Side Effects of Too Much GABA

Contemplation
GABA can help calm nerves, but too much can lead to unpleasant reactions. (Image: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

For those who experience anxiety and insomnia, the supplement called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is generally safe and effective. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, GABA is a type of amino acids called "neurotransmitters," and it is produced naturally in the human brain. GABA works by counterbalancing the neurotransmitter glutimate, which excites the body's central and peripheral nervous systems, thus, GABA helps to calm the body and the mind. GABA is also taken by bodybuilders, as it is thought to stimulate the body's production of human-growth hormone, leading to increased muscle mass. It is possible to take too much GABA, though relatively rare, there are side effects that occur with an overdose of the amino acid.

Paradoxical Anxiety

According to Wellsphere.com, a high level of GABA in the bloodstream can cause the exact symptoms you are trying to quell. This is one of the most common side effects. Called a "paradoxical reaction" by doctors, too much of the amino acid can lead to patients feeling edgy, anxious, and it may even lead to insomnia. Most experts advise taking a small dose of GABA at first, to see how your body chemistry reacts to it, before moving up to a clinical dosage, generally 500 mg per day.

Skin Reactions

Some who try GABA experience tingling of the skin and extremities, likely because of the supplement's effect on the central nervous system. Another possible side effect is flushing (reddening) of the skin. In general, skin reactions to GABA are short-lived.

Shortness of Breath

According to researchers at the University of Utah, GABA can have a slowing effect on breathing—likely because of the inhibition it causes in the central nervous system—which can lead to shortness of breath in those who take an excessive dose of the amino acid.

Digestive Problems

Very rarely, taking GABA supplements can lead to stomach upset or nausea. It is recommended that GABA is taken with food, which can help with any digestive difficulties.

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