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How Does L-Theanine Treat Anxiety?

Amino acids, the “building blocks” of life, are some of the most important elements of nature. They intricately constitute a cornerstone of biochemistry acting as a crossroads of chemical compounds and biological function. This article will take a look at how the amino acid L-Theanine can be used to build your body’s stress defenses and help you gain an upper hand on treating your anxiety. First, let's take a closer look at what an amino acid is, and why they are so important.

Amino Acids - the building blocks of life 

Our very DNA can be completely reduced to a sequence of four amino acids, adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. These strands of linked amino acids form a massive intricate code that in helical form commands the processes of our bodies. DNA acts as housing for the blueprint for your life, telling your eyes what color to become, your bones how long to grow, and even affect things like your mood and disposition. 

The world of amino acids is vast and they also act as the building blocks of all proteins and enzymes that make up life around us. However, there are only 20 that are necessary for our human life to take place and of these 20 only 11 are naturally made by the human body. The other nine are classified as essential and must be taken in by diet. 

Just because an amino acid isn’t necessary for life doesn’t mean that it can’t be used to greatly improve it! L-Theanine is one such amino acid that has been used for millennia to help improve stress resistance and relax people all around the globe! 

You’ve Probably Already Had L-Theanine and Didn’t Konw It! 

L-Theanine is an amino acid that acts as the primary active ingredients found in teas. If you’ve ever felt relaxed after drinking matcha, chances are you were experiencing the soothing effects of L-Theanine! The history of green tea being used as a popular drink spans literal millenia and has been enjoyed by various people groups all over the globe! 

The question however - is why does L-Theanine have such a calming effect on those who enjoy it? In order to answer this question we need to understand some fundamental aspects of how our brains work in relation to anxiety and relaxation! 

Life is a Series of Signals and Receptors! 

Most of our biology is made up of receptors and signals - these proteins that line our cells and receive information control every aspect of our experience in life. To understand the work that L-Theanine does it’s important to understand two very important receptors in our brain that affect our entire system - and those are Gaba receptors and Glutamate receptors.

Drowsy and Exciting 

Gaba receptors represent processes in our brain that bring us ‘down’ and chill us out. They are pathways that when activated, mellow us out and can help us let go of anxiety - however they come with the sometimes adverse effect of making us drowsy. 

Some chemical compounds that act on a receptor to activate it’s pathways/effects are called agonists and most of the Gaba receptor agonists can be easily abused or over used! These Gaba receptor agonists are barbiturates, ethanol (alcohol) and benzodiazepines. While these compounds can take the edge off of a situation, they also come with a hefty warning of adverse effects including inebriation and overdosing.  Medical counsel and oversight is always a good idea when dealing with these!

The other side of the equation is Glutamate receptors that are associated with exciting the central nervous system! These pathways kick the body into high gear and help to bring a certain level of alertness. Caffeine may play a role in helping your body have more available glutamate, meaning that your body can stay in an excited state for longer periods of time.

Now that we have the basics of these two systems down - let's take a look at how L-Theanine plays a role in helping you feel a little more relaxed and how supplements that contain L-Theanine can help fortify your body's stress defenses! 

The Thing about L-Theanine 

Let’s recap: your nervous system has two kinds of  receptors that have two important effects on your body, Gaba and Glutamate. Gaba receptor pathways when activated by their agonist will chill out your body, helping you relax but also can act as a sedative.  Glutamate receptors represent pathways of excitation for your body that when activated lead to a place of heightened awareness. 

So what is so special about L-Theanine and its relationship to the process of treating your anxiety? If you’ve been reading along so far, it’s a fair assumption to think that L-Theanine would have some kind of interaction with Gaba receptors since this pathway is associated with chilling out and calming down. What’s surprising is that this is not the case at all! 

L-Theanine is actually a glutamate receptor antagonist! What does that mean? Well, in the same way that some chemicals that can interact with a receptor are called agonists if they have a positive effect, other chemicals that interact with receptors and their channels in a negative way are called antagonists. The shape of L-Theanine is perfect for antagonizing Glutamate receptors and blocking the pathways of excitation and alertness in the body. 

This means that L-Theanine indirectly affects our bodies ability to feel relaxed by inhibiting the pathways that would otherwise cause it to feel excited. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it increases our bodies natural ‘relax and unwind’ pathways, which is a very positive thing! 

Substances that cause us to ‘feel drowsy’ through a direct pathway can represent a certain level of danger in that these pathways can be fed and dosing becomes a very important issue. With L-Theanine, it represents a much more safe, natural way to feel relaxed as it actually doesn’t add to your body’s relax pathways as much as it just reduces your body's competition to naturally activate those pathways. 

Supplements For the Busy Life

If you enjoy a cup of green tea in the evening, then the good news is that taking an L-Theanine supplement won’t challenge that! The amount of L-Theanine in green tea is minimal which is why you can subtly feel it’s effects when you have come to a resting place in your day.

For the normal day to day affairs of the world, the most appealing aspect of L-Theanine is its ability to treat your anxiety - without making you drowsy! During the rush of daily activity a cup of green tea may not be the most convenient solution but taking a supplement very well may! 

R3SET’s daily supplements utilize natural active and botanical ingredients that help your body’s stress defenses throughout the day. L-Theanine is a powerful ingredient used in the R3SET Calm capsule that can help you gain mental clarity through the day without causing you to be sedated. Click here to find out more about R3SET supplements and how they could be the next step in your journey!

 

Sources:

Caffeine promotes glutamate and histamine release in the posterior hypothalamus

Essential Amino Acids| Definition, Benefits and Food Sources 

GABA receptor agonists| pharmacological spectrum and therapeutic actions

Ingredients

l-theanine| A potential multifaceted natural bioactive amide as health supplement

Just your cup of tea| the history (and health claims) of the nation’s favourite brew

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