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Theanine – The amino acid that helps you cope with stress

Theanine – The amino acid that helps you cope with stress

L-theanine is an ideal product for those who suffer stress, since it provides serenity without drowsiness.

What is theanine

It is an amino acid from green tea. It stimulates the brain alpha waves, which is why it has important relaxing properties. Actually, it makes up around a one or two per cent of the wave of the dry tea leaves.

It is said that l-theanine is as relaxing as doing meditation. Moreover, it increases the energy without causing alterations, provides calmness without producing drowsiness. In fact, it improves the focus and good mood.

There are many studies about the multiple benefits of green tea for our health. Above all, most of them are related to theanine, a neurologically active amino acid.

It is the main amino acid from green tea leaves and the one responsible for its typical umami flavor. This is known as the “fifth flavor” (apart from the four traditional ones: sweet, salty, acid and bitter).

Man working at an office

Benefits of theanine

We are constantly exposed to stressing factors on our day to day. In addition, some follow a bad diet which results in nutrient deficiencies, a lack of sleep and other similar circumstances. In the end, all these factors combined trigger physical and mental health problems.

Therefore, many people start using medicines in order to find peacefulness and to deal with stress. However, these products have many side effects that can also be dangerous to our health.

Would it be better to use a natural product without side effects? Many people already do, since theanine is becoming more and more popular due to its benefits against stress.

Properties of theanine

The calming effect of green tea may seem contradictory, specially if we take into account that tea has caffeine, which is a stimulant. Nevertheless, this is due to the fact that the amino acid theanine counters said stimulating effect on the nervous system.

The clinical studies have revealed that after 30 or 40 minutes of drinking tea (l-theanine), there are two mechanisms that produce a state of relaxation:
  • First of all, the amino acids stimulate the brain alpha waves, producing a deep relaxation. In fact, it produces a mental state similar to that of meditation.
  • Second, theanine is involved in the formation of gamma-aminobutyric acid, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA affects another two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. Consequently, it produces a deeply relaxing effect.

Woman drinking a cup of tea

Effects of theanine

Stimulating the brain alpha waves

The brain produces electric impulses (brain waves) that can be measured in the head surface. The frequency of this electric impulses is related to the different mental states and activities.

The brain waves can be divided in four different categories. Each one of them is connected to a mental state:

  • Delta waves occur in the deepest phases of sleep.
  • Theta waves occur in the light phase of sleep and during somnolence.
  • Alpha waves occur when we are awake and we have a relaxed and effortless attention.
  • Beta waves occur during stressful situations, when we find it difficult to focus and pay attention

We know that brain alpha waves occur during a state of relaxation. Therefore, they are used as a relaxation marker.

A study assessed the topography of brain alpha waves that could be observed from the occipital and parietal regions of the brain 40 minutes after taking between 50 and 200mg of theanine.

A different study showed how the intensity of the alpha waves depended on the dose. In fact, a dose of 200mg caused a significant increase when compared to the control groups. Said increase could be assessed after 30 minutes.

Theanine and relaxation

Increasing the endorphins

L-theanine significantly affects the secretion or reduction of neurotransmitters. For instance, it controls endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, improving the memory and learning ability.

Theanine can also affect the emotions due to the higher release of dopamine. It also regulates the serotonin levels in the brain, synthesizing it and improving the brain functions.

Lowering the blood pressure

The catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurons of the brain and peripheral nervous system are partly in charge of regulating the blood pressure.

The studies performed in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHP) showed the impressive antihypertensive effects of theanine.

  • First, the clinical study observed how the blood pressure dropped depending on the dose. A higher dose of theanine was more effective when it come to lowering the blood pressure.
  • L-glutamine was used as one of the control agents
  • Even though l-glutamine has a similar chemical structure to that of theanine, it did not have any effect on hypertension

The preliminary studies have tested how l-theanine could increase the anti-tumor activity of some chemotherapeutic agents (doxorubicin and idarubicin). Moreover, it could relieve some of the side effects from these drugs.

It seems that it can increase the inhibitory concentration of these drugs on tumor cells. However, we still do not know the exact mechanism.

In addition, theanine also reduces the oxidative stress caused by these substances in normal cells. This is possibly due to the antioxidant effect. Moreover, this amino acid reduces the lipid peroxidation or oxidative breakdown of low density lipoprotein (LDL).

Coping with stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety weaken the hormone balance, affecting our well-being, physical and mental performance. In fact, they can even affect our health and life. Stress interferes with the immune system, it makes us more vulnerable to infections. Actually, it can even trigger a depression.

In 1998, the amount of drugs sold against anxiety reached a value of 700 million dollars. On the other hand, antidepressants reached a total of 5 billion dollars.

Those who suffer stress can relieve many of its harmful symptoms with theanine. It does not cause drowsiness, since this amino acid does not produce theta waves in the brain. In fact, it encourages a state of relaxation without any other additional effect.

Moreover, it can be used as a food supplement in other areas, since it reduces the side effects of caffeine caused by an excessive intake of coffee, refreshment and other substances with caffeine.

Man focusing on his job

Theanine to lose weight

One of the oldest beliefs about theanine is its properties regarding weight loss. In fact, it is said that it prevents the accumulation of fat, specially in the abdomen.

Clearly, it is a metabolic stimulator due to these properties. That is why many specialists recommend using it during weight loss diets.

As always, we suggest consulting a physician or specialist before using this product.

Theanine is recommended for:

  • Enhancing the focus and attention
  • Encouraging a pleasant relaxation
  • Reducing the anxiety
  • Dealing with stress
  • Helping to relax if we suffer insomnia
  • Countering the effects of caffeine in the nervous system when we consume a lot of caffeine

Theanine capsules

Daily dose of theanine

  • According to the studies, theanine is more effective with a dose between 50 and 200mg. The effect is remarkable after 30 minutes and it lasts for 8-10 hours.
  • Those who suffer a lot of stress can increase the dose of theanine from 100 to 60mg, taking it throughout six hours.
  • The FDA recommends a maximum intake of 1200mg of a day. However, the reasons for this limitation are not the clear, since theanine is completely safe.

The small intestine absorbs theanine in an active transport process combined with sodium.

It crosses the blood-brain barrier, as we can see due to its effect on our brain.

Theanine competes with the methionine amino acid group (leucine, isoleucine and valine) so that our digestive system and brain absorbs it. However, the amino acid concentrations remain unaltered by the simultaneous intake of theanine.

Theanine is a physical and mental relaxant that does not cause somnolence. Although there is not a specific moment to take theanine, it is more effective if we take it when we experience the first symptoms of stress.

Contraindications of theanine

Above all, theanine is extraordinarily safe. In 1964, the Health Ministry from Japan approved its unlimited use in all food products, except for those meant for children.

Moreover, there are no known adverse reactions or interactions of theanine with other medicines. In fact, food does not alter the effect of theanine, so you can take it whenever you need.

Theanine has a smooth flavor, you can open the capsules and dissolve their content in water.

Even though theanine is regarded as safe, pregnant women should consult a physician before using it.

Bibliography

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