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Can Supplements Help With Anxiety? X Supplements to Reduce Anxiety

Anxiety is a horrible feeling, but if it’s something you’ve lived with for a while, you will have learned it can be managed. Whether that means focusing on getting enough sleep, reducing your caffeine intake or integrating a mindfulness practice into your day, your habits and routine can impact your mental well-being.


But what about supplements or anxiety vitamins? While we’re probably familiar with the range of pharmaceutical interventions for anxiety, we might not know about the natural remedies that are found in fruits, vegetables and fish — or over-the-counter supplements.


If you want to make some lifestyle changes to help with your anxiety, then paying attention to your diet is important [1]. So let’s take a look at the best anxiety vitamins and find out what supplements can reduce anxiety.





Can supplements help with anxiety?


A 2022 paper published in Frontiers in Nutrition [2] found strong evidence to show that diet impacts mental health. Blood sugar, immune activation, inflammation and the gut microbiome can all have an impact on mood [3].


An overall ‘healthier’ diet can impact mood, and researchers have linked various diets to better mental health. Firth et. al., found that a Mediterranean-style diet was linked to improved mood, while there is both strong anecdotal evidence as well as cutting-edge research linking carnivore diets with a reduction in depression [4].


Clearly, diet relates to mental health: but what is it in these diets that improves mental health? Certain ingredients, vitamins and minerals are at the root of improved well-being, and increasing your intake of these vitamins in supplement form can improve your mental health.


While supplements should not be considered a cure for anxiety, nor a replacement for a healthy diet, these anxiety vitamins have a proven impact on mental well-being. Whether you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, a holistic approach to mental health must include diet.



9 Supplements to Reduce Anxiety (Evidence-Based)


So you’re ready to explore the best anxiety vitamins? These supplements are science-backed and have been demonstrated to reduce anxiety, benefit sleep and improve mood. As always, check with your doctor before trying something that could interact with any anxiety medication you’re already using.


Melatonin


Melatonin is a naturally-produced hormone that helps to regulate our sleep, but some people produce less than others. A lack of melatonin has been primarily linked with insomnia, but tentative studies are showing a relationship between melatonin and anxiety, for example in both pre and postoperative contexts in this International Journal of Molecular Sciences paper [5]. 


Start with a low dose of around 1mg, and increase as needed. It’s not recommended to take melatonin long-term as it can reduce your body’s ability to produce it naturally: talk to your doctor if you’re concerned.


Magnesium


Magnesium deficiency has become common in Western diets with over two-thirds of Americans seeing an insufficient consumption of magnesium [6] and studies have linked low magnesium intake to increased stress and anxiety [7].


Taking a 250mg dose of magnesium before bed can improve sleep and help regulate serotonin.


Vitamin D3


Vitamin D deficiency is associated with both anxiety and depression [8], making it an important supplement, particularly during winter and for those living at northern latitudes.


The natural source of vitamin D is sunlight — but in those long winter months, sunlight is in short supply. Vitamin D supplements can contribute to better well-being throughout the winter, but don’t give up on the sun altogether: spending time outside can also improve your mood [9].


Take a recommended 2,000 IU (international units) dose of vitamin D3 daily, or speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about vitamin D deficiency.


Omega-3


Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and shellfish. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is of importance to mental health in children and adults and the study notes that most contemporary diets are lacking in this acid [10].


Low intake of omega-3 is linked to ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and suicidal ideation. You can take supplements or increase the presence of mackerel, herring, salmon, anchovies and sardines in your diet. Vegetarians can still find omega-3 in chia and flaxseeds.


Chamomile


Chamomile is a classic, calming cup of tea, but this isn’t an old wive’s remedy: there’s science to back it up. Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which binds with brain receptors to decrease anxiety [11].


Chamomile can cause blood thinning, so if you’re on blood thinners or have a heart condition you should consult your doctor before uipping your intake. You can also buy apigenin in supplement form — but I think there’s no better way to take it than with a calming cup of tea.


Valerian root


Valerian root is another supplement that’s gained popularity in tea form. It interacts with the receptors in the brain and can increase the presence of an amino acid called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Valerian has been shown to improve sleep and anxiety [12].


Vitamin B12 


Of. the eight B vitamins, B6 and B12 have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. One study found that a lower blood presence of B12 was linked to higher anxiety levels  [13] while another showed that taking B12 provided a minor improvement in anxiety and depression and B6 intake produced a statistically significant difference [14].


Because plant-based foods don’t contain B12, vegetarians are more likely to suffer from a deficiency. Taking a B vitamin complex multivitamin could help with anxiety.


L-Theanine


L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea (and certain mushrooms), and studies have linked it to aspects of brain function [15]. One randomized trial found that a four-week course of increased L-theanine had a noticeable effect on participants' anxiety scores [16], and had a lower stress response to challenging tasks.


It’s primarily found in green and black tea and can also be purchased in supplement form, which usually starts at around 200mg.


Ashwagandha


Ashwagandha is the Sanskrit word for Withania somnifera, a shrub found across Africa, Europe and especially Asia. It has a long, historical use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, and Western studies have found it reduces subjective stress and anxiety levels [17]. It has also been shown to reduce fatigue and improve sleep.


These studies found that a dose of 500 to 600 mg/day has the greatest effect on sleep and anxiety.


Wrapping Up


If you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder, then examining your lifestyle could make a big difference. Trying yoga or meditation, improving your sleeping habits and experimenting with supplements could ease your anxiety.


But don’t put too much pressure on yourself. While these tips can help, you should remember you’re not alone. Reach out to friends and family for support, talk to your local doctor, or try oVRcome’s self-guided program for social anxiety today.


References:


  1. Grajek M, Krupa-Kotara K, Białek-Dratwa A, Sobczyk K, Grot M, Kowalski O, Staśkiewicz W. Nutrition and mental health: A review of current knowledge about the impact of diet on mental health. Front Nutr. 2022 Aug 22;9:943998. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.943998. PMID: 36071944; PMCID: PMC9441951.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Firth J, Gangwisch J E, Borsini A, Wootton R E, Mayer E A. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ 2020; 369 :m2382 doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382

  4. Dobersek U, Teel K, Altmeyer S, Adkins J, Wy G, Peak J. Meat and mental health: A meta-analysis of meat consumption, depression, and anxiety. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2023;63(19):3556-3573. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2021.1974336. Epub 2021 Oct 6. PMID: 34612096.

  5. Repova K, Baka T, Krajcirovicova K, Stanko P, Aziriova S, Reiter RJ, Simko F. Melatonin as a Potential Approach to Anxiety Treatment. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 19;23(24):16187. doi: 10.3390/ijms232416187. PMID: 36555831; PMCID: PMC9788115

  6. King D.E., Mainous A.G., 3rd, Geesey M.E., Woolson R.F. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 2005;243:166–171.

  7. Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 26;9(5):429. doi: 10.3390/nu9050429. PMID: 28445426; PMCID: PMC5452159.

  8. Akpınar Ş, Karadağ MG. Is Vitamin D Important in Anxiety or Depression? What Is the Truth? Curr Nutr Rep. 2022 Dec;11(4):675-681. doi: 10.1007/s13668-022-00441-0. Epub 2022 Sep 13. PMID: 36097104; PMCID: PMC9468237.

  9. Pearson DG, Craig T. The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Front Psychol. 2014 Oct 21;5:1178. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178. PMID: 25374550; PMCID: PMC4204431.

  10. DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH. The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 4;12(8):2333. doi: 10.3390/nu12082333. PMID: 32759851; PMCID: PMC7468918.

  11. Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep. 2010 Nov 1;3(6):895-901. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2010.377. PMID: 21132119; PMCID: PMC2995283.

  12. Yuan CS, Mehendale S, Xiao Y, Aung HH, Xie JT, Ang-Lee MK. The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity. Anesth Analg. 2004 Feb;98(2):353-358. doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000096189.70405.A5. PMID: 14742369.

  13. Aleksandar A. Todorov et al., Correlation between Depression and Anxiety and the Level of Vitamin B12 in Patients with Depression and Anxiety and Healthy Controls, Sciendo, p140 - 145, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1515/jbcr-2017-0023

  14. Durrani D, Idrees R, Idrees H, Ellahi A. Vitamin B6: A new approach to lowering anxiety, and depression? Ann Med Surg (Lond). 2022 Sep 15;82:104663. doi: 10.1016/j.amsu.2022.104663. PMID: 36268413; PMCID: PMC9577631.

  15. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8. PMID: 18296328.

  16. Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, Ishida I, Yasukawa Z, Ozeki M, Kunugi H. Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 3;11(10):2362. doi: 10.3390/nu11102362. PMID: 31623400; PMCID: PMC6836118.

  17. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for the treatment and enhancement of mental and physical conditions: A systematic review of human trialsexternal link disclaimer. Journal of Herbal Medicine 2021;28:100434.

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