Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that is the second most prevalent neurotransmitter in the brain. Amino acids build proteins in the body, and neurotransmitters are chemicals needed for the synapses to transfer information in human gray matter. This amino acid has an inhibiting effect, calming excited nerve impulses. This can make a person feel more tranquil and give him or her a sense of wellbeing. Without this inhibitory neurotransmitter, a person would constantly remain on edge and anxious, and not have the ability to relax.
A person who is feeling stressful and anxious may be suffering from a deficiency of this vital biochemical. This deficiency can cause headaches, depression, irritability, palpitations, and other symptoms. Many people who suffer from anxiety disorder are prescribed tranquilizers in the benzodiazepine family, which can produce uncomfortable side effects and become addictive. Natural remedies are a healthier option. Dietary supplements of GABA are available, but instead of containing the neurotransmitter they contain substances that help the body produce its own.
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L-theanine and glutamine are amino acids that are precursors of gamma-aminobutyric acid. Eating a diet rich in sources of these substances can help the body produce its own calming neurotransmitters. L-theanine occurs naturally in the human body. Supplements are available that contain this amino acid, and drinking green tea will also increase one’s L-theanine levels, inducing a feeling of calm and raising the level of GABA.
Eating foods rich in glutamine will also help the body produce gamma-aminobutyric acid. Complex carbohydrates are a good source of glutamine. This GABA precursor is found in broccoli, citrus fruits, whole grains, bananas, and spinach. Herbal teas, almonds, walnuts, and brown rice also contain enough glutamine to help the body produce GABA.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid can prevent insomnia by decreasing the firing of neurons and promoting restful sleep. Its calming properties can also elevate a person’s mood and have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. A person with sufficient levels of GABA will have improved powers of concentration over someone who is deficient in this amino acid.
GABA can also help slow the effects of aging by stimulating the pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone (HGH). As a person ages, the production of this hormone slows down. This decrease in HGH causes wrinkles and degenerative diseases, such as arthritis, so adding supplements or foods rich in gamma-aminobutyric acid precursors can slow the effects of aging. One form of cerebral palsy is caused by an inability of the body to absorb gamma-aminobutyric acid, demonstrating how vital this neurotransmitter is for health.