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WHAT IS GABA AND WHY DO I NEED IT?

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GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is one of the body’s most calming neurotransmitters and plays a powerful role in anxiety and depression. Like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, GABA is not directly available in food. But the amino acid, glutamine, is present in food and converts to GABA. GABA is available as a supplement but most medical professionals do not believe it can cross the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain. However, there are many people who take GABA as a supplement and report that it relieves their anxiety. It is possible that due to malnutrition or inflammation the blood-brain barrier could weaken, allowing a substance to cross. Glutamine is an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and can convert to GABA in the brain. Glutamine is found in many different foods.

Low levels of GABA are associated with:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Low stress tolerance
  • Feelings of dread
  • Short temper

There is no established daily recommendation for glutamine. The body can make its own glutamine but it is diminished under stressful conditions, including mental stress or physical stress like intensive exercise. Because of this, sometimes the body is not able to keep up with glutamine production making it a “conditionally essential” amino acid, so it becomes “essential” during these times to obtain glutamine from the diet. Supplementation of 10 grams per day has been found to be safe. An individual’s actual needs are difficult to determine because it will depend on stress levels, physical exertion, or mental or physical trauma, all of which can cause a deficiency in glutamine. While it is not recommended for people with neurological disorders to take supplements containing glutamine, consumption of glutamine from food sources is not known to cause any harmful effects and in a whole foods organic diet, you will be supplying all the building blocks needed for the body to produce its own needed glutamine.

Foods high in glutamine are:

  • Grass-fed beef
  • Bison
  • Free range chicken
  • Free range eggs
  • Whey protein
  • Red cabbage
  • Beets
  • Beans

Ensuring that your glutamine levels are adequate will help your brain make the GABA it needs to prevent or correct the anxiety and depression that can result from low levels of GABA. Eating good quality protein several times a day should provide you with adequate glutamine for GABA production.

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