Keeping You AND Your Kids Calm, Cool, and Collected in the Coming School Year
Share this post
Back to school solutions for attention, mood, sleep, and stress
It’s rare to find adults or kids who don’t enjoy summer. For many, summertime means nicer weather, more time outside, family or personal vacations, and longer daylight hours to fit in food, friends, and festivities. Time outside the office or classroom helps restore balance and perspectives on life, as long as you don’t run yourself too ragged doing extra-curricular activities and other fun things.
For parents of children with attention issues or anxiety, the summer can be either a challenge or a relief. For some, it becomes a challenge as there is more time directly spent parenting, and issues that were only noticeable in the afterschool hours, now can face a parent from dawn to dusk. For others, the opposite is true – without homework to be completed and routine evaluations from teachers and a full day to play outside burning off energy, kid’s issues seem to disappear. More often than not, we all get back to dealing with our problems when summertime holidays are done and we need a more directed focus and energy to get through the work and school week, so it is worthwhile to consider some supplements that may be supportive.
As the kids prepare to return to school, now is also the time to arm yourself (and them!) with resources to improve mood, attention, stress response, and sleep quality.
GABA, attention, mood, and sleep
The neurotransmitters most broadly discussed in relation to mood are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. However, the balance of other neurotransmitters known as glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) also plays an important role. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter, while GABA is the main inhibitory (or calming) neurotransmitter in brain. GABA also helps to reduce the response to fear or anxiety-provoking stimuli. Lower GABA concentrations have been associated with poor sleep quality and have been demonstrated in individuals with major depressive disorder as well as those having higher anxiety.,, Many sedatives work by binding or stimulating GABA receptors. In individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), significantly lower GABA levels have been observed in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain associated with decision-making, emotion, and impulse control. Additionally, measures of impulsivity were shown to be negatively related to GABA levels, that is, individuals with the lower GABA levels were more impulsive. Glutamate, on the other hand, has been shown to be twice as high in children with ADHD, tipping the balance to that of an excitatory state.
Lower GABA concentrations have been associated with poor sleep quality and have been demonstrated in individuals with major depressive disorder as well as those having higher anxiety.
Supplemental administration of GABA, which is also an amino acid, has been shown to induce relaxation accompanied by reduced levels of anxiety. An increase in alpha brain wave patterns with GABA supplementation also was seen. The alpha rhythm of brain wave patterns predominantly occur during wakeful relaxation with eyes closed, and alpha waves are present during activities such as meditation. GABA administration also has been shown to support alpha wave activity when individuals are stressed by mental tasks.
Green tea – more than just antioxidants!
L-theanine, an amino acid found at high levels in green tea, also has been observed to promote relaxation and reduction of stress, possibly by increasing alpha-wave activity as well as by blocking the activation of excitatory glutamate receptors in the brain., Although it is not a neurotransmitter, it has been shown to impact neurotransmitter balance, significantly increasing serotonin, dopamine and GABA levels in the brain., Supplementation of L-theanine has been shown to increase expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein, a protein that plays a role in neural plasticity and neurogenesis, both of which are crucial for learning new things and forming memories.
Clinically, supplementation with L-theanine has been shown to have a relaxing effect, reducing anxiety as well as heart rate and blood pressure in acute stressful events and during mentally challenging tasks.
Clinically, supplementation with L-theanine has been shown to have a relaxing effect, reducing anxiety as well as heart rate and blood pressure in acute stressful events and during mentally challenging tasks.,, L-theanine has been shown to reduce subjective experience of stress and salivary α-amylase activity, a marker of sympathetic nervous system activity and the “fight or flight” response, during academic challenges. In children with ADHD, L-theanine has also been shown to improve aspects of sleep quality, and has been studied and found safe to be used for this purpose at doses of 200 mg twice daily.  L-theanine continues to be studied for the impacts it may have on learning and memory, attention, mood, and even other mental health conditions such as schizophrenia.
Collectively, these natural supplements, which support normal physiology and neurotransmitter balance, have evidence that suggests they may promote a balanced stress response and be supportive for mood, attention, cognition, and even healthy sleep.
Click here to see References
 Petroff OA. GABA and glutamate in the human brain. Neuroscientist. 2002 Dec;8(6):562-73.
 Etkin A, Wager TD. Functional neuroimaging of anxiety: a meta-analysis of emotional processing in PTSD, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobia. Am J Psychiatry. 2007;164(10):1476-88.
 Meyerhoff DJ, et al. Cortical gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate in posttraumatic stress disorder and their relationships to self-reported sleep quality. Sleep. 2014;37(5):893-900.
 Pehrson AL, Sanchez C. Altered γ-aminobutyric acid neurotransmission in major depressive disorder: a critical review of the supporting evidence and the influence of serotonergic antidepressants. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2015;9:603-24.
 Rosso IM, et al. Insula and anterior cingulate GABA levels in posttraumatic stress disorder: preliminary findings using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Depress Anxiety. 2014;31(2):115-23.
 Gottesmann C. GABA mechanisms and sleep. Neuroscience. 2002;111(2):231-9.
 Ende G, et al. Impulsivity and Aggression in Female BPD and ADHD Patients: Association with ACC Glutamate and GABA Concentrations. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Jan;41(2):410-8.
 Gilgun, JF. The NEATS: A Child & Family Assessment. Creat Space Publishing, USA, 2011.
 Abdou AM, et al. Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201-8.
 Khare KC, Nigam SK. A study of electroencephalogram in meditators. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2000;44(2):173-8.
 Yoto A, et al. Oral intake of γ-aminobutyric acid affects mood and activities of central nervous system during stressed condition induced by mental tasks. Amino Acids. 2012;43(3):1331-7.
 Nobre AC, et al. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.
 Kakuda T, et al. Inhibition by theanine of binding of [3H]AMPA, [3H]kainate, and [3H]MDL 105,519 to glutamate receptors. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2002;66(12):2683-6.
 Yokogoshi H, et al. Effect of theanine, r-glutamylethylamide, on brain monoamines and striatal dopamine release in conscious rats. Neurochem Res. 1998;23(5):667-73.
 Nathan PJ, et al. The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent. J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(2):21-30.
 Wakabayashi C, et al. Behavioral and molecular evidence for psychotropic effects in L-theanine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;219(4):1099-109.
 Lu K, et al. The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2004;19(7):457-65.
 Kimura K, et al. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007;74(1):39-45.
 Yoto A, et al. Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31:28.
 Unno K, et al. Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: Positive correlation among salivary α-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013;111:128-35.
 Lyon MR, Kapoor MP, Juneja LR. The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(4):348-54.
 Lardner AL. Neurobiological effects of the green tea constituent theanine and its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2014 Jul;17(4):145-55.
Share this post
Dr. Carrie Decker
From Childhood to the Elderly: Evidence for Melatonin
An array of clinical research shows the safety and efficacy of melatonin in healthy and compromised populations Many a time in life when the stress hormones are flying, we also have the unfortunate experience of struggling to sleep. The experience of insomnia is not uncommon, with about one-third to two-thirds of adults experiencing insomnia…
Don’t Forget to Water Your Kids!
Keeping hydration up in the dog-days of summer and first weeks of back-to-school Kids. Water. Fruits. Vegetables. In this series of words, which does not belong? Of course, we could evaluate them by various forms of reasoning (i.e. kids contain a high level of water) but in their natural form we probably don’t see…
Vitamin C for Allergies
Relief from itchy eyes and wheezy lungs Picture a latex balloon filled not only with helium gas, but also confetti. What would happen if somebody took a pin to the balloon? An exhilarating POP! would accompany the explosion of confetti, creating not only a racket, but also a mess. Histamine “confetti” A certain type…
Nutritional Factors in Female Fertility, Part 2 of 2
Antioxidants and reproductive health We live in an increasingly toxic world, with literally thousands of different potential toxins being released into our water, air, and soil each day by industry, agricultural practices, and our daily living.,,, They cycle into our food supply, accumulating in animals and plants.,,, Many environmental pollutants do not degrade over…
How Gut Health Keeps Kids Healthy
A blend of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli supports pediatric respiratory and skin health Achoo! Sniffle, snort! Scratch, scratch, scratch. Is allergy season here again? Or are we stuck in the dregs of cold and flu season? Wait, is there a season where kiddos aren’t dealing with some kind of infection or allergy? Could probiotics help?…
All About T Helper Cells (Video)
What are T cells and what do they do? No previous knowledge of immunology is required to glean inspiration and insight from this video! Family physician Dr. Erica Zelfand explains the importance of these special white blood cells. She explains how, depending on what they’re exposed to, T-cells can transform into T Helper (Th)…