December 2, 2021
Get to Know GABA
Gamma-aminobutyric acid
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
ADHD is commonly linked with deficits of the neurotransmitter dopamine and deficits in our noradrenergic neurotransmitter system. This system is responsible for the synthesis, storage, and release of norepinephrine.

It is my opinion that ADHD cannot be described by abnormalities of a single neurotransmitter or system. I believe we must care for our entire nervous system all of our chemical messengers equally to effectively manage ADHD.

Let’s take a look at GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) serves as the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human cortex.

The role of GABA is to inhibit or reduce the activity of the neurons or nerve cells. GABA plays an important role in behavior, cognition, and the body's response to stress.

A lack of GABA leaves your central nervous system with too many neuronal signals and causes conditions like anxiety, epilepsy, seizures, increased PMS symptoms, or mood disorders. Low GABA levels have also been linked directly to ADHD, GABA concentration is typically reduced in children with ADHD compared with typically developing control subjects.

During periods of stress, the adrenal glands produce hormones that spark the fight-or-flight responses, such as increased heartbeat or an adrenaline rush. GABA counteracts these natural stimulants by relaxing the brain.

GABA is also known for its analgesic effects, anti-anxiety, and hypotensive activity.

ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by a deficit in behavioral inhibition. Recent evidence also suggests a deficit in cortical inhibition via the GABAergic system

Could you use more GABA?

Worry and anxiety can be a result of both low GABA and serotonin. Low GABA levels tend to result in more physical-type anxiety, while low serotonin tends to result in more anxiety in the head, ruminating thoughts, brain fog, etc.

GABA blocks certain brain signals to decrease nervous system activity and the neurotransmitter, serotonin, helps stabilize mood.

Here are 7 clues your GABA levels are low

  1. Anxiety + new feelings of overwhelm
  2. Feeling stressed or burned-out
  3. Panic attacks
  4. Stiff or tense muscles
  5. Feeling worried or fearful
  6. Unable to relax or loosen up
  7. Craving cards for relaxation & calming
What can you do?

GABA is primarily processed and manufactured in the gut by beneficial bacteria.

An important step to increasing GABA production is eating a wide range of whole foods, increasing your veggie intake, and incorporating prebiotic foods and/or herbs.

Eating fermented foods that are rich in probiotics, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, yogurt, and kefir can help to increase GABA levels.

A few foods that contain GABA

  • Seaweed
  • Seafood
  • Sprouted grains & beans
  • Sweet Potato
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Additional ways to increase GABA

Meditative exercises, such as yoga, may increase GABA. A 2010 study conducted on 19 yoga practitioners has shown that GABA increased by 27% after a yoga session.

Aromatherapy & essential oils such as Lemongrass, Thyme ct linalool, and Rose. Rose essential oil can produce a state of relaxation, and support the alleviation of stress, depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Inhalation of Rose can decrease sympathetic activity and levels of plasma adrenaline The sedative effect of Rose essential oil is due to its affinity with the GABAA receptor in the CNS.

Herbs and supplements for GABA

Taking a GABA supplement should be done temporarily and only if there is a true GABA deficiency. Please work with your physician or a nutritionist before taking GABA as a food supplement.

There are wonderful herbs to support GABA production, calm the nervous system, and cognitive function such as Bacopa. However, it is best to work with a trained herbalist before starting any herbal protocol, some herbs like Corydalis can actually inhibit GABA receptors block noradrenaline release.

Support for ADHD
The best way to increase GABA is through whole foods and focusing on gut health, however, there are some people that still struggle to get enough. These people should consider supplementation, especially if there is no improvement in your ADHD symptoms. It can get overwhelming learning what herbs and supplements are safe & effective for your ADHD needs. I'm here to guide you and be your partner.
Streeter, Chris C et al. “Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 16,11 (2010): 1145-52. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007

Costa, Celso A Rodrigues de Almeida et al. “The GABAergic system contributes to the anxiolytic-like effect of essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass).” Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 137,1 (2011): 828-36. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.07.003

Rakhshandah, H., Hosseini, M. and Dolati, K. (2004) Hypnotic effect of Rosa damascena in mice. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 3, 181-185