We live in a world full of stress. We deal with pressures from every angle, leaving us feeling vulnerable and anxious. In small amounts, stress is harmless and may even motivate us to get important things done. But when we spend too much time feeling stressed and anxious, our physical and mental health suffers. We can also become susceptible to illness and disease and live less than enjoyable lives.
So, what can we do? We can take compounds that help our bodies deal with the stress we feel and mitigate its damage. One such compound is the highly effective L-Theanine.
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What is L-Theanine
L-Theanine is a non-dietary amino acid. By ‘non-dietary,’ we mean that this building block of proteins, doesn’t come from the foods we eat and isn’t essential to life. The Japanese first discovered it in 1949, and it is most commonly found (in small quantities) in Green Tea leaves and mushrooms. The ‘L’ indicates that the structure of these molecules builds proteins and can cross the blood-brain barrier. This means it can affect your brain chemistry and cognition.
Despite its rareness in nature, L-Theanine is proving to be a significant player in helping us deal with daily stress.
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How it Works
Now that you know what L-Theanine is, here is how it works. It affects your brain positively, and here are three ways it works.
- L-Theanine Calms Your Brain. It raises the levels of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), along with increased serotonin (mood-stabilizing hormone) and dopamine (pleasure/reward hormone) in your brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for your cognition. By increasing these, your brain experiences calm and improved sleep. These also regulate your appetite, sleep, focus, memory, learning, digestion, and libido - to name just a few.
- L-Theanine Lowers Excitant Brain Chemicals. This action will help you feel more balanced and less anxious. This function of L-Theanine also protects aging brain cells.
- Finally, L-Theanine Aids Relaxed Focus. It smoothes out brain waves to help you achieve alpha brain waves. These are responsible for your relaxation while meditating, daydreaming, or during REM sleep. L-Theanine won’t make you sleepy but will provide a sense of wakeful relaxation.
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The Benefits of Using L-Theanine
It’s evident that L-Theanine can cause positive change. Here are some of its best-known benefits:
Focus & Attention
L-Theanine with caffeine stimulates alpha brain waves and reduces beta brain waves. This is a significant action because the beta waves are associated with scattered thinking, hyperactivity, and nervousness. So, the two compounds together can help you be more focused and alert and may improve your reaction time.
One study found that L-Theanine is safe and effective for treating boys (aged 8 to 12 years old) diagnosed with ADHD. The boys were given 200 mg - twice per day, which improved their sleep quality. As sleep issues may make ADHD symptoms worse, this positive effect from L-Theanine is excellent news.
Although L-Theanine won’t make you drowsy, it will make you very relaxed. Being in a state of relaxation and calm can help you fall asleep quickly at night. Some research says L-Theanine will improve the quality of your sleep. This means that once you’re sleeping, you can achieve rhythms of deep sleep and remain asleep until you’re ready to wake up.
We know that stress triggers the release of cortisol (stress hormone), leading to weight gain - particularly around your mid-section. Using L-Theanine will manage your stress so that cortisol and its effects are not a problem for you. This, combined with exercise and a proper diet, will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder causing severe mood changes. L-Theanine has been found so effective in mood regulation that it may be able to help people with Bipolar Disorder. It may also help people with anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
As we’ve already discussed, L-Theanine helps with sleep, focus, and mental clarity. Seeing improvement in these areas is also likely to boost your mood.
Aside from the everyday stress we all experience, there is another kind known as oxidative stress. It occurs when your body cannot counter the effects of the harmful free radicals it produces. If oxidative stress becomes chronic in the body, it can lead to many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, and neurological disorders.
L-Theanine can lower the levels of oxidative stress in the body, thus mitigating the damage of free radicals. It can also boost the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs and minimize their side effects.
Protects Against Nerve Damage & Cognitive Dysfunction
As L-Theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier, it can affect the production and function of your neurotransmitters. It’s important to note that your body can’t function without the work of neurotransmitters. They carry chemical signals from one neuron (nerve cell) to another, allowing your body to move, your heart to beat, you to feel sensations, and other information that needs to be communicated within your body.
L-Theanine has been shown to protect nerve cells against damage or developing neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease.
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Whether or not you have any serious physical or mental health issues, it would seem that L-Theanine can benefit your body and brain. For a compound that can produce such significant improvements throughout the body, there are few (if any) side effects. Most supplements provide 200 mg daily, but some studies used up to 400 mg per day.
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