GABA Deficiency - Anxiety and Depression

GABA is a natural tranquilizer that turns off our stress response, calms us down and enhances mood. When we are under stress, our adrenal glands produce adrenaline and noradrenaline, chemicals that increase the heart rate, divert blood from the digestive system and other areas to the muscles, speed up the reflexes and generally prepare the body for "fight or flight". GABA helps to calm down this stress response and switch it off when it's no longer needed. Low levels of GABA can lead to an inability to "switch off".

GABA Deficiency Symptoms

Symptoms of GABA deficiency can include:

  • anxiety
  • feeling pressured, overwhelmed or stressed
  • tight muscles
  • being snappy or irritable under stress
  • feeling weak or shaky
  • insomnia
  • palpitations
  • panic attacks
  • family history of panic attacks
  • tendency to use alcohol, drugs or food to calm down

Take the GABA deficiency test to find out if you could be low in GABA. Or, take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have one of 13 common causes of depression.

GABA levels can be low for a number of reasons, including:

  • too much stress - GABA is used up quickly when we are under stress and levels can become depleted.
  • not enough protein in the diet - GABA is produced in the body from an amino acid called glutamine found in protein containing foods, and many people just don't get enough protein in their diets.
  • too much sugar or starch in the diet - the adrenals are responsible for keeping your blood sugar levels from falling too low. Eating a lot of starch or sugar causes blood sugar levels to spike and then drop too low, putting a lot of pressure on the adrenals and using up extra GABA to calm down the adrenal response.
  • low progesterone - progesterone controls the release of GABA in the brain. Progesterone levels often drop too low in PMS and leading up to menopause, and GABA levels can drop as a result.
  • genetics - some people have a genetic tendency to be low in GABA

Diagnosis of GABA Deficiency

Blood tests and urine tests can be used to measure your amino acid levels, but many physicians are not familiar with their use. Some practitioners say the tests are unreliable and a questionnaire will give a better indication of amino acid levels. If you want to get the testing done, try Googling 'Amino Acid Testing', contact one of the labs that does the testing and ask them to suggest a practitioner in your area who is familiar with the tests. If you can't find a practitioner, some labs let you order the test yourself online.

Treatment of GABA Deficiency

The fastest and easiest way to treat GABA deficiency is to take GABA as a supplement. GABA supplements are readily available and can restore calm in minutes.

Taurine and glycine are calming amino acids that work in ways similar to GABA - glycine is particularly good for relaxing the muscles. Some supplements combine GABA, taurine and glycine in a single capsule.

GABA Dosage

In The Mood Cure, Julia Ross recommends taking 100 mg to 500 mg of GABA one to three times a day at the times you tend to feel particularly stressed, OR a combination of GABA, taurine and glycine, such as True Calm Amino Relaxer by Now Foods. Try starting with 100 mg of GABA at a time and increase the dosage gradually if needed.

GABA can cause tiredness in some people and your first dose should be taken at home when you won't have to drive anywhere.

The amino acid glutamine is the raw material used by the brain to create GABA. Amino acids are found in protein containing foods, and a consistent supply of protein is essential for GABA production. The Mood Cure recommends eating 20-30 grams of protein at each meal - about the amount found in 3 to 4 ounces (around 100 grams) of chicken, fish, red meat or pork (about 6.5 to 8 grams of protein per ounce), 3 eggs (20 grams of protein), 1 cup of cottage cheese (28 grams of protein), or 3/4 cup of almonds (24 grams of protein).

Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains are essential to provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs to convert glutamine into GABA. A good multivitamin is also important.

Other Considerations

GABA deficiency often goes hand in hand with adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia and/or pyroluria; and you may also need treatment for one or more of these conditions.

Other Causes of Depression

Take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have any of the other common causes of depression.

Where to Find More Information

The Mood CureThe Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today This book has by far the clearest and most detailed information we have found on neurotrasmitter and amino acid deficiencies. It has an excellent chapter on GABA deficiency with a comprehensive section on GABA boosting supplements.

The Ultramind Solution - The Simple Way to Defeat DepressionThe UltraMind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind