Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in Canada, according to the Government of Canada. Yet only 36.9 percent of those suffering receive treatment. That leaves millions of people in need of relief from treatable symptoms. Studies have shown that a lack of some nutrients may contribute to the development of mental disorders and supplementing essential vitamins and minerals can help ease the symptoms of conditions like anxiety. “I always think of supplements as a potential therapeutic intervention,” says Ellen Vora, MD, a holistic psychiatrist. “They can help jump-start the treatment process and play a part along with nutrition, lifestyle, and conventional medication.” Before taking a new supplement, it’s important to speak with your doctor to discuss any possible drug interactions and see if you need a blood test to diagnose deficiencies. But these key nutrients have been shown to quell the symptoms of anxiety. If vitamins and supplements aren’t enough, here are some other ways to manage your anxiety triggers.
This medicinal herb has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce anxiety and stress. It’s also considered an adaptogen—an herb that helps the body overcome the ill effects of stress. Research backs up this supplement’s anxiety-reducing ability. In one study, 64 subjects showed reduced cortisol levels after taking ashwagandha for 60 days. And in another, 88 percent of the subjects reported a reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to just half of those taking a placebo.
Some research suggests that people with anxiety may have low levels of vitamin A or beta carotene. One study found that people taking this antioxidant vitamin felt better, especially if they combined it with vitamins C and E. According to the Harvard Health Blog, being low in antioxidants may up the risk of anxiety. One easy way to avoid a deficiency is to fill your plate with fruits and veggies, which are packed with antioxidants.
The B complex vitamins, a group of nutrients essential to cell metabolism and brain function, can play a role in decreasing anxiety symptoms. You may need a blood test first to see if your levels are actually low, but there is evidence to support the benefits of a daily supplement of B complex vitamins for anxiety. “Many people with anxiety are not getting adequate levels of B vitamins,” says Dr. Vora, “and they could start off with a methylated B complex.”
Experts often recommend this herb as a supplement for anxiety. Research done for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that participants taking chamomile capsules reported a reduction in anxiety symptoms over eight weeks. Some people may have an allergic reaction and there is the potential for chamomile to impact liver function, so have a conversation with your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet. Drinking chamomile tea is also a natural remedy for anxiety relief. Here are other proven natural cures for anxiety.
“Vitamin D has been known to have a significant impact on mental health symptoms,” says Uma Naidoo, MD, Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. But we need sunlight to trigger our body to produce it or to consume it in fortified foods to benefit from this vitamin for anxiety. “It’s an important vitamin so taking a supplement could be helpful especially if you live in the Northeast where there is less sunshine.”
People have used this antioxidant herb to improve memory and improve concentration, and research also indicates that it might be a helpful supplement for anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research reported that subjects who were given ginkgo for four weeks reported significant improvement in their anxiety symptoms over those taking placebo.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lemon balm, a member of the mint family, shows promise in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. Lemon balm has proven to be especially beneficial in aiding people with minor sleep problems when combined with valerian.
An extract from green tea, theanine shows benefits for both anxiety and depression. According to Psychology Today, the amino acid has calming effects due to its impact on dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. The impact can be similar to meditation. Taking it in supplement form can avoid the negative side effects of caffeine.
This amino acid may influence neurotransmitters related to anxiety symptoms. Research has shown that when people deficient in lysine get more through their diet, their anxiety levels drop. Additional research suggests that boosting lysine helped people handle induced stress while balancing their levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. The benefits were strongest when lysine was combined with arginine.
“Magnesium can be transformative for anxiety,” Dr. Vora explains. According to Psychology Today, magnesium plays a role in a host of brain functions, but most notably, it regulates stress hormones in the brain. A chelated supplement is best because your body can more readily absorb this version of the mineral and it’s gentle on the stomach, according to Dr. Vora. In addition to regulating your stress hormones, learn more about the benefits of magnesium.
The flowering shrub has a long history in the treatment of anxiety. Patients about to undergo surgery found an extract of passionflower helped relieve their anxiety. And according to University Health News, some research suggests that the herb may be as effective as prescription tranquilizers in easing anxiety symptoms.
Having a balance of healthy gut bacteria can also help your mental health, reports Psychology Today. There is evidence that a probiotic diet and probiotic-rich foods can help reduce anxiety triggered by gut inflammation. Some experts theorize that these beneficial bugs can have a calming effect on overstimulated nerve cells. Here are some foods that are naturally high in probiotics.
Omega-3 fatty acids
“As a supplement for better health and better mood, omega 3s have a lot of data behind them,” Dr. Naidoo says. “And they have been shown to help reduce symptoms of anxiety.” These fats have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain that helps protect it from stress and can reduce anxiety symptoms.
For thousands of years, healers have used this Arctic plant to boost mood and energy levels. As an adaptogen, the herb helps the body resist stress. When students took Rhodiola extract for two weeks, they reported a reduction in anxiety and stress and an overall improvement in mood.
Sometimes called “nature’s valium,” this root has sedative qualities that can reduce anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have demonstrated that valerian root can alleviate anxiety and stress. The herb has a calming effect that may reduce insomnia—another symptom of anxiety.
Caught up with how to reduce anxiety? Next, learn how to let your stress become your strength.