L-theanine and adding foods high in glutamine to their daily diet.

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*reprinted with permission of the Author