How does gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) work?
GABA is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter in your central nervous system. Inhibitory neurotransmitters prevent or block chemical messages and decrease the stimulation of nerve cells in your brain.
Neurotransmitters all generally work in the same way. They are chemical messengers that carry messages from one nerve cell in your brain to the next. Between each nerve cell is a tiny amount of fluid-filled space called a synapse. Neurotransmitters must carry their message across this synapse and then land on and bind to specific receptors on the next nerve cell (like a key that can only fit and work in its partner lock).
There are two types of GABA receptors on nerve cells — GABA-A and GABA-B. Although they work in different ways, when GABA binds to these receptors the result is that they decrease the responsiveness of the nerve cell. This means that as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA lessens the ability of a nerve cell to receive, create or send chemical messages to other nerve cells.
What are the health benefits of GABA?
By slowing certain brain functions, GABA is thought to be able to:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter in your central nervous system. GABA lessens the ability of a nerve cell to receive, create or send chemical messages to other nerve cells. GABA is known for producing a calming effect. It’s thought to play a major role in controlling anxiety, stress and fear. Decreased GABA levels are associated with several neurological and mental health conditions, as well as other medical conditions. Increasing GABA levels may help treat high blood pressure, diabetes and insomnia. Because of the abundance of GABA in your brain, the GABA receptor is a major target of drug development by pharmaceutical manufacturers. The effectiveness of GABA supplements and GABA-containing foods to prevent and treat medical conditions needs to be studied in a larger number of people. Before purchasing GABA supplements or eating certain GABA-containing foods, talk to your healthcare provider about the best approach to treat your health condition.