Vitamins For Stress: Natural Solutions To Lower Anxiety
By Abigail Boyd
Updated May 28, 2020
Reviewer Aaron Dutil
Anxiety and chronic stress can hurt our lives if not managed properly. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness diagnosed in the United States, affecting people of all ages and economic levels. Whether you experience social anxiety, work-related stress, panic attacks, or any other anxiety-related condition, you know how much they can affect your mental and physical health.
Luckily, anxiety responds well to treatment in most cases, and many options have proven effective for managing it. These include therapy, relaxation techniques, support groups, and medications. Medications such as SSRIs can help some people manage their anxiety, but not everyone wants to take anti-stress pills. Others may have found them to be ineffective or to have unbearable side effects.
For some people, certain vitamins and supplements for anxiety and stress can help manage their symptoms and allow them to lead a more fulfilling and productive life. Natural supplements for anxiety and stress generally have less risk for side effects than prescription medications, although it can take some trial and error to find the right vitamin or supplement for each person.
Anxiety And Stress: Vitamins That Might Help
Scientists have discovered that proper nutrition and digestive health plays a critical role in not only our physical health but our mental health. In this busy day and age, many people eat in a way that is less than ideal, leaving them with deficiencies in important vitamins. This can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and leave you vulnerable to the negative impact of stress. Vitamin deficiencies are extremely common and are often not found until a routine blood test reveals the deficiency.
Anxiety symptoms caused by a vitamin deficiency are your body's way of sending warning signals. If you have a deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals, supplementation may help you lower your stress levels and improve symptoms of anxiety, such as heart palpitations, muscle tension, and panic attacks. Your doctor can screen you for many vitamin deficiencies with a simple blood test. Depending on the area where you are deficient, they can recommend appropriate supplements, either by prescription or over the counter.
The following are a list of suggested vitamins and mineral deficiencies that can contribute to symptoms of physical stress and anxiety.
- Information: Magnesium is an essential mineral that is used by the body for many functions, including the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Unfortunately, the typical American diet can often lead to magnesium deficiency. It's estimated that around half of the US population consumes less than the recommended amount of magnesium needed for proper body functioning. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, and a low mood, as well as anxiety in some people.
- Research: A fair amount of research has been performed on the association between magnesium deficiency and anxiety. While higher-quality, controlled trials are needed for a conclusive determination, it appears that magnesium supplementation can improve anxiety symptoms for certain patients.
- Dose: 400 mg is an average starting dose. Magnesium can also be found in foods such as almonds, bananas, leafy green vegetables, and avocados.
- Information: B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin used by the body to create DNA, maintain nerve health, make red blood cells, and in many other functions. B-12 is another essential vitamin, meaning that cannot be created by the body and needs to be taken in either via food or a supplement. B-12 deficiency is fairly common, especially in older adults and those with poor diets.
- Research: Vitamin B-12 plays a part in the synthesis of neurochemicals in the brain. A deficiency of B-12 may contribute to depression as well as anxiety. An association between low levels of B-12 and folic acid was found among patients with these conditions. B-12 is critical for energy so that supplements may give your energy levels a boost.
- Dose: The recommended dose of vitamin B-12 is 2.4 mcg per day. Vitamin B-12 is also present in foods including chicken, turkey, fish, dairy products, and fortified cereals.
- Information: Vitamin D plays an integral part in the central nervous system. A deficiency in vitamin D has been shown to contribute to symptoms of anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is because most of the vitamin D that is synthesized by the body is absorbed from direct sunlight. Being tired all the time despite getting enough sleep can also be a sign of a vitamin D deficiency.
- Research: Research has shown an association between low levels of vitamin D and anxiety in men and women. One study showed vitamin D supplementation to reduce anxiety symptoms in female patients with type 2 diabetes.
- Starting Dose: The amount of Vitamin D you should supplement depends on several factors. If you live in a sunny climate all year round, stepping outside each day may be all you need to regulate your levels. For those that are critically deficient or live in an area with a significant amount of cloudy weather, supplementation of 1500 each day is a typical dose.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Information: Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are present in fish oils. Much attention has been given to Omega-3s in the last decade about mood disorders and conditions such as ADHD.
- Research: Deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids are often found in patients with mental disorders, although this may be a correlation, as many mental disorders cause decreased appetite. A meta-analysis of current research found evidence that omega-3 supplementation may be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.
- Starting Dose: 1-2 grams of omega-3s is the suggested starting dose. Omega-3s can also be obtained from many types of fish.
Supplements For Stress
In addition to correcting vitamin deficiencies to improve your stress levels, there are also supplements that can be used for stress. As supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may cause interactions with any medications you're taking, it's imperative to be cautious when attempting to add them to your stress treatment plan. Work with your doctor to determine which supplements may be right for you.
- Information: L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea leaves. It's commonly used by those looking to lower their anxiety because it provides a calming but not sedating effect. L-Theanine is often combined with caffeine to produce a synergistic effect.
- Research: The anti-anxiety properties of l-Theanine has been well-documented by scientists. Administration of l-Theanine has been shown to activate alpha brain waves for calm focus, as well as increasing the activity of the soothing neurotransmitter GABA.
- Starting Dose: L-Theanine is typically taken in doses of 50-200 mg, and effects are noted 30-45 minutes after administration. The same dose may be taken up to three times a day.
- Information: Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt more effectively to stressful conditions. In simple terms, adaptogens fine-tune the body's stress response and alleviate negative ramifications. This herb has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine to manage stress and anxiety. It provides a calming effect that relaxes the body, especially when taken in the short-term. Side-effects such as headaches and stomach upset have been reported for some users.
- Research: Ashwagandha has been the subject of many studies, including those for patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, mimic the effect of GABA, and improve glucose metabolism.
- Starting Dose: 250 mg a day is a typical starting dose. Ashwagandha has been studied as effective for up to two months, although benefits may decline after that.
- Information: Rhodiola Rosea is another type of adaptogen that may be helpful for some people experiencing stress and anxiety symptoms. Rhodiola is an herb, also known as artic root, which has been used for centuries in Eastern countries to treat depression and anxiety. Like Ashwagandha, consuming Rhodiola may reduce anxious feelings and allow you to better adapt to stressful situations.
- Research: Several studies have found Rhodiola supplements to have a beneficial effect on stress. In one study that involved four weeks of daily supplementation, significant improvements in stress symptoms were observed after only three days that continued throughout the study. Rhodiola is generally well-tolerated, and side effects are rare.
- Starting Dose: 200 mg once or twice a day has shown to have a therapeutic effect for some individuals.
Treating Stress And Anxiety With Therapy
Correcting nutritional deficiencies and supplementing with beneficial compounds can be an effective way of managing stress and anxiety. Sometimes, however, you may need additional support. If you're having trouble getting a handle on your stress and anxiety, it may be time to turn to a professional therapist for assistance.
BetterHelp offers online therapy that is affordable and accessible, no matter where you are or how packed your schedule is. BetterHelp will connect you with a professional therapist that has experience in the areas in which you're struggling, whether it's family issues, work-related struggles, or relationship troubles. The right therapist can be an invaluable source of support in helping you develop healthy ways to cope with the difficulties you may be facing.