We all know that eating the right amount of nutrients on a daily basis is really important. We also know that following a food first approach is the way to go. But would someone please tell that to my teenager!

We can have the most beautiful food based recommendations in the world, if our teen’s aren’t following them, what is the next best option?

You may be on the fence about supplementing your teen’s diet, but in certain cases it is necessary.

Not only can supplementation prevent deficiency diseases, but the appropriate supplementation can help your teens growing body cope with stress.

STRESS: THE DOSE MATTER

Stress is a normal part of life and the way that our body responds to it is like a finely tuned orchestra. Small amounts can be good and can serve as a motivational reminder. However, our bodies are designed to respond to acute stress, what many of us (including your teen) are dealing with in today’s day in age, is chronic stress. When chronic stress is left unchecked, it can negatively impact our lives on both a physical and emotional level and can even progress into more severe mental health disorders like anxiety or depression.

All this being said, before you decide to supplement your child’s diet, it is important that you make an appointment with your doctor to rule out anything more severe. Stress and anxiety can have overlapping symptoms and self-treating anxiety is not recommended.

 

NUTRIENTS THAT SUPPORT STRESS MANAGEMENT

There is a significant body of evidence that links a variety of nutrients (and their deficiencies) to a decline in mental health. This includes a declined ability to cope with stress.

Let’s explore some of these nutrients in a bit more detail to help you understand how they fit in.

 

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is an essential mineral. Essential nutrients cannot be made by the human body and have to be taken in through the diet or supplementation.

Good sources of magnesium include nuts and dark green leafy vegetables; many teens are not consuming enough of these foods.

Magnesium is involved in many different functions and processes in the body, specifically in the nervous system where it helps with cell communication and signaling. Because of this, magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and mood. (1)

When there are low levels of magnesium in the body, it can interfere with brain signaling and cause increased feelings of stress. Chronic physical or mental stress in turn, depletes our magnesium store. This depletion further exacerbates the feelings of stress resulting in a vicious cycle. (2)

 

SUNTHEANINE® (L-THEANINE)

L-Theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found in tea. It is a key constituent that brings about the relaxing effects of tea drinking. L-Theanine works by bringing about a state of alert relaxation by generating a group of brain waves called the α – brain waves which are your set of “awake and relaxed” brain waves.

L-Theanine has been shown to reduce or shut off feelings of stress and anxiety while also improving concentration, focus, learning and even insomnia. All this happens within 30 – 60 minutes after consumption!

L-Theanine supplementation is therefore recommended for individuals struggling with stress, and specifically for those struggling with insomnia.

However, not all L-Theanine supplements are created equal. Supplementing with a branded L-Theanine like Suntheanine®. The latter is produced via a patented process that mimics the natural process in green tea leaves, resulting in a 100% pure L-isomer-theanine. This guarantees a product of high safety, purity and efficacy compared to synthetic L-Theanines.

 

GABA

Gamma aminobutyric acid (which is a mouthful! So let’s rather refer to it as GABA) is an amino acid that has two main functions when it comes to relaxation.

Firstly, it acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. When GABA attaches to the GABA receptors it blocks certain signals and decreases specific brain activity. Secondly, it increases your α – brain wave activity just like Suntheanine. Both of these actions alone and in combination, produce a relaxing effect.

 

TAURINE

The amino acid taurine is a precursor to GABA (this means it helps produce GABA), which as we now know, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter which produces a relaxing effect. However, that’s not all taurine does, it also plays a role in preventing overstimulation in the brain. One of the ways it does this is by slowing down the release of adrenaline which protects you from the fight or flight response which is a key response to stress.

 

PROBIOTICS & PREBIOTICS

The formal definition of a probiotics is: ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’. Basically they are live microorganisms (usually bacteria or yeast strains) that we consume to try to improve our health. You already have trillions of microorganisms in your gut, but when we take probiotics, our aim is to alter the existing population (aiming to get more of the beneficial little guys in). When we have more ‘good’ than ‘bad’ microorganisms, we tend to have better health outcomes whereas the opposite (also known as dysbiosis) has been shown to be associated with poor outcomes (Gail et al, 2019).

There is a special group of probiotics, called ‘psychobiotics’, they are not a character out of a horror movie, but rather probiotics that have been shown to produce a psychological health benefit  – specifically in those with stress.

We need to do more research, but it seems as if psychobiotics communicate with the brain (through what is known as the gut-brain axis). They produce neurotransmitters (like serotonin or your happy hormone) that then have a positive effect on your mood. So basically, a happy gut can result in a happy person!

Along with a healthy and varied diet that contains enough fibre (which feeds and nourishes the beneficial microorganisms), we can also take probiotic supplements. The beneficial effects we get from probiotics are strain specific and the strains you want to look out for include Bifidobacterium longum 1714 or R0175 or Lactobacillus acidophilus R0052 or Lactobacillus casei Shirota.

WRAPPING UP

As you can see, there are a myriad of supplements that have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and enhance relaxed vibes. Supplementation should always be done in conjunction with tweaks to your teen’s nutrition and lifestyle, because change does not happen in isolation. Check out our article ‘Nutritional optimisation for stressed out teens’ to learn more about the dietary changes you can start making in the meantime in conjunction with appropriate supplementation like Bioteen Relaxify.