Tuesday: GABA GABA DOO Time!


  GABA, GABA Doo Time!

By: Tori O’Brien

No, this is not the sound your child use to make when they were happy to see you as an infant. This is a real deal neurotransmitter (mover for brain and tissue signals) that can inhibit the activation of neurons or not be present enough and let them run wild and wreck havoc in our systems. So, we are going to talk about them because there is a direct correlation to ADHD with GABAs.

In science speak, here is what GABAs are and what they do: “In effect, GABA and glutamate serve to regulate the excitability of virtually all neurons in brain and, not surprisingly, therefore have been implicated as important mediators of many critical physiological as well as pathophysiological events that underlie brain function and/or dysfunction.” This inhibitor helps regulate anxiety and depression, motor control and many other brain functions within your cerebral cortex.GABA synapse

So, this means that GABAs are strongly associated with well-being, calmness, proper memory function, proper circadian rhythms, and good sleep.  GABA inhibits pain and fear.  For this reason, people have talked about GABA as being a molecule that promotes resilience and personal strength. All of these traits are also strongly correlated with restful sleep (check out Wednesday’s blog to learn about sleep needs). If your child, can’t get enough good rest from an over-active brain then this could also be part of the negative effects in their learning, functioning, and memory. GABAs also deal with proper hormone function, so these are really important to lots of main functions that could affect life and school performance. HOLY SHAMOLIES!

If your GABAs are too low then over-activity in the brain could be a problem. So, how do we either create more GABA presence in the brain (to calm) or inhibit/lower the presence of GABA in the brain (to stimulate) our students?

Well, diet is one way we can help the cause. GABA itself is not present in foods, but one of its key constituents — glutamic acid/glutamate — is available in a wide array of readily available foods. Glutamate-containing foods are plants and vegetables.

Examples include: broccoli, spinach, lentils, walnuts, citrus, tomatoes, cheese, corn, and mushrooms.   There are other foods in this category, such as wheat, wheat bran, soy, and cottonseed flour, and peanuts (if they don’t cause allergic reactions – also potentially part of ADHD).   High glutamic acid containing foods are generally animal products and include eggs, particularly the whites, many varieties of cheese, cod, gelatin, whitefish, and chicken, beef, and scallops. It can also be found in high doses in green tea.

Foods rich in B-complex vitamins, particularly inositol, also prompt GABA production. These include: fruits such as bananas, figs, cantaloupe oranges and figs, and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables, such as beets, broccoli, kale, and spinach, and nuts, and seafood, and beef and beef liver, chicken liver, all organ meats, and all game/ruminant meats.

neuronFinally, exercise and meditation can enhance GABA activity. The calmer someone is, the more likely it is that he will be able to produce proper amounts of GABA. Meditation, yoga and light forms of exercise such as walking also fit into that recommendation.

So, green tea, fermented foods (like yogurt or certain strains of cheese), fortified foods (like germinated brown rice, soy products or milk products can be too) and yoga or low-impact exercise may help to increase GABA levels. Next, week we talk more about ADHD and GABAs from Dr. Amen’s studies and then tie it together with this nutrition piece. So, be sure to check back next week!

  1. Jennifer Price
    Jennifer Price02-19-2015

    Super helpful to know – thanks for the education on this. It’s super helpful. I think the inverse relationship between GABA’s low-production and the brain response, over-activity, is interesting because it seems counter-intuitive. I’m relieved to know that we can control some of this through food and nutrition. Super cool!!

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