Coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda pop, chocolate -- many of us consume caffeine throughout the day for a quick energy surge. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and boosts dopamine production, both actions that help the body with focus and attention.
In the context of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, popular treatments often include stimulant meds, which have a similar effect. But is caffeine a viable option to help manage this common disorder? What about when it’s taken with L-theanine? Are there any side effects?
If you’ve ever wondered if caffeine helps ADHD, then you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about caffeine and L-theanine and how this powerful duo just might be the answer you’ve been looking for to naturally help people with ADHD.
A Quick ADHD Overview
Although the numbers vary, it’s estimated that up to 5 percent of U.S. adults may have ADHD -- that’s roughly 11 million people!
ADHD presents itself differently in children and adults. It may also look different depending on the context -- i.e., at school, at work, or in your personal life.
While the kiddos may have the more classic ADHD features -- running around, not paying attention to figures of authority, having a hard time focusing in school -- adults can have features of the disorder that may be a little less obvious. Lack of attention may look more like wandering off task, while hyperactivity and impulsivity may show up as restlessness or making risky decisions without taking into account the consequences.
What Causes ADHD?
ADHD is thought to be caused by a combination of a few things: genetics (it runs in families), environmental factors, temperament, and upbringing. Very low birth weight is associated with an almost threefold increase in the likelihood of developing ADHD, and exposure to harsh environmental toxins such as lead has also been associated with the development of ADHD.
What about sugar?
Believe it or not, a few studies have tried to determine whether consuming sugary beverages -- such as soda pop -- is related to ADHD.
The theory is that the disorder is caused by an altered dopamine-reward pathway.
Dopamine is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that is released in response to rewards; however, it’s also released when you consume the sweet stuff. This could result in the classic ADHD symptoms, such as trouble with delaying gratification and inability to reinforce positive behaviors.
It’s sure an interesting theory when you really think about it, and some studies have found that kids with ADHD do seem to drink more sugar-sweetened beverages than those without ADHD.
However, it’s still not totally clear whether sugar is to blame, and further research is needed.
So, Can Caffeine Help with Symptoms of ADHD?
ADHD symptoms are typically managed through behavioral therapy and with prescription stimulants that target the central nervous system to improve concentration and focus. Like these popular prescription meds, caffeine is a mild stimulant that has been seen to counteract ADHD symptoms.
In fact, it does so in two ways:
Caffeine blocks adenosine in your brain, which is a chemical that suppresses arousal and promotes sleep.
Additionally, caffeine manipulates dopamine production, which ultimately increases your ability to concentrate while supporting overall mood.
What exactly is dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical found in your brain, that, in one of many roles it plays, needs to be in perfect balance for you to focus and stay attentive. In most individuals, stimulants (like caffeine) can cause a boost in dopamine, leading to anxious feelings, nausea, and agitation. But in those with ADHD, dopamine levels are low, to begin with, so stimulants may actually have the opposite effect and boost their levels straight into the productivity zone.
However, this isn’t always the case as some individuals -- regardless of having ADHD or not -- are extra sensitive to stimulants like caffeine and can have adverse effects. Thankfully, L-theanine can help in this realm.
What is L-Theanine?
L-theanine is a powerful amino acid extracted from the leaves of Camellia sinensis -- i.e., the common tea plant.
It’s actually responsible for some of the umami flavors in green tea and is known to reduce our physiological stress responses by imitating the actions of GABA -- an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks excitatory responses in the brain.
By inhibiting these responses, L-theanine can help to maintain healthy blood pressure, heart rate, and even stress hormone levels. Simply put: reduce these responses, and you get an overall reduction in feelings of stress.
Caffeine and L-Theanine
Everyone knows about caffeine’s less-than-favorable side effects: shakes, jitters, restlessness, anxiety, etc. And for those with ADHD, sometimes these side effects are amplified.
Well, we’ve got good news for you -- when you take caffeine with L-theanine, these side effects are significantly reduced. In fact, according to recent research, this powerful duo seems to improve sustained attention and overall cognitive performance in those with ADHD.
You see, caffeine inhibits the actions of our adenosine receptors in the brain, which is the stimulatory activity, while L-theanine can help reduce physiological responses to stress by inhibiting excitatory responses in the brain. And when these two meet, they make an impressionable pair for energizing and focusing.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, i.e. it temporarily makes blood vessels smaller, which raises your blood pressure to account for reduced blood flow. L-theanine eliminates caffeine’s vasoconstrictive tendencies, so you can focus on something other than the sound of blood pumping in your ears.
If you can’t focus on anything because caffeine crashes that leave you with fatigue and pesky headaches, bringing L-theanine along for the ride may be able to help.
Caffeine and L-Theanine for ADHD
When it boils down to any new regimen, it’s critical to always speak with your doc first. Your primary care provider knows you and your health best, and can help you to figure out a course for treatment that combines multiple avenues of approach.
If you decide to give caffeine a try, it’s best to stick with organic sources that aren’t made with any questionable ingredients or added sugar. It’s also wise to supplement your caffeine intake with L-theanine.
A Final Word
Struggling to focus can make life challenging, to say the least. Thankfully, there are products that might help, and one of them is drinking Proper Wild’s Powerful Plant-Based Energy Shots made with caffeine from organic green tea and L-theanine.
Here at Proper Wild, we truly care about your health -- that’s why we’ve created our energy shots with absolutely nothing artificial and zero grams of added sugar. This way, you can enjoy clean caffeine paired with L-theanine for that boost of focus and clarity when you need it.