Learning how to increase GABA naturally without taking drugs or prescription medications is an excellent first step to a lifestyle filled with less stress or anxiety, decreased muscle tension, and a more positive overall mood.
It’s nearly impossible for people to avoid the onslaught of information overload that comes with the responsibilities of work, having a family, and just trying to keep their head above water financially, both mentally and emotionally.
The constant pressure of day-to-day life can understandably drive a person to seek distraction in easily accessible, though unhealthy, ways.
These may include overeating, gambling, and alcohol or drugs – all of which can decrease the level of naturally occurring GABA in the body and create a damaging cycle of abuse.
Simply knowing how to increase GABA benefits naturally can help break this cycle.
What is GABA?
Gamma-amniobutyric acid, commonly referred to as GABA, is a neurotransmitter in the brain. The body naturally creates GABA and, as a neurotransmitter, it helps cells in the central nervous system communicate with one another.
GABA is often considered a valium-like neurotransmitter because it has a calming effect on the brain as what’s known as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
This simply means it helps to actually quiet or calm an overactive or overworked mind that can lead to an increased risk for panic attacks, sleep disturbances, restlessness, depression, and anxiety.
What are Important GABA Benefits?
Healthy levels of this neurotransmitter provide GABA benefits associated with positive mood, less anxiety, depression, tension, and stress.
In turn, a lack of this calming neurotransmitter increases the chances that a person will struggle with nervousness, mood swings, and shifts that may feel unstable.
Unhealthy levels of GABA my also cause problems with excessive worry and, as a result, difficulties with self-control.
Maintaining or boosting GABA levels often provides a needed jumpstart for a person struggling to overcome mental or physical challenges in life.
Simply getting consistent, restful sleep is known to improve mood, increase energy and productivity, all of which usually lead to better decision-making and a healthier lifestyle routine.
Doctors routinely prescribe benzodiazepines and other medications to help people who struggle with depression, anxiety, and stress. Some people self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs to cope with mental health issues.
Both methods might be effective temporarily, but may lead to increased stress or anxiety over time, or even worse – an unhealthy dependence or addiction to the drugs used to help them.
This is why it becomes important to know how to increase GABA naturally without prescriptions or other substances.
How to Increase GABA Naturally
It may come as a surprise that naturally increasing levels of GABA in the body can be accomplished by applying the fundamentals of living a healthy lifestyle.
That said, in the modern, fast-paced world that most people live in, this means creating time and a plan to ensure these activities become a part of our daily routine.
7 Ways to Increase GABA Naturally Without Drugs
There are plenty of ways to boost GABA, but these have shown to be effective for many people.
1. Regular Exercise Can Increase GABA
There’s a reason that exercise tops nearly every “how to” list when it comes to improving physical and mental health.
Just 30 minutes of a brisk walk, light jogging, hiking, cycling, or other cardiovascular activities, done four times a week, can increase GABA levels.
For some people, this may seem like no big deal, but for others, it can be a struggle. The key is to set achievable goals and take notice as the benefits start to unfold.
Exercise helps manage weight, increase energy, and improve sleep. What’s often left out, is that exercise helps make us stronger, both physically and mentally, which helps decrease tension by burning off cortisol, often known as the “stress hormone.”
2. Take up Meditation and Mindfulness
While there’s definitely been a shift in the way Western society views meditation and mindfulness, there is sometimes a resistance to the idea of sitting in a comfortable position and remaining quiet for a period of time. This is understandable considering the pace of life that we’re used to living.
However, this simple practice not only increases GABA levels, a Harvard study has shown it also improves concentration, productivity, and the ability to respond to stressful situations.
If possible, find a quiet space to sit for five to ten minutes each day, close your eyes, and practice inhaling through the nose and out the mouth for the same amount of time.
For that brief time, focus on inhaling and exhaling rather than the thoughts that will naturally enter the mind. If the mind wanders to other thoughts, simply make a mental note of it and calmly return to focusing on breathing.
Mindfulness and meditation are effective for not only relieving stress, anxiety, and depression, but they also work well for those in recovery.
3. Practice Yoga
The regular practice of yoga is an excellent combination of both body and mind work. In fact, one session with the muscles stretched after a bit of exercise is perfect for combining three GABA enhancing activities in one: exercise, yoga, and meditation.
Learning how to hold the sequence of stretches involved in yoga has shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety as the GABA neurotransmitters are activated.
Moreover, it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of beginner yoga videos online so that people can learn what’s involved in the privacy of their own home.
4. Limit or Quit Using Alcohol and Drugs
One of the reasons people feel good when they use alcohol or drugs is because of an increase in GABA. But it is not a natural and healthy increase, and in the end, can lead to a GABA deficiency or an inability of the body to produce GABA on its own when needed.
Unfortunately, this can become a habit. A person that continues a regular pattern of overindulging with drugs or alcohol will quickly develop a tolerance. This means it will take more of the substance to achieve results that make them feel as good as they did when they first started using drugs or drinking alcohol.
If not addressed, they can unwittingly develop a substance use disorder that may require dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment in order to overcome the combined issues of addiction and stress, anxiety, or depression.
5. Avoid Junk Food
Obviously, this is sometimes easier said than done because junk food is so easily accessible around the workplace and at home. However, foods with little nutritional value leave people feeling tired, weak, and have a negative impact on mood.
One of the reasons for this is because junk food can spike blood sugar. The hit of sugar from soda, candy, potato chips, or other highly processed foods will temporarily raise a person’s energy level, but leave them feeling worse as the body quickly processes it.
If we’re not careful, the instinct is to then reach for more junk food so that we, again, feel better and have more energy only to see it diminish even faster as the body grows accustomed to it.
6. Maintain a Rich Diet of GABA Foods
The flipside of avoiding a GABA deficiency because of poor diet is to increase it with GABA rich foods.
Yes, eating healthy does take a bit of extra work, but the benefits far outweigh the small bit of planning required.
A simple way to increase GABA through diet is to include GABA foods such as:
- Fresh vegetables (broccoli, spinach)
- Fruits such as bananas and berries
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Yogurt and fermented foods
- Lentil beans
- Brown rice
- Halibut, shrimp, and soy are lean proteins that are also helpful for increasing GABA
Though it can be a challenge for some individuals, eating broccoli, spinach, or adding a sweet potato into the mix on a regular basis may actually improve mood and the ability to cope with life’s problems because of the GABA boost.
Foods do not contain GABA, but adding certain foods can help to increase GABA production. Including these to daily meals is an easy and effective way to receive the benefits.
Take a methodical approach. Write-up a grocery list and choose one day to prep meals for the entire week. Treat your GABA rich diet as fuel for a positive mood, greater energy, and better sleep.
7. GABA Supplements
Some naturally occurring GABA supplements have shown to offer a healthy boost and can be taken safely by most people.
GABA Supplements include:
- Green tea
- Vitamin B6
- Taurine, which is an amino acid
However, with the above and all other products claiming to boost GABA levels, it’s important to first speak to your physician about what is safe and appropriate for you.
It’s actually quite easy to find ways to increase GABA naturally as outlined here, without resorting to using drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.
Start by trying one or two of the methods and slowly add others by incorporating them into a daily routine to feel better mentally and physically.