Popstar Taylor Swift Takes L-Theanine for Anxiety. Should You?Supplements
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
In a recent article written by mega pop star Taylor Swift, titled 30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30, the singer shared a bit of her proactive healthcare routine.
“I take L-theanine, which is a natural supplement to help with stress and anxiety. I also take magnesium for muscle health and energy,” the singer wrote.
You may already know a lot about magnesium, an essential mineral needed that is an important cofactor for hundreds of processes and reactions in the body, including energy. It is also important in sugar breakdown and use, blood pressure regulation and muscle and nerve function, including the heart muscle.
But what exactly is L-theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid. Our bodies use amino acids to make proteins, which is one of the six nutrients our bodies need to function efficiently. (The other five are carbohydrates, fats, water, vitamins and minerals). Protein is used to build and repair tissues and make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.
“Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
There are three different categories of amino acids:
- Essential Amino Acids - these cannot be made by the body. So we must get them from food or supplements.
- Nonessential Amino Acids - our bodies produce these, even if we do not get them from foods we eat.
- Conditional Amino Acids - these are usually not essential, except when you may be battling an illness or stress.
L-theanine, also called just theanine (among many other names), is not an essential amino acid, however, it is also not an amino acid our bodies produce. So some might file it under conditional amino acids. But many would probably also argue that you don’t necessarily need to be ill or super stressed to benefit from this amino acid.
If you are a regular green tea drinker, you are getting a good dose of L-theanine. This amino acid is naturally present in green tea. Black tea contains lower concentrations of L-theanine, and some mushrooms (specifically Boletus badius) contain L-theanine.
Like Taylor Swift, many people depend on L-theanine supplements. And after looking at the potential benefits, I might explore taking an L-theanine supplement myself because I don’t usually drink green or black tea.
Swift says she takes the supplement for anxiety, and this amino acid appears to have a powerful impact on the brain.
“L-theanine promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep by contributing to a number of changes in the brain,” reports Psychology Today.
- It boosts levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine. “These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters, and they work in the brain to regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, and sleep, as well as appetite, energy, and other cognitive skills. Increasing levels of these calming brain chemicals promotes relaxation and can help with sleep.”
- L-theanine is also known to reduce levels of chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety. “This may also be a way that L-theanine can protect brain cells against stress and age-related damage.”
- This amino acid is also known to increase alpha brain waves. This essentially means that it enhances “wakeful relaxation.” You may feel a sense of wakeful relaxation when you meditate or daydream. (Alpha waves are also present during REM sleep). “L-theanine appears to trigger the release of alpha-waves, which enhances relaxation, focus, and creativity. One of the appealing aspects of L-theanine is that it works to relax without sedating.” So this is a pretty cool amino acid, because it may relax you and help you sleep but also may enhance your focus and creativity by easing your mind. It may also increase your attention span, especially when combined with caffeine (which is why some may consider green tea, which naturally contains caffeine, to be the perfect beverage).
Other potential benefits of L-theanine?
L-theanine may help with the treatment of hypertension.
“Theanine has demonstrated antihypertensive properties in spontaneously hypertensive rats. One study showed that high doses of theanine (1500 and 2000 mg/kg) resulted in significant decreases in blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats,while it had no effect on blood pressure in normotensive rats,” according to this study report.
L-theanine may aid in cancer treatment.
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Laboratory and animal studies showed that L-theanine increases efficiency of chemotherapy drugs and also reduces their side effects. However, patients undergoing chemotherapy should discuss the use of L-theanine with their physicians because these effects are not based on clinical trials, and another component found in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) reduces activity of the chemotherapy drug bortezomib.”
L-theanine may help fight off bacterial infections and other harmful pathogens by boosting the immune system.
This study suggested that it helps to decrease the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.
If you supplement, supplement safely.
There are many supplements readily accessible to us all but not all supplements are created equal, and this is why it is extremely important to consult a competent healthcare professional about the supplements you plan on including in your proactive healthcare regimine.
Since L-theanine may lower your blood pressure, people who already have low blood pressure need to be mindful of this amino acid. Pregnant women, children and anyone taking medications or who have existing health issues need to be especially careful about taking an L-theanine supplement as well as certain other supplements.
And finally, it’s good to get in the habit of taking routine nutrient tests. If you want to supplement right, you really need to know if you are nutritionally balanced. If the nutrient test reveals you have a nutrient imbalance or deficiency, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and help you supplement if you need to.
And to learn about specific nutrients that may help with anxiety, check out this pH Labs blog.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.