STRESS LESS with GABA: a note on the brain’s calming device

14 Mar
Do you have a monkey mind? Image source: Flickr User Doug Wheller (Doug88888)

Do you have a monkey mind? Image source: Flickr User Doug Wheller (Doug88888)

GABA refers to the brain’s neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid – let’s stick with GABA shall we, slightly easier to type!

GABA is a chemical naturally occurring in our brain that calms the brain and its activity when the brain and body is in the fight or flight stress response mode. It makes us better able to cope in a stress response.


Stress erodes GABA. When you’re under stress long term, which of course in ME / CFS you are due to the subconscious stress response becoming the conditioned response, your body’s natural stores, and production, of GABA are depleted. This means there is less GABA in your brain to calm you down meaning you will stress more which of course depletes the GABA even further. It’s another horrible vicious cycle which occurs in ME / CFS patients because of the stress response having become the conditioned response.


Depleted GABA supplies leads to a ‘monkey mind’, a busy, whirling, unproductive mind unable to cope in a stressful situation. A busy, frantic mind uses up energy in a highly unproductive way. It is often described as ‘energy leakage’. You’re losing more energy than you would if you were thinking calmly and productively, which would be easier if only you had sufficient GABA in your brain.

Do you suffer from a ‘monkey mind’? I know I do. There are times when I’m trying to fall asleep at night or trying to quietly focus on a meditation or in a yoga pose, when my brain just won’t seem to stop whirling. It is forever jumping from one thought to the next. I consciously refocus on my breath to try and shut my brain up but within seconds, it seems, the little minx is off in some other place, on some totally unrelated thought. IT’S SO ANNOYING!! Please tell me it’s not just me?? Anyway sorry, frantic rant over. A monkey mind is one example of what happens to our brains when there is insufficient GABA to calm it and why without GABA stress affects us more.


The obvious answer is to STRESS LESS. If we stress less, our GABA will be eroded less meaning in turn that there is more GABA to keep us calm which means we will stress less. That’s the more palatable flip side to the vicious circle that I described above.  Easier said than done, I know. But that’s where NLP and CBT techniques have a huge part to play and I’ll talk about that in my next STRESS LESS post.


You can also take supplements to increase GABA. This in turn will mean you stress less which of course means you will promote GABA production and you won’t erode your GABA supplies. I should say here that I have not so far taken GABA supplements. I take anxiety medication which (supposedly) has a calming effect reducing my stress levels thus helping to protect my GABA supplies and production. However sitting here writing this, I’m thinking, why don’t I take a GABA supplement (assuming it’s okay to combine it with what I’m already taking)? I could go at the problem from both sides so to speak. I’m using NLP and CBT techniques to replace and ‘rewire’ my conditioned stress response with something more positive and healthy. The anxiety medication helps but doesn’t directly boost GABA so why don’t I take a GABA specific supplement?! I shall have to look into this further!

Anyway, although I don’t take a GABA supplement at the moment, I do know that you shouldn’t buy any supplement which claims to contain GABA itself. Apparently this artificial form of GABA can’t pass the blood brain barrier and therefore is of little, or no, help. What is better is to take a neurotransmitter supplement called Suntheanine. This is the purest form of L-Theanine which is absorbed by the brain and supports the brain in its own production of GABA which in my opinion is better than taking an artificial substitute.  Lets support nature rather than replace it with a substitute. (Please note this post contains a link to Suntheanine purely for information purposes, I am in no way connected to Suntheanine nor do I endorse their products over any other products on the market).

Do you take any form of GABA supplementation? Have you come across GABA in connection with ME / CFS before? Please leave a comment or email me at and share what you know. I’d love to hear from you.



9 Responses to “STRESS LESS with GABA: a note on the brain’s calming device”

  1. Nichols April 21, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    After 15 awful years of me cfs and the last 2 with very weak legs and arms, amongst other supplements I’ve started to take GABA , within a weak I have had great results :)) yesterday I had a very little ride on my horse, first time in a year, a huge step forward. I’ve slept peacefully and feel well rested, and I’m going to take my lovely dog for a walk , to even think to do this for the last 2 years was a nightmare, and I think I might even do a bit of housework 🙂 . I will take it easy though, but do try GABA fingers crossed it maybe going to give me my life back. Good luck to everyone x

    • myjourneythrume April 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is so good to hear that GABA has helped you so much. Was it a GABA supplement specifically or something to else?

  2. Skyye Bissette November 16, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    Oh yeah! I bought a bottle of GABA plus. Within a week it was calming me, and one month later, I find that absolutely nothing seems to faze me. I am calm in traffic – no more road rage – I no longer fidget, I am focusing at work, No more anxiety/panic attacks – I am sole caretaker for my mother who suffers from alzheimers and depression, I am both much calmer and more patient when life throws a curve ball my way. This stuff is a Godsend. I will definitely be checking out the Suntheanine. Thank you for this information.

    • myjourneythrume November 30, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      I’m so glad to hear of your success with GABA. It sounds like it has a profoundly positive effect for you which is just wonderful. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Paul Lockwood December 31, 2013 at 2:27 am #

    Look at Phenibut – please, please research it first and don’t take it all the time as you’ll build up a tolerance. It is a GABA derivative capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. It’s the real deal so please be careful with it; start with a low dose.

    B6 and B12 are no-brainers to try if you believe your GABA is low as they are considered very safe. The brain needs these to make GABA, if you don’t get enough in your diet the brain becomes GABA deficient.

    Your issues have overlap with lariam side-effects. Lariam blocks GABA receptors in the brain. Recently I posted about it here:

  4. tipsforme May 7, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    What about good old Valerian? Just researching for a blog post on it.

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