L-Theanine: Tea’s Amino Acid for Overall Wellness

Written by Jamie Witherby • December 7, 2018. Originally published by HVMN, modified for use here on Lorieb.

In this article, we won’t just stick to why tea is so tasty. We’ll talk about the positive effects that L-theanine (L-thee-uh-neen) can have on your stress levels, cognitive performance, cardiovascular and immune health.

Discover the benefits of L-Theanine in tea
Discover the benefits of L-Theanine in tea. Photo by Pexels

Tea is coffee’s coy competitor in the cutthroat, yet throat-soothing, world of hot beverages. Both provide daily stimulant boosts, both are great to share with a loved one, and both are steeped in rich and complex histories. But popular teas (like green tea, black tea, and even tea extract and tea constituents) have something coffee doesn’t.

If you have a cup of green or black tea in front of you, take a sip. Savor those tocopherols and flavonoids lending the cup its signature color and flavor. The tea leaves’ distinct bitterness is supplied by natural antioxidants known as catechins.

There’s another flavor you should be experiencing however. A pleasant, mouth-filling sensation that creates a rounded and savory taste, umami is often called the fifth taste after bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. Tea’s umami flavor is all thanks to the non-protein amino acid, L-theanine.1

Brain Boost

A healthy body starts with a healthy brain. L-theanine has proven itself to be a powerful supplement for brain health by assisting with stress, sleep, attention, and memory.

Stress and Anxiety

If you’ve ever brewed a cup of tea to decompress from a stressful day or share with an anxious friend, congratulations—you have fabulous instincts.

Researchers have found L-theanine can reduce our physiological stress responses by altering the behavior of neurotransmitters in the brain.2 This isn’t a slow, thirty-days-to-better-behavior modification process. L-theanine is tough, immediately jumping on defense to supply these benefits.

Taking L-theanine is like hiring a bodyguard for your brain.

Our brains balance activity through excitatory (upper) and inhibitory (downer) neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of some of the major excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The balance can shift however, through an excess of these excitatory neurotransmitters. A shift can cause classic responses we’re familiar with like stress, anxiety, and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (AKA the fight-or-flight response).

Taking L-theanine to mimic gamma-aminobutyric acid (a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain) can inhibit these excitatory responses and ease their physiological stress responses. This will allow you to enjoy a lower heart rate,2 lower blood pressure,3 attenuation of the fight-or-flight response,2 and reduced cortisol levels (major stress hormone).2,3

If the classic calming effect isn’t revealing enough, let’s pull back the covers on how deeply relaxing L-theanine can be.

Sleep

To catch some Zs, first we have to catch some waves.

During sleep, it’s all about theta waves and delta waves. Theta waves occur in the first stages of sleep, generating two distinct rhythms of greater amplitude and lower frequency than the waking beta waves. Delta waves are the lowest frequency, highest amplitude waves generated during the deepest stages of sleep. Right before sleep, when you’re still in that daydream-like, relaxed state, it’s all about the alpha waves. The brain generates alpha waves during deeply relaxing activities such as meditation.4,5

If you struggle to feel peaceful during meditation or get your mind to achieve that quiet calm right before bed, L-theanine can take you there. Studies have shown that L-theanine can generate alpha brain waves in the parietal and occipital regions of the brain, leading to a prolonged calming effect.4,5 In a placebo-controlled study of young individuals with ADHD, L-theanine proved especially effective in helping them get to sleep and experience deep sleep.6

Sleep problems are often a concern for individuals with ADHD, and L-theanine proved to be a safe and effective therapy to improve sleep quality.

Focus and Attention

L-theanine has the power to both calm you down in the evenings and provide a boost in the morning. You know those days; lack of quality sleep the night before leaves you dull, each excruciating minute stretched out between sips of coffee. All that coffee can have a negative build up, leading to a jittery, on edge feeling while desperately trying not to fidget during your conference room presentation.

The same amino acid that ushers you into dreamland can also deliver an attentive state of mind. Multiple human studies show that consuming L-theanine can increase focus, reaction times, and visual processing while reducing mental fatigue.7,8 Essentially, subjects in these human studies performed attention tasks better after taking L-theanine. Their overall mental performance improved.

Even when the mind is in a relaxed state and creating those alpha waves, it’s focused. Consider meditation: its goal is mindfulness, focusing on an inner calm. Meditating is a form of dialed-in concentration that also happens to be calming.

Memory

Maybe you’re a master of mornings but you can’t remember the names of many of your closest coworkers. Enter L-theanine, which can assist with memory.9

To be clear: drinking a single cup of green tea will not suddenly remind you of where you left your keys. However, consuming L-theanine over time could help protect the neurons in your brain from injury or cognitive impairment and contribute to the development of the hippocampus. That’s the part of your brain responsible for storing memories9 not the future academic grounds of the large semi-aquatic African mammal.

Start young, and you could even stand a better chance against the oxidative damage and memory impairment of Alzheimer’s. Oh, and remember how we talked about L-theanine reducing cortisol levels? Cortisol can negatively impact memory retrieval.11 Reduce cortisol levels, and you may be able to retrieve those memories a little more easily.

We’ve touched upon what L-theanine can do for the brain, but let’s not forget about its benefits for the body. L-theanine couldn’t let your brain have all the fun. So freshen up your tea, and let’s talk about what your new amino acid can do for your body.

Immune System

Unfortunately, L-theanine is not the cure for the common cold. It has however been linked to increased protection against the flu and a boost in immune function when combined with another amino acid, L-cystine.12 This combination improves the production of Immunoglobin G (IgG), an antibody with a vendetta against infection, and glutathione (GSH), an antioxidant.12

Antioxidants are valuable because they help our bodies remove free radicals. Free radicals are these unpaired, unstable, thieving little molecules that steal electrons from our lipid cell membranes (also called lipid peroxidation). The theft causes tissue and muscle damage and contributes to some of the big name diseases out there: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. L-theanine has demonstrated powerful antioxidative properties.13,14,15

Cardiovascular System

Because antioxidants help us remove the free radicals that lead to cardiovascular problems like heart disease, L-theanine can do some pretty amazing things for heart health.

Leaves from both green and black tea have been shown to improve cardiovascular health all on their own.16,17 L-theanine sweetens the deal through its ability to mitigate blood pressure increases when the user undergoes acute stress. Translation? Less strain on the heart.18

Supplementing with L-theanine

Not a fan of green tea or black tea? Healthy adults can safely and easily supplement L-theanine at a dosage of 100-200 mg per day, a staggering five to ten times higher concentration than what you’ll find in a cup of green tea.1 So even if you’re already pounding cup after cup of the umami taste bomb, you may not be enjoying all of its benefits…or at least not as efficiently. Consider supplementing with L-theanine to warm up for your day or to cool down at the end of it.

L-theanine hasn’t been linked to any adverse side effects or symptoms in the neuropharmacology sphere. Keep in mind though, that it should not be mixed with medications for high blood pressure because L-theanine reduces blood pressure. As with all new supplements and medications, consult with your healthcare provider before taking.

Last Drops

Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a tenacious tea drinker, your mind and body will enjoy the benefits of adding L-theanine to the mix. To recap, those are:

  • Reduced levels of stress and anxiety
  • Increased sleep quality
  • Increased focus, attention, and memory
  • Increased immune function
  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Antioxidative properties

No matter what’s in your cup, we can all raise a glass to those benefits.

find Scientific Citations here

Anger, laughter and your immune system

 

anxiety-1337383__340

It has been said that one minute of anger weakens your immune system for four to five hours, while one minute of laughter boosts your immune system for over twenty-four hours.   I’ve read these statements several different places recently; I believe scientists are on to something.

defense-1403072__340

Think about it for a minute.  When something or someone angers you, your blood pressure rises, your heart races, and you get a sick feeling in your stomach.  I know I do.  But did you realize that the sick feeling you get can manifest into something more sinister if it persists?  The sick feeling spreads throughout your body, causing stress on all of your organs.  It has been scientifically proven that stress has been linked to many health conditions and disease states.

Conversely, after a good laugh, you feel great and stress or tension is relieved, improving your mood, your outlook, and even your physical appearance!  I posted an article about the scientific benefits of laughter a while back.  Yesterday, when chatting with a dear friend,  I was reminded how anger can cause stress; inspiration for today’s post.

If you find yourself in any relationship that evokes prolonged and unresolvable anger, angst, tension, stress, or sadness, move on and let it go before you cause any permanent damage to your health!

smile-1539196__340

 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

laughter

Way back in grade nine I had an assignment to write an essay on a one word subject; my word was laughter.  Of course I cannot remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember getting a great mark on it.  I also remember researching, yes researching, laughter and learning how good it is for you.  Today, laughter is still recommended as one of the best medicines…

There are many reasons laughter is good for you:

  •  Laughter activates the portion of your brain that produces endorphins which  are natural pain killers.
  • Laughter can boost your immune system by increasing the production of cells responsible for making antibodies and enhancing the effectiveness of T-cells.
  • Laughter therapy is used to relieve stress and anxiety, relaxing the whole body.
  • Laughter causes our hypothalamus to release nitric oxide which causes the inner lining of our blood vessels to dilate.  This dilation increases blood flow and so improves the function of the blood vessels, which can prevent heart disease. Nitric oxide is also beneficial in reducing inflammation as well as preventing platelet clumping in our bloodstreams.
  • Laughter can reduce levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.
  • Laughter can improve your mood and add joy to your life.
  • Laughter can strengthen relationships, reduce conflicts, and improve teamwork.

Laughter is a physical reaction involving contractions of the diaphragm of humans (and some primates) in response to either external or internal stimuli, yet is usually an expression of a positive emotional state, such as joy, happiness or relief.

Laughter is a natural and free form of medicine that can provide physical and emotional benefits to  everyone.  Beware, laughter is also very contagious!

#2 of 4 Health Resolutions for 2015: Declutter

My second resolution for 2015 is to declutter my life.  This applies both physically and mentally, although the physical version is much simpler and easier to visualize.

We have lived in this house for almost thirty years, so have accumulated much too much “stuff.”  When we purchased the house, we were newly married, with no children.  Thirty one years of marriage and three sons later, the house is bursting at the seams.  Two of these three sons have moved out this past year, so the opportunity to declutter is here.  Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every minute of my house full of boys, and miss them terribly already, but as they move on to independence, I am both excited for them and very proud of them.

We started cautiously with the two unused bedrooms.  Not wanting to imply that we were happy to see them go, we sorted through the things left behind, relegating some of the stuff to the garbage, and organizing the rest.  With those two rooms now sporting a minimalist look, it is now time to move on to the rest of the house.

I finally convinced my hubby to part with the sectional sofa in the basement rec room.  Santa Claus was a big help with that when he brought us a nice new replacement for Christmas:

The “furnace” room is currently under a purging process:

with more rooms to follow soon!

Decluttering a lifestyle is much more complicated.  This involves removing as many sources of stress as possible.  Stress means different things to different people, but basically it is your reaction to things that happen to you.  Some people are stressed just driving to work each day, while others are slower to react to things that bother them.

The problem is, stress can wreak havoc in your life if you let it.  Stress has been blamed for many diseases and adverse health conditions.  Dr Leigh Erin Connealy says “Many times, it turns out that a patient’s health problems are caused by emotions, rather than something physical…stress weakens your immune system, making you vulnerable to colds and infections. It also raises levels of stress hormones, boosting your blood pressure and heart rate, interrupting your sleep, wiping out your libido, intensifying any pains you have, and disrupting your digestion.  The truth is, emotions have a tremendous impact on your health and longevity. Even something as simple as smiling or laughing can boost your body’s levels of natural painkillers known as endorphins.”

So, how do you declutter your life so that stress cannot control and ruin it?  First you must realize what you can control and what you cannot.  If  you cannot control something, like the weather or a traffic jam, do not let it bother you.  If a situation has been bothering you for a long time and there is no resolution in sight, let it go and move on.  The same rule applies to people in your life.  Obviously, some people you dislike cannot easily be removed from your life, but if they can remove them and surround yourself with better choices. For example, if you dislike or disagree with your boss, but love your job, find a way to make it work or find a new job. If you are in a relationship that is not mutually fulfilling, get out of it and find one that it is.  Discover and surround yourself with the things and people that make you smile!

I made the first step in decluttering my life when I retired almost three years ago and my health has improved considerably. Check out a previous post.   I currently surround myself with people I respect and whose company I enjoy.

Start decluttering your life in 2015, you and your health deserve it!

SIMPLE STEPS TO LOSE WEIGHT

 

 

Fat storage is directly linked to two hormones; insulin and cortisol.  Insulin is controlled by the food you eat, and cortisol is controlled by the amount of stress in your life.  Increases in either or both of these hormones causes your body to store fat. Unfortunately, poor food choices and stress often occur together, and like the chicken and the egg story, which one comes first is debatable….

Eating the wrong carbohydrates  (sugar, bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, processed snacks etc) causes increases of insulin in your body.  Eating good carbohydrates (quinoa, fruit, vegetables, bread with sprouted grains) controls your blood sugar and insulin levels.

To help keep your insulin level in check and keep your body in a fat burning zone, follow these simple steps:

Read labels:  avoid -processed and packaged foods like cereals, muffins, chips, crackers, genetically modified corn, soy and wheat, hydrogenated oils, canola oil, corn syrup, margarine, sugar and artificial sweeteners.

These products not only increase your blood sugar and insulin levels, they are treated as foreign toxins in your body, causing inflammation in many organs.  Avoiding these products will not only make you lose weight, but other health issues such as eczema, asthma, arthritis, will improve too.

Stick to the outer aisles in the grocery stores; they contain the fresh produce, meat, dairy etc, while the inner aisles typically hold the bad stuff.

Clean out your kitchen pantry, getting rid of any of the above items.

To control cortisol levels, try to reduce the stresses in your life by following these steps:

Get enough  sleep.  Sleep deprivation stresses your body.  If you cannot get enough at night, try to sneak in a nap during the day, since even a short 30 minute nap is beneficial for you.

Get some, but not too much  exercise.  An exercise regime that is too strenuous will temporarily stress your body, causing a spike in your cortisol level.  Your exercise regime does not have to be complicated or expensive.  Go for a brisk walk every day, or at least every second day.

Surround yourself with positive people.  Negative people are stressors you do not need.

Spend more time doing the things you like to do.  Take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one.

Other points to remember:

Good fats burn body fat:  Avoid  margarine, canola and hydrogenated oils.  Choose eggs, olive oil, avocado, almonds, coconut oil and cold water fish.

Stay hydrated:  Drink lots of water.  Carry a water bottle around with you while running errands, chauffeuring your kids, and especially while exercising.   Add a splash of lemon juice to your water to liven up the taste.

 

Good luck!

Bye Bye Asthma…

In one of my first posts, I think I told you how the last time I went to my respirologist to check on my lungs, he told me the condition of my lungs had improved.  I had been diagnosed with asthma several years earlier, with my symptoms and test results getting worse each visit to the respirologist.  Since my father had recently died from pulmonary fibrosis, and my mom from lung cancer before that, the deteriorating condition of my lungs was worrisome.

At that 2012 visit, I didn’t tell the respirologist about my wheat allergy news (discovered by a naturopath) and the fact that I had been wheat-free for almost one year before this round of testing as I wanted to see if there was a change in the pulmonary (lung) function test results first.  His response to my belief that my wheat-free diet was the reason for the change in my lungs was skeptical, as not many doctor like to be told that advice from a naturopath is sound.  His comment at that time was “well, whatever you have been doing, keep doing it.  Come back and see me next year”…

Well, i just returned from the annual respirology appointment, and my pulmonary function test results were even better than last year!  In fact, the respirologist  feels he doesn’t need to see me anymore, unless my symptoms return.

Although some things, like smoke and strong chemical smells, still bother me, I know to avoid them.  I also know that daily exercise and reduced stress make a difference too; my new career takes care of that aspect…