In today’s fast-paced world many of us are battling with stress, insomnia and depression, but fortunately help is at hand.

There’s little doubt that stress, anxiety and depression are on the increase in today’s world. According to the American Psychological Association, most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44 per cent reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. Stress, if left unchecked, can lead to serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Many people who are experiencing stress also tend to suffer with insomnia and depression, furthering the negative impact on their health. So what can be done about these issues, which are becoming so widespread? Fortunately there are several natural supplements which can help to promote calm and relaxation and aid a better night’s sleep.

L-THEANINE

The amino acid L-theanine, which is found in green tea leaves, has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress.1 At higher doses than typically found in a cup of black tea, it has been found to have the unique ability to relax the mind without causing drowsiness.2 This is because L-theanine directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to that achieved through meditation. L-theanine is also known to block the binding of L-glutamic acid to glutamate receptors in the brain, and has been considered to cause anti-stress effects by inhibiting cortical neuron excitation.

This amino acid is also involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), which influences the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin – the brain chemicals that produce a state of relaxation. Not only can L-theanine reduce anxiety and stress, but it has also been shown to attenuate the blood pressure increase in high-stress- response adults.

L-TRYPTOPHAN

L-tryptophan is one of eight essential amino acids which cannot be synthesised in the human body – this means we
need to get it through our diet or via supplementation. Common sources include red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, soy beans and soy products, tuna, shellfish and turkey. L-tryptophan acts as a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps the body to regulate mood, sleep patterns and appetite.

A small amount of L-tryptophan is converted into niacin (vitamin B3) by the liver, which can help to prevent
the symptoms associated with niacin deficiency when dietary intake of this vitamin is low (see below). Several studies have been carried out on the effects of L-tryptophan on sleep. Evidence suggests that in doses of 1g or more it produces “an increase in rated subjective sleepiness and a decrease in sleep latency (time to sleep).”

VITAMIN B3

B vitamins are known stress relievers which help to keep the nervous system functioning. They cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. During times of stress and illness, the body uses larger amounts than normal of these vitamins, making it important to replenish them on a daily basis. Vitamin B3, or niacin, is one of the B complex vitamins.

Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, has two other forms: niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide and inositol hexanicotinate, both of which have different effects to niacin. Niacinamide is made from niacin in the body. When the body has a surplus amount of niacin, it converts the left over amounts to niacinamide. Both niacin and niacinamide are necessary for the proper breakdown and absorption of fats and sugars in the body, and also for the maintenance of healthy cells.

Niacinamide supplementation has been used as a natural treatment for insomnia. In 2005 the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported on of a study involving two female participants suffering from insomnia who were given niacinamide supplementation over 21 days. It was reported that at the end of the study, the women experienced a 79.5 per cent increase in sleep efficiency.

VITAMIN B6

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is needed by the body to convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is used to produce energy. It is also needed for the production of red blood cells and the proper functioning of nerves. Pyridoxine is involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence mood, and melatonin, which helps to regulate the body clock.

Pyridoxine deficiency is rare, although certain medications can lead to reduced levels. Symptoms of a serious deficiency range from nervousness, irritability and depression to poor concentration, short- term memory loss and muscle weakness.

Studies have found that pyridoxine may reduce depression associated with premenstrual syndrome5 and it has been proposed that “high intakes of pyridoxine may have the potential to improve prognosis in many individuals” with reference to chronic dysphoria, a condition characterised by anxiety, depression or unease.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCT

RELAXWELL®

Relaxwell® is a special formula created from tried and true quality ingredients. It combines L-Tryptophan, L-Theanine, vitamin B6 and vitamin B3.