GABA is an amino acid used as a supplement to ease low GABA levels. With low GABA you’ll experience physical-tension and stiff-and-tense-muscles type of anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. You may feel the need to self-medicate to calm down, often with alcohol but sometimes with carbs and sugary foods. GABA also helps with muscle spasms and provides pain relief when muscles are tight.
When I share my GABA blogs on Facebook I receive so many great questions (some basic questions and some more complex). Today I’m going to share some of these and my answers so you can get the benefits too.
Let’s start with the basic questions about using GABA.
What time of the day is best to take GABA?
The best time is 1 to 4 x a day, depending on your symptoms, between meals and always away from protein so it doesn’t compete for absorption with the other amino acids.
What dose do you recommend starting at?
I have clients start with 125mg and go up from there based on how they respond i.e. are they getting symptom resolution.
Based on the above 2 questions it’s clear that Amanda and Brian are new to using the amino acid GABA. If you are new to using GAB and the other amino acids (and other anxiety nutrition solutions like gluten/sugar/caffeine removal, blood sugar control, gut health, pyroluria etc.) my book “The Antianxiety Food Solution” is a great place to start.
I don’t cover specific brands in my book because brand formulations change and come and go so this is a great question from Olivia who asks:
Which brand would you recommend? thank you
My favorite is Source Naturals GABA Calm but since it’s been in short supply during the pandemic I list many other GABA options here. I’ve updated the main supplements blog with these additional GABA options too.
Now for some of the more advanced questions:
I’m super sensitive to supplements (Histamine Intolerance / MCAS / Multiple chemical sensitivity). Are there any potential reactions from taking GABA that you know of?
As far as I know there are none (clinically or in the research) but, as always, the best is to do a trial. For clients who are very sensitive we start super low and may use 1/8 to 1/4 of the starting dose of 125mg GABA, and increase from there if there are no adverse effects.
Does GABA help the same way Xanax does? I only take 0.5mg Xanax a few times a week when I really need it but if GABA works I’d like to try it but worry it won’t help like Xanax does. It calms me down and makes me feel normal
Many of my clients report back that GABA works just like Xanax used to work for them. But do keep in mind it’s important to work with your prescribing doctor and that the benzodiazepine taper should be very very slow. And it’s important to be aware that for some folks tapering can be very challenging (more on that here).
In New Zealand GABA is classed as a prohibited Class B drug so what can be used as an alternative for anxiety?
Taurine or theanine are good options if GABA is not available and mail order is not an option. Glutamine can be calming for some folks who are able to convert some of it to GABA. For others it can be too stimulating if it converts to glutamate. Addressing gut health and using precursors like magnesium, zinc and vitamin B6 are also key but this takes longer to see results.
Can u take GABA if taking a very low dose SSRI (sertraline). I’ve had to start it because I couldn’t find a GABA product when I needed it.
GABA is safe to take with an SSRI (antidepressant) but this should always be discussed with the prescribing doctor. Also, keep in mind that Sertraline works on serotonin so GABA may not be the best solution and tryptophan or 5-HTP may be. Looking at the low GABA and low serotonin symptoms and doing a trial is the best way to figure this out.
What could be used instead of Ativan for travel anxiety?
I would trial GABA if the anxiety is more physical with neck tension and butterflies in the stomach or tummy pain. I would trial tryptophan or 5-HTP if it’s mental like imagining-the- worst or if you have a phobia about flying or you are worrying and obsessing. Ideally you would want to build up levels before travelling and also use the amino acids as needed while traveling. Keep in mind that both GABA and serotonin support may be needed.
Is 4,000 mg of Now GABA too much for a person to take a day. This person is 86 years old.
This dose of 4,000mg GABA is high so I’d want to know if she is seeing benefits (and what benefits) and having any adverse reactions. I’d also want to know what product and how it’s being used (swallowed or opened on to the tongue).
I asked the above and Kelly shared this additional information:
Yes, it lessens the anxiety but also makes her very sleepy. She doesn’t take that many mg every day. She just swallows it.
When the GABA capsules are opened less can be used. Also, taking it at night helps improve sleep and avoids the sleepiness in the day and the anxiety-relief benefits often carry over to the next day too. We commonly experiment with different timings and dosing to find what works best for the client as there is no one-size fits all.
Which would be best for a truck driver that drives all night – GABA or 5-HTP?
For someone who drives all night and wants to sleep in the day I would want to know why he or she can’t sleep (assuming it’s related to disrupted circadian rhythm). If it’s physical tension then I’d trial GABA, and if it’s worry and over-thinking then I’d trial 5-HTP or tryptophan for serotonin support. Often a combination is helpful, Research shows the sleep promoting effects of combined GABA and 5-HTP for some folks.
We appreciate these folks for asking questions and allowing me to share here on the blog.
As always, it’s not only the low GABA we need to address. GABA offers quick relief but we must always do a full functional workup looking at diet, nutritional deficiencies, digestion, all hormones, toxins and infections (and so on) so we can address all possible root causes.
Have these GABA questions and answers been helpful? Have you seen benefits from using GABA and do you have questions?
Feel free to post your questions and feedback in the comments below.
And join us on Facebook – TrudyScottAntianxietyFoodSolution – to read and ask questions there too.