Best supplements for anxiety: L-theanine said to improve symptoms and increase focus

Jane McDonald on body image and anxiety

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Stress and anxiety are commonplace in today’s society. Eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity and practicing anti-stress activities will all help tremendously as will certain supplements backed up by studies.

Studies show that increasing intake of theanine, also known as L-theanine, can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and increased secretion of immunoglobulin A in saliva.

Its effects are somewhat similar to those of a sedative, but L-theanine is far from this prescription drug.

It is actually considered to be an effective anxiolytic, which helps to prevent the brain from producing an anxious response to stressful situations.

How it works

The substance is found in green tea that has been associated with a number of health benefits including improvements in mood, cognition and reduction of anxiety-like symptoms.

L-theanine is processed in the brain through the blood-brain barrier.

It uses the leucine-preferring transport system to hitch a ride across the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to target the brain directly.

Essentially, theanine is better able to get to where it needs to be efficiently.

Once past the blood-brain barrier, L-theanine enacts a variety of neurophysiological and pharmacological effects.

It has been found to up-regulate inhibitory neurotransmitters and blocks the binding of L-glutamic acid to glutamate receptors in the brain.

It has also been found to potentially modulate serotonin and dopamine in select areas of the brain helping to create an anti-stress effect.

In a study published in Science Direct, theanine consumption for stress and anxiety in human clinical trials was investigated.

Five randomised controlled trials with L-theanine (200-400 mg/day; up to eight weeks) in a total of 104 participants met the inclusion criteria.

Four studies included participants who had no pre-existing mental illnesses and one study used participants with existing mental conditions.

All studies were placebo-controlled but one study also compared L-theanine against a commonly used anti-anxiety pharmaceutical (alprazolam).

“The findings in four studies indicated significant improvements in reducing stress and anxiety,” noted the study.

It concluded: “L-theanine supplementation can assist in reducing acute stress and anxiety in people experiencing stressful situations.”

Other health benefits of L-theanine include:

  • Better focus
  • Better sleep
  • Better immunity
  • Tumour and cancer treatment
  • Blood pressure management.

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