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What is GABA and what are its benefits as a health supplement? (Op-Ed)

While medications that are designed to aid individuals with mental health issues, disorders and conditions are more common and effective than ever, it is important to note that non-prescription, holistic methods for managing mental (and physical) health are still preferred by some. 

GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter and naturally occurring amino acid that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. According to Mental Health America, GABA also controls the speed at which information travels through the nervous system. 

Several well-known mental disorders and mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder are characterized by a significantly lower level of GABA presence for diagnosed individuals. 

There are many side effects and symptoms of lower GABA levels that are well-recognized and typical for these conditions, such as reduced quality of sleep, unstable mood and emotional regulation, metabolism and appetite control, blood pressure management, immune system support and protection against nerve damage. 

By incorporating GABA as an occasional or everyday supplement, individuals may report signs of improved sleep through slowed brain function and increased relaxation, reduced anxiety and increased emotional regulation achieved through a slower, more measured cognitive function, ensuring appetite is regular by accurately sending out hunger and fullness cues to the brain to prevent overeating, and more. 

While this supplement is typically non-prescription, one should still be sure to speak with their doctor before incorporating it into their daily or weekly supplement and medication regimen to make sure it is the best choice for them. If you are currently taking medication for any of the listed mental conditions or others, do not make a sudden switch or stop without consulting a medical professional. As well, if you do decide to give GABA a try, be sure to take the lowest possible recommended dose. 

Thankfully, one can increase their GABA production in their everyday lives as well. Simple activities and habits such as yoga, measured breathing and meditation, high-intensity exercise, and even certain foods and teas either aid in organically producing or consuming this neurotransmitter. 

When it comes to managing your mental health, be sure to keep an open mind about the best treatments and options possible, and your mind will thank you right back.


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