What is GABA and how can you increase it to support your mental health during lockdown? GABA is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid.
It’s a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that we produce naturally in the body. We find it in the nervous system, particularly in the brain. It inhibits excitability and slows function without having a sedative effect, so it helps to reduce anxiety, stress and feelings of fear. It may help to improve sleep, too.
There are natural ways that you can boost it to improve mental health during lockdown. Eating certain foods, taking specific supplements or medicinal herbs and exercising or practising meditation can all help to increase GABA.
Eating a balanced diet, rich in whole foods, healthy fats and clean proteins, is a cornerstone of good health and should provide all the nutrients you need to produce GABA.
Make sure you get plenty of these two amino acids – glutamine and taurine. Also check that you’re getting adequate levels of vitamin B6 and magnesium. It may be beneficial to boost these two key nutrients with a supplement to support your mental health during lockdown. They’re particularly helpful if you’re under chronic stress, not eating well or if you are a woman who suffers from pre-menstrual exacerbation of anxiety and tension.
Healthy diet and lifestyle
My key treatment focus in my herbal clinic is not only to encourage a healthier diet and lifestyle but also to prescribe tailor-made herbal medicines, targeting individual needs.
I usually do this after unpacking a detailed case history. But sometimes there’s no need for depth in order to achieve fast and effective results. That’s especially true if you’re desperate to feel better.
I prescribe several herbs for anxiety that are known to boost GABA levels. These include valerian, ashwagandha and lemon balm. The great thing is that they’re available to buy over the counter. That’s great if you don’t have access to a medical herbalist to prescribe for you. Or you may want to start taking something until you get professional help for your mental health during lockdown.
L Theanine supplement
L Theanine is another great supplement that’s available over the counter in health food shops. This amino acid is extracted from green tea or black tea and has been shown to effectively reduce anxiety.
Studies suggest L Theanine increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, so it works on several pathways to support your mental health. It works quickly to boot. I have found personally that there’s a noticeable effect within about half an hour of taking it as a supplement.
If you’re suffering from anxiety, feeling fearful and in need of some mental calm, you might want to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea. Then look up other ways you can boost your GABA levels to support your mental health during lockdown. Having a cuppa is a good starting point to get you feeling back in control.
Find out more about supporting your mental health by listening to this interview for UK Health Radio now on YouTube.
How to identify a good herbalist
For an in-depth approach, it’s always better to work with a medical herbalist. To make sure you find somebody suitably qualified, look for the letters MNIMH after their name. That signifies gold standard training.
If you don’t have a practitioner to support your mental health during lockdown, rest assured there is a whole natural products industry out there. Some great ethical producers are manufacturing some well-formulated products.
But please do shop with a reputable independent health food store. They have the training and the proven effective remedies you can trust. They also need your support in these challenging times.
Keren Brynes MacLean MNIMH, Medical Herbalist