L-theanine: the secret ingredient for stress relief that Taylor Swift swears by

You already love her music, but here’s something else to like about Taylor Swift — her health habits! Unlike celebrities who make news for their destructive choices, Taylor Swift recently went public with a very good decision she’s made to help her cope with anxiety. 

In a recent Elle magazine interview, Taylor revealed her secret ingredient for combatting stress and anxious thinking — and it’s surprisingly simple: "Vitamins make me feel so much better!” Taylor said. "I take L-theanine, which is a natural supplement to help with stress and anxiety." Taylor also mentioned taking magnesium for muscle health and energy.

Most conventional doctors hand out prescription drugs with some pretty horrible side effects for these issues, so I am glad to see that Taylor appears to have gotten advice from someone like me…a naturopathic physician. In helping my patients find natural remedies that work, I can vouch that taking L-theanine and magnesium for issues like anxiety and fatigue is actually pretty good medicine.

Here’s why.

Just what is L-theanine?

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that naturally helps the brain enter a more relaxed, focused state. If you have ever felt a sense of “alert calm” after drinking a cup of green tea or a matcha latte, you have experienced the soothing effects of L-theanine. The amino acid is also found, in lesser amounts, in black teas and certain mushrooms.

How does it work? As researchers have identified, about 30 minutes after consumption, L-theanine crosses the blood-brain barrier where it begins increasing alpha waves in the brain — the same brain waves that are heightened through meditation. The net result of this activity is relaxation without drowsiness or sedation.

If you don’t always have time to sit down for a cup of green tea, that’s okay. As other studies have confirmed, taking L-theanine as a supplement can deliver even more stress-reducing benefits:

  • L-theanine lowers stress hormones. In a 2016 study, participants given L-theanine one hour before undertaking a stressful task reported lower levels of stress while performing the task. Through saliva testing, lower levels of stress hormones were detected for up to three hours after the activity. 
  • L-theanine boost levels of GABA and other calming brain chemicals. In the brain, L-theanine helps stimulate production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), a neurotransmitter that has a calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system. L-theanine also elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine, two of the body’s most important neurotransmitters for regulating emotions, mood and concentration.
  • L-theanine lowers stress-promoting brain chemicals. In addition to boosting your “feel good” neurotransmitters, L-theanine blocks production of brain chemicals linked to promoting stress and anxiety. This action can help relieve stress-induced insomnia and sleep problems, among other other stress-related symptoms.
  • L-theanine provides whole body support for stress. Ever been stuck in heavy traffic and literally felt your blood pressure rising from stress? L-theanine can help with that. Studies show that L-theanine may prevent the abrupt rise in blood pressure that stressful events can trigger. So not only is your brain calmer with L-theanine, your entire body is too!
And about that magnesium Taylor takes for energy and muscle fatigue — she’s making another good call. Magnesium, usually taken in the form of magnesium citrate, helps with healthy muscle function, boosts energy levels and relieves fatigue, supports healthy bones, and also plays a role in normalizing blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Why natural stress relief matters for women

Taylor Swift has been open about her struggles with stress and anxiety, admitting a few years ago that, "It can feel, at times, if you let your anxiety get the better of you, like everybody’s waiting for you to really mess up — and then you’ll be done.”

Taylor is far from alone in feeling this way. According to American Psychological Association survey results, women are more likely than men to report feeling overwhelmed with stress, and almost half of all women (49 percent) surveyed said their stress had increased over the past five years. Women are also more likely to struggle with symptoms related to chronic stress, including anxiety, depression, headaches, weight gain, sleep disruptions and insomnia.

On top of all this stress is another big problem — women not getting the help they need. When women go to their conventional doctors seeking help for stress, they might walk away with prescriptions for antidepressants and sleep drugs. Besides taking a bandaid approach to symptoms, these medications come with serious side effects. In the case of antidepressants, there is growing evidence that for many women, these medications don’t even work.

That’s why Taylor Swift sharing the natural stress relief remedy that works for her is so refreshing — and needed. You don’t even have to take her word for it. Just look at all the scientific evidence that backs up L-theanine and then decide for yourself.

References

American Psychological Association. Gender and Stress. Press release, June 2010. (Accessed June 2019.) https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2010/gender-stress

Duygu Türközü & Nevin ┼×anlier (2017) L-theanine, unique amino acid of tea, and its metabolism, health effects, and safety, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57:8, 1681-1687, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1016141

Pradeep J. Nathan, Kristy Lu, M. Gray & C. Oliver (2006) The Neuropharmacology of L-Theanine(N-Ethyl-L-Glutamine), Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 6:2, 21-30, DOI: 10.1080/J157v06n02_02

White, David Julian et al. “Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an L-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial.” Nutrients 8 1 (2016): n. pag.

Yamada, T et al. (2005) Effects of theanine, r-glutamylethylamide, on neurotransmitter release and its relationship with glutamic acid neurotransmission. Nutritional neuroscience, 8(4):219-26. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16493792?dopt=Abstract Yoto, A et al. (2012). Effects of L-theanine on caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1): 28. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518171/

Last updated on 11/08/2019