The use of dietary supplements to treat various medical and mental health disorders is becoming more prevalent in recent years. In children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, the typical treatment is stimulant medication. However, some parents prefer to use natural treatments for their children. Gamma-aminobutyric acid, GABA, can be used as a dietary supplement and has been suggested for use with children with ADHD.
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Gamma-aminobutyric acid, GABA, is a neurotransmitter that helps to send messages in the nervous system. GABA has a calming effect on the nerves, helping to inhibit the nervous system. Benzodiazepine drugs make GABA more available in the brain by increasing its receptor binding abilities, which leads to lessened anxiety and relaxation. However, GABA supplements cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning they cannot affect the levels of GABA in the brain or impact the central nervous system. These supplements can benefit the peripheral nervous system. GABA may be beneficial in treating hypertension.
A diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is typically made when children enter formal schooling. Symptoms of poor attention, inability to concentrate, hyperactive behavior and impulsive actions become more concerning and disruptive in a structured school setting than they may have previously been in the home. While some of the behaviors can be normative for all children, symptoms of ADHD significantly interfere with a child’s ability to function. Symptoms may include difficulty sitting still, calling out, interrupting others, losing things, inability to follow directions, disorganization, poor attention, and inability to complete tasks.
GABA for ADHD
The use of GABA to treat ADHD has not been widely studied. A study in Japan at the Kyorin University Medical School used a natural form of GABA known as PharmaGABA made using Lactobacillus hilgardii, a bacteria used to ferment vegetables. Sixty students were given either 100 mg of the GABA supplement or a placebo and then administered a math test. The GABA group provided 20 percent more answers in general and more correct answers than the placebo group, suggesting that GABA increases mental performance. While no studies have looked at GABA and ADHD specifically, Dr. Michael Murray suggests that these findings indicate the potential use of GABA for ADHD by improving mental performance and brain health.
The recommended therapeutic dose for GABA in treating hypertension is 10 mg per day. For use with children, natural forms of GABA like PharmaGABA are recommended to be taken up to three times each day with a dosage of 100 to 200 mg each. However, as no studies have tested the proper dosage and use of GABA supplements for children with ADHD, consultation with a physician is highly recommended before using the supplement.