Stephanie Dalfonzo sat at her computer and Googled “ways to elevate mood.” Though Stephanie knew she had many reasons to smile — a loving family and a successful business as an integrative hypnotist — she was often plagued by unexplainable sadness. Will I ever feel completely happy? she wondered.
It had been nearly 20 years since Stephanie, who’d had severe mood swings and blue moods her entire life, had been officially diagnosed with depression.
“I feel like I’m wearing a heavy, wet blanket,” she told the doctor, explaining she was just functioning, but not thriving. She suffered fatigue, a lack of mental clarity, and emotional ups and downs. He prescribed antidepressants, but all the drugs seemed to do was lift that blanket a tiny bit so she could see the light outside. She couldn’t really get out from under it. The meds also caused brain fog, but without them, Stephanie wasn’t sure she’d be able to get out of bed each day.
After two years on antidepressants, Stephanie was feeling stronger emotionally and worked with her doctor to wean off the drugs. But to her dismay, she found herself struggling again.
Reluctant to go back on meds, Stephanie began researching natural mood lifters. She tried a light-therapy lamp, which simulates outdoor light, as well as yoga and essential oils. All helped a little, but she still longed for more joy, more peace.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid for Depression
Stephanie did more research, and this time, she discovered gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). She read that the brain naturally produces this amino acid, which helps reduce the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, increasing relaxation, reducing stress, and helping to balance mood
Stephanie found affordable GABA capsules online and began taking 750 milligrams each morning. (One brand to try: Source Naturals Serene Science GABA Calm Mind 750 milligrams (Buy on Amazon, $20.99) Within a week, she felt more relaxed ,and her mood had dramatically lifted. Each day she felt better and better.
Today, a year later, the Danbury, Connecticut, 60-year-old still takes gamma-aminobutyric acid for depression and feels great. “I’ve found emotional balance, which is saying a lot as I weather the pandemic with my husband, whose immune system is compromised,” Stephanie says. “I don’t have the blues or mood swings anymore-life is so much happier!”
What are the major health benefits of GABA?
There are a number of health benefits to GABA, including:
It steadies blood sugar: A boost in GABA lowers cortisol levels to strengthen blood-sugar control by 45 percent, say U.K. researchers. To get the perk, simply inhale the scent of bergamot orange essential oil, which triggers GABA production.
It deepens sleep: French scientists say taking 500 milligrams of GABA at bedtime can cut your risk of restless sleep and middle-of-the-night wake-ups in half, explaining that GABA calms the nervous system and shifts the brain to a more relaxed state.
It lowers blood pressure: Taking 80 milligrams of GABA daily for eight weeks shaved up to 10 points off blood pressure for people with mild hypertension, say Japanese researchers, who credit GABA with dilating blood vessels to lower blood pressure.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.