Tired and Anxious? – LEARN ABOUT GABA

Staying and being calm through these turbulent last 2 years has most certainly been a challenge.

It is more important than ever that you empower yourself as you navigate these times.  My goal is to help and provide knowledge so you can be the best version of yourself, have good health, feel more in control, and learn how the body works.

We are coming into the first quarter of 2022.

March is the month of reflection. It is a time to learn from the past and move forward toward the future with a renewed spirit. It is time for planting seeds for growth and time to refocus on what is truly important.  Your health, happiness and the wellbeing of your loved ones.

I like to call it energetic alignment.  We could all use less stress, more energy, more calm and better quality sleep right?

With so many families taking about anxiety and depression right now, I wanted talk about GABA our calming neurotransmitter.


Our mental state is governed in large part by a unique cocktail of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain—one of which is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is essentially your body’s “calm down” signal, pumping the brakes on overexcited neurons, contributing to an overall relaxing effect. However, various lifestyle and genetic factors can throw GABA out of whack, leading to serious disruptions in physical and mental health. In fact, abnormal GABA levels have been implicated in anxiety, insomnia, depression, epilepsy, and more.


GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter produced in the body. That means it blocks certain signals in the central nervous system to counter the excessive neural “excitement” that can lead to mental and physical health problems. GABA works in conjunction with another neurotransmitter called glutamate to maintain overall balance. Glutamate has the opposite role of GABA—to excite and motivate—and it’s also the precursor to GABA. Think of GABA and glutamate as the yin and yang of the brain.


Normally, excess glutamate is automatically converted to GABA by the body to keep you on an even keel (i.e., not too amped up, not overly lethargic). But a variety of factors can cause imbalances in these two neurotransmitters, resulting in poor GABA activity in the body.  Factors that effect poor GABA include genetics, along with environmental stressors, poor diet, poor sleep, excessive heat or cold exposure, medications (especially antibiotics), lack of exercise, and gut disorders.


When balanced,GABA enables the body and mind to relax and fall asleep and sleep soundly throughout the night. GABA-A receptors are also highly expressed in the thalamus, a brain region involved in sleep processes, and in one study, patients with insomnia had GABA levels nearly 30% lower than people without the sleep disorder.

Given GABA’s role in balancing out the excitatory effects of glutamine, many anti-anxiety drugs target GABA-A receptors).

Research demonstrates that GABA can have a positive influence on your ability to perform mental tasks that require significant concentration. If you have foggy brain, struggle with focus, can not complete a task  then it could be that this neurotransmitter could use support.


 1.  Magnesium

Magnesium is a GABA agonist (i.e., a substance that binds to GABA receptors and activates them the same as GABA.

Supplementing with magnesium or consuming plenty of magnesium-rich foods can help alleviate side effects associated with low levels, such as stress and sleeplessness.

 2. Meditation and Movement

Additional ways of improving GABAergic activity include movement and meditation. “Exercise like yoga, Pilates, running, or walking and daily meditation with focused deep breathing can help us feel relaxed. These modalities serve to decrease tone and tension in the central nervous system by increasing GABA, decreasing glutamate, and improving serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine levels—other essential neurotransmitters.

In a new study, patients with clinical depression were assigned to do yoga two to three times a week. After 12 weeks, researchers found that this yoga practice increased levels of GABA on a temporary basis, and suggested that taking one yoga class weekly might help maintain those enhanced levels.  You already know I am a big fan of this study.  Gosh, my daily practice has support me through all of the ups and downs that life brings.

Another study found that people who meditated for 20-minute session experienced a significant increase in something called a cortical silent period (CSP) in the brain. This means that your brain had rest.  Yeah and we need that.  It could also be called turn off the electronics, sit and breathe.

3. Food as Medicine

Diet is crucial for maintaining healthy  levels and activity for a number of reasons. For one, a poor diet can drive inflammation, putting an excessive burden on your body that impairing your ability to make and use GABA.

Here are some of the best dietary sources of GABA that you can start layering into your overall anti-inflammatory diet: BTW if you are not going to eat these foods please take whole food supplements to fill in the gaps. EG: Cruciferous Complete

  • Cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Chestnuts
  • Tea
  • Soybeans
  • Adzuki beans
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Buckwheat
  • Oats

4. Certain herbal supplements

A variety of herbs have also demonstrated GABAergic activity by behaving as GABA receptor agonists (the same way magnesium seems to function). These botanicals include skullcap, valerian, passionflower, and lemon balm and are commonly recommended for insomnia and anxiety.  These botanicals also serve as adaptogens and can help the body modulate its response to stressors.

I am a big fan of the formula from Mediherb called Nevaton

For more on how to purchase my favorite supplements Click Here:

You Don’t have to be Tired and Anxious

GABA is your body’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter, is key for physical and mental well-being.  Optimizing GABA with diet, exercise, and stress-busting practices like meditation can help. Research is  suggesting that naturally derived supplements (including Magnesium,  Potassium, B6, Kava,  and others we talked about)  may deliver that extra boost you need, particularly if you’re feeling anxious and having sleep challenges.

If symptoms continue  and you want to dig a little deeper or you are not sure how to connect the dots to your seeming unrelated symptoms, contact me by booking an appointment in office or online.

I hope that you have found the information useful and that you have a happy healthy week.

Dr Pia