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Is Your Brain Making Enough GABA?

Macasoul  Macasoul   Is Your Brain Making Enough GABA?

Is Your Brain Making Enough GABA?

GABA (Gamma-AminoButyric Acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has a calming and relaxing effect in the brain.  It acts like the brakes in a car, to where it slows down and/or stops brain activity on an as-needed basis to help us function better.


When we are low in this neurotransmitter, our brain continues to hit the gas, overstimulating us with activity.  Our gut microbiome plays an important role with GABA production and helps to convert glutamine and glutamic acid into GABA.  A disordered microbiome is a major cause of low GABA production (1, 2).

GABA’s Activity in the Brain


GABA receptors are spread out throughout the brain and they are ligand-activated chloride channels that when activated, allow the negatively charged chloride ions across the cell membrane and into the cell where they reduce cellular activity. In addition, they help to shunt the positive charged potassium ions across the cell membrane and out of the cell in order to inhibit activity and take the nervous system away from threshold.


GABA is synthesized from the amino acid glutamate with the enzyme glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) and pyridoxal phosphate (which is the activated form of vitamin B6) as the key cofactor. This process converts glutamate, which is the principle excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, to the principle inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (3, 4).


In most regions of the brain, GABA is too large a molecule to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) (5). However, there are certain areas that have a permeable barrier, such as the periventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, which sits in the 3rd ventricle of the brain. GABA has been shown to influence brain activity through this region and help to modulate the amount of human growth hormone release (6).


GABA is also an important part of the synthesis of the sleep hormone melatonin.  It has a key role in the conversion of serotonin into N-Acetylserotonin, which then converts to melatonin for inducing sleep (7).  Melatonin also plays a huge role in the body’s immune function.

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