Long-term heavy consumption of alcohol wreaks havoc on a person’s health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Cessation of alcohol consumption induces withdrawal symptoms that range in severity. The process of withdrawal is the necessary step toward successful recovery, and it works best in treatment centers where the patients get both supervision and help.
When it comes to withdrawal symptoms, various nutrients are deemed as helpful, and l-theanine is one of them. This post explores l-theanine and its potential role in alcohol withdrawal.
What is L-Theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea leaves and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. The amino acid was first isolated and identified in green tea leaves in 1949 by a Japanese scientist Yajiro Sakato. Theanine accounts for 50% of the total amino acids in green tea leaves and comprises about 1-2% of the total dry weight of the green tea leaves. The roots of tea plants synthesize l-theanine from glutamic acid (glutamate) and ethylamine before being transported to the leaves.
The human body doesn’t naturally produce l-theanine, and it’s not one of the essential amino acids without which we can’t function. However, health benefits and uses of l-theanine are numerous. The best sources of l-theanine are green and black teas, but nowadays, the amino acid is also available in dietary supplements. Besides individual l-theanine supplements, some products contain l-theanine in combination with other ingredients.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking alcohol or significantly reduces intake. The signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal generally appear anywhere from six hours to a few days after the last drink. The exact symptoms may vary from one person to another, and so does their intensity.
Generally speaking, the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Accelerated heart rate
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
The above-mentioned symptoms may appear over two to three days, but some milder symptoms may persist for a week or even longer. The most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are known as delirium tremens, and they include extreme confusion and agitation, fever, seizures, visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations.
Although they seem frustrating and uncomfortable, withdrawal symptoms are easier to handle in an inpatient alcohol addiction treatment center in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, like the one offered at Stonegate Center, as patients receive all the help, care, and medications they need in a safe and structured environment.
L-Theanine and Alcohol Withdrawal
This amino acid is found to be helpful for the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. We’ll dive deeper into this subject below.
At this point, no studies explore the influence of l-theanine on symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The importance of carrying out research on this subject is massive. It would give us a detailed insight into the subject and also provide answers to the ever-growing number of questions we have.
The absence of studies exploring the direct link between l-theanine and alcohol withdrawal symptoms management doesn’t mean their relationship is nonexistent. Below, we are going to explore potential mechanisms through which l-theanine could help manage alcohol withdrawal.
L-Theanine May Reduce Symptoms of Addiction
To understand how l-theanine could work, it’s necessary to address the background of alcohol addiction.
The problem of alcohol addiction has a lot to do with the glutaminergic system, which is actively involved in the reward pathway. The reward system in the human body is a group of structures activated by rewarding or reinforcing stimuli (e.g. addictive drugs or alcohol). This system regulates our responses to natural rewards such as sex, food, social interactions, but also incentivizes or motivates us to seek those rewards again.
In men and women with alcohol addiction, the reward pathway is disturbed, thus creating a state of addiction or dependence. Evidence shows that alcohol interacts with several neurotransmitter systems in the brain’s reward circuits. These interactions lead to alcohol’s acute reinforcing effects. After chronic exposure, these interactions induce alterations in neuronal function that underlie the development of alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction impairs a number of pathways in the reward system, including the glutamate pathway. You see, glutamate is a major excitatory neurotransmitter, and it exerts its effects through several receptor subtypes. Glutamate systems have been associated with acute reinforcing actions of alcohol. Alcohol inhibits glutamate activity in the brain. Following the acute administration of alcohol, the glutamate-mediated signal transmission is suppressed, and these effects only worsen with chronic alcohol use.
Acute alcohol consumption inhibits the activity of glutamate receptors, just like illicit drugs and other harmful substances can. When that happens, consequences are felt in memory and motor coordination (ability to walk/move properly). Additionally, toxicity in brain cells occurs, thus leading to neurodegeneration.
Interestingly, the level of glutamate receptor activity increases with long-term or chronic use. Therefore, during alcohol withdrawal, the higher expression of glutamate receptors and the absence of alcohol that would inhibit them create a state of hyperexcitability. This leads to seizures and other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal mentioned above.
L-theanine is structurally similar to glutamic acid i.e., glutamate, primarily because this amino acid is synthesized from it. For that reason, supplementation with l-theanine could balance damaged glutaminergic function in patients with alcohol addiction. Oral administration of l-theanine allows the body to absorb and break down this amino acid the same way as glutamine. In the kidney, the amino acid is broken down into glutamic acid and ethylamine.
Evidence reveals that within 30 minutes after oral administration, theanine crosses the blood-brain barrier. Moreover, l-theanine can bind to glutamate receptors, although the binding affinity isn’t as big as that of the l-glutamic acid. Despite the weak binding affinity, the interaction of l-theanine with glutamate receptors can protect the brain (i.e. exhibit neuroprotective effects).
It’s useful to mention that a study from the Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found theanine could attenuate abstinence signs caused by morphine dependence. Scientists found that theanine reduced anxiolytic-like behavior and decreased withdrawal symptoms, and it was safe. They concluded l-theanine might represent a viable treatment for opioid abuse and anxiety-related disorders. While this is not directly about alcoholism, it still goes to show theanine has a major potential to alleviate the severity of withdrawal symptoms that people experience. In a 90-day residential rehab center for alcohol abuse for women, like Stonegate Center Hilltop, patients receive the best treatment to decrease the severity of their withdrawal symptoms.
When it comes to alcoholism, identifying the agents that modulate the function of NMDA receptors, a type of glutamate receptor, could help treat alcohol addiction. Basically, the NMDA receptor is a protein to which glutamate binds and exhibits its actions. This particular receptor is a target of alcohol, and it is involved in addiction, withdrawal, craving for alcohol, and relapse.
Anxiety and Stress Relief
The direct link between l-theanine and alcohol withdrawal symptoms requires thorough research and studies that would focus on their relationship primarily. However, various mechanisms could explain the potential benefits of l-theanine, and its ability to promote management of stress and anxiety is one of them. Withdrawal symptoms often involve high levels of stress and anxiety, which may worsen other symptoms that people experience.
Studies suggest that l-theanine can increase relaxation without causing drowsiness. As a result, it can be a useful aid in managing stress and anxiety. In one study, subjective stress response to a cognitive stressor significantly reduced one hour after theanine ingestion, while cortisol levels decreased within three hours.
By helping the body combat stress and anxiety more effectively, l-theanine could aid the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Of course, this only calls for studies that will focus on this subject specifically.
Depression Management and Prevention
Depression is more than a feeling of sadness; it’s a serious mental health problem with both physical and psychological symptoms. The presence of depression is common among people with alcohol addiction. Not only is alcohol dependence linked with major depression, but this mental health problem may also worsen the cravings.
When depression and alcohol addiction appear together, the intensity of withdrawal symptoms could seem worse. Yet another advantage of l-theanine is its potential to prevent or manage depression. You see, this amino acid takes part in different components of brain chemistry, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. Each of these neurotransmitters plays a role in mental health and regulating our mood.
Protection Against Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury
Alcohol-induced liver injury is caused by heavy, long-term alcohol consumption. The liver breaks down alcohol and becomes seriously damaged if a person drinks more than it can handle. Consumption of alcohol leads to the production of free radicals, which can then cause oxidative stress and damage our health, liver included. L-theanine has antioxidant effects, thus neutralizing free radicals. Moreover, thanks to the antioxidant effects, this amino acid can protect a person from alcohol-induced liver injury.
According to a study from the Food and Chemical Toxicology, l-theanine enhances the antioxidant activity of the liver cells and protects mitochondrial function. As you’re already familiar, mitochondria are the energy-producing units of cells that promote the antioxidant status and protect liver cells from death that would happen due to alcohol toxicity.
Other Benefits of l-theanine
Besides the above-mentioned benefits of l-theanine, which are of particular use to people with alcoholism and other types of addictions, other health effects of this amino acid are worth elaborating on too. These include:
- Better sleep: L-theanine could be beneficial for men and women who struggle to get enough sleep at night. These effects stem from the ability of l-theanine to decrease resting heart rate and promote relaxation. Considering that we have become a sleep-deprived society, the importance of good sleep has never been greater than it is now. Sleep deprivation increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress could interfere with your alcohol addiction recovery and amplify the symptoms you experience
- Blood pressure management: This amino acid could be beneficial for people with high blood pressure due to stressful situations. By managing your stress effectively, l-theanine could also lower your blood pressure. This is particularly important if we bear in mind that hypertension is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
- Stronger immune system: L-theanine may improve the function of the body’s immune system and decrease the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. L-theanine can also decrease the body’s inflammation and strengthen immune defenses. The immune-boosting effect of l-theanine is important primarily because alcohol suppresses multiple aspects of the immune system.
- Improved focus: This amino acid could help increase focus and attention, especially in combination with other ingredients such as caffeine. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should consume caffeine and other compounds without consulting the addiction specialist in an inpatient treatment center or your doctor.
- Weight loss: When consumed in tea, l-theanine can contribute to weight loss by creating a savory taste known as umami flavor. The umami flavor may decrease appetite, promote a feeling of fullness, and prevent overeating.
L-theanine Dosage for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Although scientists constantly explore l-theanine, there’s a lot we need to learn about its influence on the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
At this point, a specific dosage for alcohol withdrawal is unknown due to a lack of studies on this subject.
In most studies, the dosage of l-theanine ranged from 100mg to 400mg. The optimum dose to obtain all the benefits of l-theanine hasn’t been determined yet. Most supplements deliver capsules that contain 200mg of l-theanine.
What you can do is to strive to drink two to three cups of green tea every day. Or, if supplements are your preferred method, start with the lowest dose. Most supplements come with the dosage instructions. But, starting with the lowest dosage and working your way up can be beneficial. Just make sure to monitor your symptoms, as well as physical and mental health.
For many people monitoring their symptoms seems difficult to do, which only emphasizes the importance of 24/7 inpatient medical detox for alcohol in North Texas.
Is L-Theanine safe?
Being a natural compound, l-theanine is considered safe for general consumption. This only applies when the recommended doses are taken and if you’re staying within the proper limits. Taking excessive amounts of l-theanine can cause side effects such as headache, dizziness, and gastrointestinal problems.
Starting small and working your way up is important for a reduced risk of adverse reactions. Little is known about the interaction between l-theanine and medications. It could interfere with drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure, supplements that lower blood pressure, supplements, and supplements that contain caffeine.
Therefore, if you’re taking medications to manage your health, you may want to consult a doctor if you also plan to give l-theanine a try.
Throughout this post, we discussed whether l-theanine could, indeed, reduce the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Although l-theanine is a subject of many studies, none of them have focused on its link with alcohol withdrawal. That being said, based on other findings, l-theanine could have the potential to help ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Of course, studies on this subject are vital. If you’re considering l-theanine for your alcohol problem, make sure to consult a doctor first. Moreover, you should also contact the inpatient treatment center near you and get help to start your recovery with support and proper treatment.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction & pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center to the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.