Our mental health is believed to be influenced by several chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Therefore, imbalances in one or many of these neurotransmitters can affect how we think and feel.
In this article we will examine how you can improve mental health naturally.
Serotonin, dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine, and noradrenaline are examples of neurotransmitters that are particularly associated with mood, motivation, and mental health.
There are several medications that can influence levels of these neurotransmitters which have moderate success in restoring mental health. However, they are associated with several side effects including nausea, weight gain, sleep disturbances and sexual dysfunction. As a result, there has been increasing interest in natural options to restore brain balance and improve mental health.
Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea has attracted increasing interest for the enhancement of mental health. Researchers are particularly interested in theanine as it can positively influence several neurotransmitters. For example, it can affect serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels. Theanine also lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
In several human studies theanine has been associated with reduced anxiety symptoms and a lowered physiological stress responses from acute stressors (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, salivary immunoglobulin A and salivary α-amylase activity) [1,2,3].
Theanine intake has been shown to increase alpha-brain wave production in healthy volunteers. Increased alpha waves are associated with improved focus and relaxation. Alpha waves also increase during meditation practice .
In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 400mg of theanine given to boys with ADHD for 6 weeks improved several aspects of their sleep quality .
8 weeks of theanine and pregnenolone supplementation (in addition to antipsychotic medication) enhanced improvements in a range of symptoms in adults with schizophrenia. These included improvements in anxious mood, tension, and cardiovascular symptoms, and an increase in general functioning .
Theanine can be obtained from drinking green tea daily. However, to obtain the therapeutic levels used in the above studies, supplementation will be essential (10 to 30 cups will need to be consumed every day).