The Best Vitamins That Help With Anxiety
By: Dylan Buckley
Updated May 11, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Christine Clawley
When we think about anxiety treatments, we usually think about prescription medications that may come with their fair share of unwanted side effects and strong interactions with the body. Very few people know that there may be natural ways to help alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms. Although not as strong as prescription medications (which may be necessary for some individuals), vitamins and supplements have proven effective for some people and may be a great option for you.
Supplements are not meant to replace medications or psychological treatment, but they can be used in conjunction with these treatments to support your long-term health. In this article, we'll talk about some of the vitamins and supplements that might be helpful to you if you suffer from anxiety. However, if you're currently taking medication or have any other health concerns, you should consult with your doctor or psychiatrist before taking vitamins or supplements as this article is not intended as medical advice.
Vitamins that Help with Anxiety
If you eat a modern diet, you probably have some kind of mineral or vitamin deficiencies. This not only impacts your health, but it also impacts your emotional and psychological wellbeing. There are many factors at play here, including poor diet, lack of absorption of minerals and vitamins, or even soil depletion. Read on to learn about the vitamins you may want to add to your diet.
Vitamins A, C, and E
Individuals who experience anxiety sometimes lack appropriate amounts of the antioxidants vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, and vitamin E. Research has shown that supplementing with vitamins A, C, and E can help reduce anxiety. In fact, one study revealed that people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder have significantly lower levels of these vitamins. After supplementing with these antioxidants for six weeks, patients experienced a reduction in symptoms.
Antioxidants like these can be ingested by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A-rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, broccoli, butter/ghee, and egg yolks. The upper limit of vitamin A is 3,000 ug per day, and the recommended daily dose is between 900 ug and 700 ug.
Vitamin C rich foods include cantaloupe, citrus fruits, kiwis, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and watermelon. The recommended daily dose of vitamin C is between 65 mg and 90 mg a day with an upper limit of 2,000 mg per day.
Vitamin E rich foods include spinach, almonds, avocado, olive oil, almonds, and sunflower seeds. The recommended daily dose of vitamin E is 200 IU and 400 IU with an upper limit of 1,000 IU for adults.
B vitamins are have also been used to help treat anxiety. In one study, people who suffer from phobias were found to be lacking in these vitamins. Some examples of B vitamins are B1 (or Thiamine), which can control blood sugar, and B3 (or Niacinamide), which is responsible for serotonin synthesis. Both B1 and B3 contribute to energy levels and feelings of improved mood. Pregnant women, older adults, and vegetarians or vegans should also supplement with B12 (or folate), which is usually found in meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood.
In addition, experts recommend that individuals with alcoholism, hypothyroidism, anorexia, celiac disease, cancer, and Crohn's disease should supplement with a B-complex vitamin. One study found that supplementing with a B-complex vitamin led to a significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression. There are also other benefits of taking a B-complex, such as a reduction in stress and improved brain functioning. Should you prefer to make dietary changes, foods that are rich in vitamin B include liver, meat, turkey, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, chilies, legumes, nutritional yeast, and molasses.
Another important vitamin for supporting physical and mental health is vitamin D, which can ease anxiety and improve exercise performance because it lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. The brain, heart, muscles, and immune system all have receptors for vitamin D, which also acts as a hormone. As such, vitamin D helps support the release of neurotransmitters, brain development and functioning, and proper functioning of the immune system.
There are a number of studies that show the impact of low levels of vitamin D. For example, several studies have linked Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to changing levels of vitamin D3 due to reduced exposure to the sun. Furthermore, another study showed that vitamin D deficiencies were linked with anxiety and depression in individuals with Fibromyalgia. Finally, according to studies from Aarhus University in Denmark and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, vitamin D deficiencies are linked with higher rates of Schizophrenia.
It's estimated that 42 percent of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient, so you can safely supplement or ask your doctor to test your levels. The recommended average intake is between 400 IU and 800 IU (10-20 micrograms) per day.
Magnesium deficiencies have also been shown to increase symptoms of anxiety. In addition, magnesium is essential for the health of your brain and nervous system. It creates a sense of calm and relaxation that activates GABA A receptors, which are the same receptors that anti-anxiety medication targets. That's why "8 Nutrients to Help Beat Anxiety" suggests taking 1,000 mg magnesium per day to calm and relax the body. According to Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill, the daily recommended dose is between 320 mg and 420 mg per day. If you combine it with calcium, you'll be able to sleep better at night, which can further decrease anxiety.
Magnesium can also be found in legumes, beef, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, bananas, watermelon, figs, potatoes, and green beans. The recommended daily dose of magnesium is between 200 mg and 350 mg.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in fish oil. They act as an anti-inflammatory that eases both anxiety and depression. One study found that, in substance abusers who were given high doses of EPA (2 grams or more per day), there was a significant reduction in anxiety. In another study, individuals without anxiety or depression found that their ability to handle stress improved with supplementation with EPA, as did their mood.
Research also suggests that inflammation can increase anxiety. Increasing one's Omega-3 intake and decreasing Omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) intake, which leads to inflammation, has a similar effect of decreasing anxiety and boosting overall mood. A 2011 study entitled "Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial" demonstrated that healthy individuals who supplemented with Omega-3 experienced a significant reduction in anxiety.
Foods rich in Omega 3 fats include mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, caviar, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans. While there is some debate, most organizations recommend between 250 mg and 500 mg of EPA and DHA daily.
L-theanine is actually an amino acid that aids with relaxation and even sleep. According to the article "What you need to know about L-theanine," this amino acid creates changes in the brain by boosting levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which also helps regulate emotions and concentration. In addition, it reduces levels of the chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety. The article also notes that L-theanine triggers alpha brain waves, which are associated with states of meditation, day-dreaming, or engaging in creative tasks.
As an added bonus, L-theanine promotes relaxation without having sedative effects. There's even research indicating that L-theanine can improve sleep quality for children with ADHD and reduce anxiety in individuals diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective disorders. L-theanine can also be combined with caffeine to improve attention span and concentration. Recommended daily doses for sleep and stress are between 100 mg and 400 mg and in combination with caffeine are between 12 mg and 100 mg.
Alternatively, you can increase your L-theanine intake by drinking tea or consuming a species of mushroom called Xerocomus badius. Most adults experience few side effects from L-theanine, but pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and adults with low blood pressure should consult with a physician before using L-theanine because it can interact with stimulant medications and medications for high blood pressure.
Zinc is another important supplement that affects the function of the nervous system and neurotransmitters. Studies have shown a link between zinc deficiency and anxiety, as well as a reduction in symptoms of anxiety with zinc supplementation. Natural sources of zinc include mushrooms, spinach, cashews, pumpkin seeds, beef, beans, and grains. Recommended daily doses of zinc are between 11 mg and 18 mg with an upper limit of 40 mg per day.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Vitamins
Vitamins help make your brain and your body are healthier, so you experience fewer anxiety symptoms, but it's still up to you to do what's necessary to prevent anxiety from taking over your life. In order to get the most out of your vitamins, you have to set yourself up for success by having coping mechanisms on hand and preparing for your anxiety. Here are some useful tips to keep your anxiety in check.
Avoid Certain Foods
Although we recommend certain foods on this list, there are also foods and drinks you need to avoid to better manage your anxiety. Anything that contains caffeine or alcohol, for example, can cause your anxiety levels to rise and put you at risk for panic attacks and other symptoms. Make sure to avoid these products as much as possible, so that you don't counteract the helpful benefits of a healthy diet and supplementation.
Have Relaxation Techniques on Hand
What's the opposite of anxiety? Relaxation! When you feel anxious on a regular basis, you'll want to make sure that you have plenty of relaxation techniques to rely on. Whether you use stress balls, meditation recordings, or deep-breathing exercises, having a host of ways to relax when you feel stressed and anxious will make it easier to get through your days.
Supplementing Vitamins With Counseling
If you're still struggling with anxiety, vitamins can help to reduce the severity of your symptoms, but therapy is still the most important treatment you can receive because it will allow you to work through the underlying issues and learn helpful coping mechanisms. To that end, BetterHelp can help you find a licensed counselor to support you.
BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that connects you with certified therapists and simplifies the counseling process. When you're ready to get started, all you have to do is to answer a short questionnaire on their website, so you can find the licensed therapist most suited for your needs. Then, you can join therapy sessions from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.
"Jillian has helped me build confidence in my ability to communicate my needs and emotions. Her guidance has significantly improved my stress and anxiety management and has overall increased my quality of life."
"Kari has been warm, humorous and helpful to me these last few months. I've noticed a difference in the way I handle my anxiety and in my depression. I have some helpful tools to continue using and am thankful for Kari's care and advice."
Even if your symptoms are severe, anxiety treatment doesn't have to be unpleasant. If you suffer from anxiety and are concerned about the potential side effects of prescription medication, you might find relief in the supplements discussed in this article. However, be sure to talk about your options with a medical professional before taking something new. A fulfilling life beyond anxiety is truly possible -- all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.
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