Caffeine Interferes with the Calming Effect of GABA

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter naturally produced in the brain, nervous system, and the heart. It plays an important role in mood and stress management and influences heart rate and function. GABA also is found throughout the digestive system, where it contributes to smooth functioning of the gastrointestinal musculature.

Caffeine Upsets GABA Metabolism

Blackboard with the chemical formula of GABACaffeine interferes with binding of GABA to GABA receptors, preventing it from performing its calming function (Roca, et al 1998), (Ribeiro, J.A and Sebastiao, A.M., 2010). Caffeine is shown experimentally to inhibit the activity of GABA-activated currents in nerve cell membranes. (Li, et al, 2004). Chronic consumption of caffeine is related to a variety of changes biochemically in the makeup and dynamics of receptors throughout the central nervous system (Shi, 1993).Therefore, GABA’s role in stress management is compromised in the presence of caffeine.

GABA Supports the Digestive System

Stress can have devastating effects on the entire gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that elevated stress hormones exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel diseases and stress is implicated in the development of ulcers. Stress hormones also interfere with the binding of GABA to GABA receptors in the intestinal tract, preventing it from performing its calming function.

References (in alphabetical order)

Li, S., An, J., Sun, C.K., Li, Z.W. 2004. Inhibitory effect of caffeine on GABA-activated current in acutely isolated ganglion neurons. Sheng Li Xue Bao. June 25. 56(3): 384-8.


Ribeiro, J.A. and Sebastiao, A.M. 2010. Caffeine and adenosine. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 20 Suppl 1: S3-15.


Roca, D.J., G.D. Schiller, and D.H. Farb. 1988. Chronic Caffeine or Theophylline Exposure Reduces Gamma-aminobutyric Acid/Benzodiazepine Receptor Site Interactions. Molecular Pharmacology, May;33(5):481-85.


Shi, D. Nikodijevic, O., Jacobson, K.A., Daly, J.W. 1993. Chronic caffeine alters the density of adenosine, adrenergic, cholinergic, GABA, and serotonin receptors and calcium channels in mouse brain. Cell Mol Neurobiol. June; 13(3): 247-61.