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How to Increase GABA and Serotonin Naturally

Gaba and Serotonin Health

Our emotional well-being is deeply intertwined with the chemistry of our brains. Fluctuating moods and worry may actually stem from imbalances in key brain chemicals called neurotransmitters – specifically GABA and serotonin. Like brain thermostats, these neurotransmitters regulate our mental state along with physical functions like sleep, digestion, and muscle tension.

Recent research underscores the importance of these chemicals, linking depleted serotonin levels to the brain fog, anxiety, and fatigue experienced by long COVID patients. The balance of GABA and serotonin is proving to be even more crucial in today’s challenging health landscape. 

Thankfully, we’re not at the mercy of these imbalances. Through dietary and lifestyle changes, it’s possible to naturally boost GABA and serotonin levels, paving the way for improved emotional stability and overall well-being. Dive in with us to uncover how to harness these neurotransmitters for a more balanced life.


Demystifying GABA and Serotonin

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin are crucial neurotransmitters that influence both mental and physical health. They act as inhibitors in the brain, meaning they quiet and calm excessive neuronal activity.

At optimal levels, GABA and serotonin facilitate emotional balance, alleviate anxiety, support restful sleep, and relax muscle tension. Too little GABA or serotonin can result in poor sleep, irritability, nervous energy, and unease.

In the body, GABA is produced primarily in the brain, while serotonin production unfolds mostly along the gut lining. In fact, about 90% of our body’s serotonin lies nestled within gastrointestinal tract tissue.


How GABA and Serotonin Work Together

GABA and serotonin are both inhibitory neurotransmitters that complement each other. Serotonin helps increase GABA activity and enhance its effects in the brain. When serotonin levels are low, it impairs GABA function. This coupled depletion allows anxiety, depression and insomnia to creep in.

Through an intricate biochemical dance, the two neurotransmitters seem to work together through a negative feedback loop to maintain equilibrium. Their balanced interaction sustains emotional balance and healthy function.


How to Increase GABA and Serotonin Naturally Through Diet

Diet plays an important role in supporting healthy GABA and serotonin levels. While both neurotransmitters are produced in the body, consuming the right foods is the another way to boost levels naturally.

You can find GABA, a non-protein amino acid, in many natural foods, especially fermented foods and probiotics. While glutamate-rich foods like leafy greens, beans, lentils and whole grains provide the raw materials to increase GABA production. 

Research has shown that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) plays a significant role in the production of both serotonin and and GABA.

To increase serotonin levels, focus on tryptophan-rich foods. Foods like turkey, eggs, nuts, seeds and pineapple can help boost serotonin levels. To help the process along, eating tryptophan with carbs increases absorption in the gut and allows more to serotonin to reach the brain. Healthy fats like avocado and fatty fish also benefit serotonin by nourishing gut bacteria.

Avoiding inflammatory foods, sugary snacks, trans fats, processed foods, alcohol and stimulants can prevent dips in GABA and serotonin. Staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet provides the foundation for keeping these neurotransmitters balanced through nutrition.

Foods That Increase GABA Levels

  • GABA-rich: Spinach, brussels sprouts, rice, buckwheat, potatoes, tea, beans, sprouted grains
  • Fermented: kimchi, miso, kefir, sauerkraut
  • Glutamate-rich: Peas, broccoli, soybeans, mushrooms, walnuts, tomatoes
  • Probiotics: yogurt, kefir, kombucha
  • Vitamin B6: Chickpeas, bananas, salmon, tuna, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots

Foods That Increase Serotonin Levels

  • Tryptophan-rich: turkey, salmon, chicken, eggs, spinach, cheese, nuts, seeds, tofu, oats, pineapple, 
  • Carbohydrates: oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice
  • Healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, fatty fish
  • Vitamin B6: Chickpeas, bananas, salmon, tuna, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots

Lifestyle Changes That Increase GABA and Serotonin

Aside from diet, certain lifestyle changes also offer natural ways to increase GABA levels and stabilize serotonin.

  • Meditation, yoga, deep breathing – these mindfulness practices activate the relaxation response, triggering GABA release while lowering stress hormones that can deplete serotonin.
  • Regular exercise improves circulation and oxygen flow, allowing the brain and body to produce and circulate more neurotransmitters. Low-intensity, rhythmic activities like walking, swimming, or cycling seem most beneficial.
  • Catching enough Zzz’s allows the body to replenish neurotransmitter supplies after a long day. Stick to 7-9 hours per night and keep sleep times consistent.
  • Sunlight exposure for 10-15 minutes helps boost serotonin synthesis. Pull up a chair outdoors and sip some coffee in the morning sunlight when possible.
  • Keeping cortisol-raising stress in check while building in relaxation supports healthy neurotransmitter levels. Relaxing in an sauna has proven to reduce depression and anxiety and lower cortisol.

Gut Health and Serotonin

Since most serotonin originates along the digestive tract, optimizing gut health is critical for balanced serotonin levels.

Supporting healthy gut microbes through probiotic and fermented foods aids serotonin production. Managing inflammation in the GI tract also helps sustain ample serotonin output.

Beyond promoting good gut flora, optimizing digestion through mindful eating, proper chewing, and avoiding trigger foods benefits serotonin by improving overall GI function. Even meditating can improve gut health

In essence, caring for our intricate gut ecosystem provides targeted support to the specialized cells that produce the lion’s share of our serotonin.


Final Thoughts on How to Increase GABA and Serotonin Naturally

Balancing key brain chemicals like GABA and serotonin is essential for emotional stability and wellbeing. When levels dip, we feel anxious, irritable, and restless. The good news is we can take active steps to replenish these mood-regulating neurotransmitters naturally. Eating more whole, nutrient-rich foods while reducing stress through mindfulness practices like meditation helps restore healthy GABA and serotonin levels. Getting enough sleep, exercise, and sunlight also allows the body to produce what it needs. With simple yet consistent lifestyle tweaks, we can support emotional equilibrium along with physical and mental health.  Small adjustments towards self-care make a big difference long-term.

Nevertheless, if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of decreased GABA or serotonin, especially in the context of long COVID, it’s imperative to seek guidance from a healthcare professional. They can provide comprehensive insights and ensure you’re addressing your health in the safest and most effective way.