Relaxing, and Focusing: GABA and Glutamate in the Human Brain

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As a time passed, we started to learn about the importance of brain chemicals that affect our life, moods, and well-being. However, knowing fundamental knowledge about balancing and optimizing brain chemicals is such an immense beauty inside.

In this article, we will cover the importance of balancing GABA and Glutamate for brain health.

Why balancing GABA and Glutamate is important for our brain? The brain’s most abundant free amino acid is glutamate, an intersection for many other metabolic pathways.

Increasing data indicate that abnormal glutamate signaling may contribute to the pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. (source)

Furthermore, a lack of glutamate may cause mild intellectual disability and modest physical and mental development delays. That’s why we need to balance.

Nevertheless, 30-40% of synapses contain the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. It reverses glutamate, the brain’s primary excitatory neurotransmitter.

Glutamate/GABA: The Neurotransmitters of Yin and Yang

brain energy GABA
Yin and yang is a Chinese philosophical idea that emphasizes how opposing elements may be complementary, interrelated, and interdependent in nature, and how they can give birth to each other.

According to ancient Chinese philosophy, the inhibitory (yin) and excitatory (yang) live in perfect harmony. Without realizing it, these ancient thinkers appear to have stumbled onto a primitive explanation of our two most essential neurotransmitters hundreds of years before the scientific method was invented!

GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, appearing in 30 to 40% of synapses. It helps counter-balance glutamate, the brain’s main excitatory neurotransmitter—the yang to GABA’s yin. It has been termed “nature’s Valium” for its relaxing impact.

GABA and glutamate are the most abundant neurotransmitters in the brain and are involved in controlling alertness, anxiety, muscular tension, and memory processes.


GABA’s precursor, glutamate, is used by more than half of all neurons and raises the brain’s overall level of excitement. Glutamate is generally involved in learning, memory, and synaptogenesis (the formation of new neural connections).

Glutamate MSG

Excessive amounts can produce excitotoxicity, which harms nerve cells.

Dysfunction of the complex systems that govern glutamate release has been detected in Alzheimer’s disease and is a negative factor in ALS, a fast progressing neurological illness that destroys the neurons that drive voluntary movement.

 (One of the two primary types of medications used to treat dementia lowers glutamate-related excitotoxicity in the brain, and the only FDA-approved treatment for ALS is likewise a glutamate modulator.) 

Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG may be the most cognitively harmful food ingredient. MSG’s glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that fires neurons. Too much MSG causes neurons to fire quickly for no reason. Excitotoxicity depletes mitochondrial energy, creates free radicals, and kills neurons.

Glutamate excitotoxicity is a cell death process caused by too much glutamate. There are research showed that the administration of NAC reduces glutamate levels. (source)

However, we need a certain amount of glutamate because it’s the mind’s most abundant neurotransmitter and vital in learning and memory.

Anxious behavior seems to be increased by decreased glutamate activity, and glutamate levels inside the hippocampus, the brain region principally responsible for regulating emotions and memory, appear to be especially crucial. (source)

The Reason You Have Mental Fatigue: Toxic Amount Of Glutamate

As glutamate signaling is crucial for information intake and processing within the brain, and due to the pivotal role of glutamate in brain metabolism, dynamic alterations in glutamate transmission could be of pathophysiological importance in mental fatigue.

According to research, too much glutamate leads to feeling as well, as the toxicity of excess glutamate may contribute to cognitive fatigue; the research in Current Biology discovered that Greater amounts of glutamate, a brain signaling molecule, were found in participants who worked on a cognitively challenging activity for more than six hours.

More information: Does The Brain Get Tired Of Thinking?

Because of the modern foods and lifestyle, we have tend to have “Glutamate excitotoxicity” than GABA

GABA: Calming Chemicals For Most People

GABA lowers the amount of excitement in the brain, and you probably already know how it feels to change that. Anti-anxiety drugs make GABA work better and stop glutamate from doing its job. 1
Increasing GABA function with agonists reduces anxiety.

The problem is that these drugs are very hard to quit and have many side effects. For example, caffeine makes you feel more alert because it can increase glutamate activity and block GABA from being released. People think that problems with the GABA system cause anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations, and lack of sleep.

  • If your neurons don’t have GABA, they can fire too often and easily. GABA regulates this action, and you need enough of it to be calm in stressful conditions.
  • Anti-anxiety drugs often target GABA receptors in the brain and are very effective at lowering panic attacks, difficulty breathing, and other typically benign symptoms of low GABA levels. These medications, however, do not regulate the brain’s capabilities. Inducing GABA results in dependency, withdrawal, and perhaps increased anxiety.
  • Do you know Anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and seizure disorders are related to low GABA activity? Anxiety medications such as Valium enhance the effects of GABA in the brain.
  • Also, Mice lacking GABAB1 or GABAB2 receptors are more anxious than the controls group.
  • Mutations in the ABAT gene cause GABA-transaminase deficiency, leading to some individuals’ low-level GABA. (source)

What Is The Difference Between GABA From Foods And Supplements?

According to research GABA can be absorbed from food, and GABA-containing foods might cause similar health effects to those of GABA supplements. That’s because GABA supplements can’t cross the blood-brain barrier unless you have problems with your gut line. Changing the microbiome gut flora (lactobacillus rhamnosus) is the best long-term strategy when it comes to optimizing GABA level

Why Should I Focus on Improve My GABA level?

In some people, GABA can cross the blood-brain barrier and contribute to a relaxation response, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is in addition to GABA’s emotional and behavioral support by reducing excitability and promoting relaxation and calmness.

Also, GABA can fight nicotine addiction by helping relaxation respond and fight stress-related anxiety.

According to Graeme Mason, Ph.D., “GABA may be a very helpful target for nicotine addiction therapy.”

Yet, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the main neurotransmitter regulating sleep. Most drugs presently in use for treating sleep disorders act by enhancing GABAergic neuronal inhibition. In human research, 5-HTP and GABA reduced sleep onset time, increased sleep duration, and enhanced sleep quality. (source)

Body-Mind, Gut, and Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve, which links your stomach and brain, is the principal information highway between the two organs. Your gut also communicates with your brain via the endocrine system in the stress pathway (the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal axis)

Nevertheless, we also know that gut bacteria make and respond to other chemicals that the brain uses to create thoughts and sensations, such as melatonin, which regulates sleep; dopamine and norepinephrine, which are “stress hormones,” GABA, which are “relaxation chemicals.”, which clarifies why gut health is so essential for mental health.

The study examined how good gut bacteria may produce important brain chemicals, including BDNF, GABA, and Glutamate.

  • The research showed that In a new perspective on such an experiment, mice’s microbiomes were colonized with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which showed a marked increase in anti-anxiety GABA receptors in certain parts of the brain.
  • Some microorganisms in the gut can release chemical messengers similar to those released by neurons, which communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve.

Simple techniques and strategies you can use to optimize your gut bacteria, such as dry fasting and consuming probiotics. Also, you can stimulate your vagus nerve with slow diaphragmatic breathing and cold exposure.

Related: What Are The Three Habits Weaken You And Your Brain?

Ketones For GABA

One benefit of ketones in the brain is that they appear to reduce glutamate levels (an excitatory neurotransmitter) while increasing GABA synthesis (an inhibitory neurotransmitter). And one mechanism of the ketogenic diet’s anti-epileptic impact is enhanced glutamate processing in the brain. (source)

Ketones also can cross the blood-brain barrier, which helps the brain works better. Ketones may also reduce brain inflammation. That may connect Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to brain inflammation. 

In multiple studies, ketones are both neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective.

Tips For Optimizing Glutamate/GABA 

The glutamatergic/GABAergic balance may be maintained by including times of intentional excitement and inhibition into one’s daily routine. 

Also, High-intensity interval training has been found to improve balance by increasing GABA and glutamate levels in the brain. Even one week after working out, there is a correlation between the increased resting levels of glutamate and improved performance in the preceding week. 

As we know, exercising helps depressive symptoms and prevents depression. Physical activity has also been linked to a decreased glutamate accumulation in the brain. 

How Can You Optimize GABA Level?

Probiotics assist the GI tract in manufacturing feel-good neurotransmitters, including dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Probiotics increase mood and reduce anxiety and stress.

Essentially, what happens in our gut influences the brain’s physical, mental, and emotional functioning, impacting neurotransmitter generation, behavior, pain management, and stress modulation.

For, According to recent animal studies, kefir consumption may enhance the synthesis of the neurotransmitter GABA, which regulates anxiety. (source) kefir also includes tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin. (source)

Thyroid hormones can influence the production of GABA as well as other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. In this situation, the mineral iodine plays a crucial role here because it supports thyroids’ hormone functions. Some people even claim that iodine is a mild form of nootropics as well as protects from fluoride toxicity from your body which supports brain health.

In addition, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) increased GABAAα2 in the hippocampus. Importantly, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behavior. (source)

Regular meditation, Yoga, and Deep breathing can help enhance GABA levels. I like meditation because it helps to improve the gray matter. (but you should do it for a longer time). Similar to meditation, yoga increases gray matter and decreases the size
of the brain’s fear center amygdala.

Other types include the GABA/glutamatergic equilibrium by engaging in hypothermic conditioning, such as having an ice bath, a cold shower, or engaging in cryotherapy (entering a tank filled with freezing nitrogen gas for an average of three minutes).  

Related: Why Gut health is the Cornerstone For Brain Health?

The Way Of Optimizing Gut Bacteria Without Any Supplement

  • Homemade bone broth: homemade bone broth is excellent for gut health. Why? Bone broth supports intestinal health because of the high amount of L-glutamine, fights inflammation, maintains joint health because of high collagen, helps weight loss, and improves sleep(thanks for Glycine) and cognitive function.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar For Support Gut: ACV is naturally acidic, which helps improve digestion, such as proteins and minerals in the stomach. Yet, an acidic environment can help to protect against bad bacteria. Without enough acids, the bad bacteria can easy to pass intential layer. Candida is the most known because candida overgrowth in your gut has been linked to many health problems, such as yeast infections, f depression, headaches, and a strong desire for sugar. Apple cider vinegar is fermented with a beneficial yeast; it can be prebiotic for healthy bacteria, helping good bacteria grow.
  • Exercise And Gut Bacteria: Don’t be surprised to hear that exercise can alter the gut’s good bacteria. According to recent research, exercise may increase the quantity of beneficial microbial species, diversify the microflora, and boost the growth of gut flora. (source) The research discovered exercise boosts the support of the bacteria that make butyrate. Butyrate helps heal the gut lining and decrease inflammation, avoiding inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Exercise-induced gut microbiome changes may prevent obesity and enhance metabolic function.

Certain Lactobacillus strains have been shown to create short-chain fatty acids such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate, which are beneficial to health and aid in the formation of the gut barrier, making it less permeable to disease-causing microbes.

Relationship Between Magnesium and GABA 

Bones and teeth account for around 60–65 percent of the body’s total magnesium. The remaining 35–40% are spread throughout the rest of the body in organs, tissues, and fluids. 

However, magnesium is found in the largest amounts in the heart and brain cells. Therefore it is not surprising that these organs are particularly vulnerable to the effects of a deficit. 

Magnesium deficiency can produce symptoms of anxiety or depression, including muscle weakness, fatigue, insomnia, anorexia, apathy, apprehension, poor memory, confusion, anger, nervousness, and rapid pulse.

Optimizing magnesium is beneficial because it boosts levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). To slow down neural activity, magnesium binds to and activates GABA receptors in the brain.

Taurine has been shown to boost GABA levels.

Taurine water soluble amino acids impact brain function, growth and development, neurotransmission, neuromodulation, antioxidant activity, and immunological function.

Taurine promotes neurogenesis, cell proliferation, and synapse synthesis in brain areas important for long-term memory and the hippocampus. Also, Taurine enhances and supports GABAergic neuron activity potentials and particularly targets the GABAA receptor. (source)

On the other hand, Caffeine has been shown to reduce inhibitory (GABAergic) action and alter GABA receptors. Hence, that’s why energy drinks combine taurine with caffeine in order to reduce to the negative side effects of energy drinks and the jittery effects.

Best Magnesium Form Relaxation

The new study showed that magnesium acetyl taurate could help increase the number of magnesium levels in brain tissue more efficiently than other magnesium forms.

Also, A study found magnesium acetyl taurate is far more effective in increasing brain tissue magnesium levels than magnesium malate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium glycinate forms which are directly linked to lower anxiety symptoms in animals. (source)

Magnesium acetyl taurate contains taurine. The combination made it easier for magnesium to pass the blood-brain barrier. For better, you can combine the B6 vitamin to promote Mg absorption and cellular uptake and helps cross the blood-brain barrier.

L-theanine and GABA

Theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier and blocks the binding of L-glutamic acid to glutamate receptors in the brain. That helps calms and stabilizes one’s mood and nervous system.

Meanwhile, the L-Theanine boosts GABA and Alpha Brain Waves levels to help to get to feel and connect better with the conscious and subconscious mind as well as enhance your creativity and focus capabilities.

Besides L-Theanine, you can also use L-Glutamine supplements to support GABA production- research found taking glutamine that significantly increased GABA concentrations by 30% and enhanced the response evoked by NMDA alone (70%) to 120% over baseline. (source)

Balancing GABA and Glutamate

One way to maintain this delicate equilibrium of neurotransmitters is to limit your intake of processed meals containing added glutamate. 

One source is the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), often used in Chinese cuisine; another is the noncaloric “diet” sweetener aspartame, which becomes excitatory by converting into glutamate precursors once consumed.

Also, when brain cells are starved of oxygen, glutamate which is your brain’s primary excitatory neurotransmitter does not work efficiently with neuroreceptors. The result can be a toxic buildup of glutamate within brain cells. Causing neuron damage and, ultimately, neuron death.

NAC helps regulate and normalize levels of glutamate in the brain. However, glutamate is required for normal brain activity; excess glutamate is paired with glutathione depletion. NAC helps to detox the brain to boost glutathione levels.

Avoid alcohol because alcohol gradually desensitizes GABA receptors. Long-time use of alcohol causes GABA receptor downregulation. This desensitization may cause stress or anxiety, leading to more drinking. Over time, alcohol tolerance may lead to addiction. Desensitized GABA receptors may explain why alcohol withdrawal causes anxiety.

Limit your Caffeine intake because caffeine depletes GABA levels. Because of this, coffee drinkers are more likely to experience anxiety, irritability, panic attacks, and other symptoms of nervous tension.

Neurotransmitter balance is disturbed by iron overload.

The majority of research has focused on iron-related liver injury. Unfortunately, iron overload can cause brain cells damages, and lower neurogenesis and BDNF provoke a neurotoxic effect.

People won’t be aware that iron buildup or iron overload in the brain is typically related to neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, cellular damage after a hemorrhagic stroke, and even traumatic brain injury. (source)

  • According to research, iron overload disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters. When iron is infused into the substantia nigra, it disrupts monoaminergic systems, notably the dopaminergic pathway, which results in Parkinson-like symptoms of motor impairment. (source)
  • People mostly consider iron deficiency, but in reality, iron overload might be a more common problem and a lot more dangerous than iron deficiency anemia. Why? Because there is no obvious effective iron elimination pathway (some supplements might be helpful), almost all adult males and postmenopausal women are at risk for iron excess.

In other words, these populations do not experience frequent blood loss. Some of the symptoms of iron overloads are:

  • Fatigue (feeling tired a lot).
  • General weakness
  • Erectile Dysfunctions (iron toxicity may cause erectile dysfunction (impotence), lack of sex desire in males, and menstrual cycle absence in women.)
  • Iron accumulation in the brain has been associated with Brain fog, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychosocial disorders. 

Balance Your Neurotransmitter With Getting Rid Of Excess Iron

Excess iron elimination and detoxification may benefit both men’s and women’s health by improving dopaminergic cells, neurotransmitter formations, sexuality, testosterone hormones, and cell health. Here are some pointers:

  • Reduce heme iron intake and red meat will help overcome and prevent iron toxicity
  • Exercise: Exercise can help you use excess iron for energy and mitochondrial energy, and the body and muscles utilize more iron while exercising and sweating.
  • Milk Thistle: According to studies, milk thistle may reduce ferritin levels, improve liver health, and address other issues related to iron overload. Milk thistle polyphenols, such as silymarin and silybin, have been demonstrated to aid liver function and promote health. Milk thistle also helps to boost glutathione production, eliminating other heavy metal toxins.
  • Donate blood: The best strategy for optimizing your iron level and helping others is donating blood. On average, you can give 20% of your irons in just one session of blood donation, which will help to overcome iron overloads.

If you have high levels of iron, it’s possible for blood vessels and develops heart disease since iron can cause oxidative stress. However, keeping an eye on your ferritin levels to ensure they aren’t much higher than 80 ng/ml would be the best approach for your health.

Quercetin Could Reduce Sleep Deprivation-Related Behavior

Optimizing the proper balance of GABA is crucial when it comes to sleep and anxiety-related behavior. GABA can disturb by oxidative stress and inflammation.

Again, Inflammation is the basis of many illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, heart disease, neurotransmitter balance, and cancer. Quercetin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefit since far better health benefits.

  • In animal studies where the subjects didn’t get enough sleep, quercetin’s strong antioxidant properties are likely one reason why the mood-related behaviors of the animals were enhanced.
  • According to the results of the research, quercetin minimized the negative effects of poor sleep on memory function, behavior like depression, and the death of brain cells in the prefrontal cortex.
  • In a 2016 study, researchers show quercetin may lower mice’s manic-like behavior after 24 hours of paradoxical sleep deprivation.

Quercetin can function in several pathways to help reduce your risk of cancer and prevent mitochondrial damage. It’s a good option to consider short or long-term optimize your Quercetin intake for managing overall inflammation body and protecting neurotransmitter balance as well as the prefrontal cortex.

Check Your Zinc Level For Mood, Depression, And Anxiety

Besides GABA, Your body may lack enough zinc if you experience anxiety and depression. Researchers discovered low zinc serum blood levels in depressed people, suggesting that zinc deficiency may cause depressive thoughts. Also, depression shrinks your hippocampus, which is the area of your brain responsible for emotional regulation, memory, and learning.

Zinc plays a key role in treating depression and anxiety since it has been found to protect your hippocampus from the inflammation induced by emotional stress and environmental stress. Furthermore, zinc may stimulate the synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a critical metabolic agent required to combat brain inflammation, anxiety and depression.

Last Thought

I believe some people tend to have low GABA levels in the brain, which leads to anxious behavior. I believe, like dopamine, GABA is the most important brain chemical that helps get calm and relax and ease anxious behavior.

People with GABA deficiency might tend to crave alcohol and other addictive substances. Yet, not everyone is the same.

You can optimize your GABA level by regularly meditating and consuming Bifidobacterium-rich fermented foods.

I hope you enjoyed this article!

I teach people about the biohacks and science of optimizing their health and performance. I like to write about Philosophy, Biohacks, Supplements, and Spiritual information supported by science.