Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States every year, making them one of the most common mental health conditions in the country. When left untreated, anxiety disorders can make it difficult to relax, succeed at work, maintain close friendships and participate in fulfilling hobbies.
While there isn’t a direct cure for anxiety, there are many ways to manage symptoms and find more peace in your daily life. If you live with anxiety, one measure you can take to reduce your symptoms is to include supplements and vitamins for anxiety in your diet.
Best Supplements for Anxiety
Taking supplements and vitamins for anxiety relief can address the three most significant biological factors that contribute to anxiety and panic attacks: serotonin deficiency, low vitamin B6 levels and low iron levels. When combined with methods like talk therapy, building a strong social support system, meditation, journaling and prescription medications (if necessary), supplements can correct many of these biological factors and provide relief from many of the most severe symptoms of anxiety.
Some of the best supplements and vitamins for anxiety include:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and neurotransmitter located in the brain that is crucial to serotonin production. Because serotonin is one of the nervous system’s most powerful, “feel-good” neurotransmitters, GABA plays a significant role in mood regulation and relaxation.
How to use it: While many vitamins improve anxiety by affecting GABA levels in the brain, GABA can also be consumed directly through supplements to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Passionflower is a calming herb commonly used as a household treatment for anxiety. Its been shown to promote positive moods, improve sleep quality and alleviate nervousness.
How to use it: Passionflower can be consumed as an extract and tablet, or added into teas and tinctures.
3. Valerian Root
Valerian root has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes since the time of ancient Greece. While valerian root is commonly known as a sleep aid, this herb can also be helpful for reducing anxiety. Once ingested, valeric acids found within the herb convert to calming, “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the body, regulating stress and relaxing the body and mind.
How to use it: Valerian root extract is available in both capsule and liquid form. It is also available as a tea.
4. Licorice Root
People enjoy licorice root for its sweet taste and it’s traditionally used in many candies and beverages. However, this herb also carries many health benefits for people with anxiety because of the effects it has on the adrenal glands. Within the body, the adrenal glands produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Licorice helps regulate the production of these hormones, buffeting the body’s defenses against stress and reducing anxiety symptoms. Licorice root can also soothe gastrointestinal upset, which is common in many people with anxiety.
How to use it: Most modern-day drinks and candies that claim to contain licorice only contain licorice flavoring, which doesn’t provide the same nutritional benefits as licorice root. It’s best to consume licorice in an extracted, purified form. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is the safest and most effective variety of medicinal licorice root available. DGL is sold in capsule, powder, tea and chewable tablet forms.
For centuries, Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to combat the effects of aging, improve energy and reduce anxiety. In natural medicine, the root is considered to be an “adaptogen,” or a compound that helps regulate the body’s natural processes and promote overall wellness and health. Today, many people use Ashwagandha to improve mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.
How to use it: While the benefits of Ashwagandha are gained by eating the fruit, seeds and shoots of the plant it is derived from, Ashwagandha is most commonly consumed in capsule form.
Also referred to as “golden root,” Rhodiola has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese and Siberian medicine. Like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola is considered to be an adaptogen, meaning that it promotes physical and mental health while improving mood and resilience to stress.
How to use it: Rhodiola is typically taken in capsule form. However, it is also available in extracts and teas.
Natural Vitamins for Anxiety
It’s a well-established scientific fact that what you eat can dramatically impact your mood. Nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate mental health disorders, while a nutritionally complete diet can help alleviate symptoms. Certain natural vitamins — or vitamins obtained by consuming whole foods — are thought to have particularly positive effects on anxiety. While most natural vitamins also exist in supplement form, they’re more effectively absorbed by the body when ingested by eating whole foods.
Some of the most common natural vitamins for anxiety include:
7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids which make up the basic building blocks of the brain and nervous system. These acids are essential for cognitive functioning and have also been shown to improve symptoms of depression, which is often closely linked with anxiety disorders.
Foods that have them: These brain-boosting amino acids are found in a wide variety of fish species, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines and anchovies.
Probiotics are microorganisms known for their benefits to digestive health. However, recent research has revealed that probiotics can also have a profound impact on mental health. A healthy balance of bacteria in the body can boost the body’s ability to cope with stress, improve overall mental health and bolster cognitive functioning.
Foods that have them: Probiotics are found in a wide variety of foods and drinks, particularly those created through fermentation. Some of the most common sources include sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, miso and pickles.
9. B Vitamins
B vitamins are vital to a healthy nervous system functioning. As such, they play a key role in various aspects of mental health, including attention, energy and cognition. They can also have a significant impact on two key aspects of anxiety symptoms: stress management and mood. Because of these benefits, many people incorporate B vitamins into their diet for anxiety.
Foods that have it: While B-complex supplements contain a broad range of essential B vitamins, these key nutrients are also found in a wide variety of foods, including wild salmon, shrimp, tuna, halibut, yogurt, eggs, cheese, lamb, venison, turkey, grass-fed beef, carrots and green, leafy vegetables.
L-theanine is an amino acid that can improve focus, reduce stress and promote relaxation. Research has demonstrated its ability to produce positive effects on mood in humans, and a study conducted in 2018 showed that it had demonstrable anti-anxiety benefits in rats.
Foods that have it: L-theanine can only be found in a few foods and drinks, including black tea, green tea and bay bolete mushrooms.
Vitamins for Panic Attacks
Currently, research on the connection between panic attacks and vitamin deficiencies is limited. However, because panic attacks are often a symptom of an anxiety disorder called panic disorder, incorporating any of the above supplements and vitamins into your diet may help you better manage anxiety that can trigger panic attacks.
While many supplements and vitamins can be beneficial for anxiety, it’s important to check with your doctor before adding them to your diet. Taking this precaution can help prevent any potentially dangerous side effects or drug interactions. Keep in mind that while vitamins for anxiety can be helpful, they are not a substitute for prescription medications or doctor-approved therapies. It is particularly important to speak to a medical professional if your anxiety co-occurs with another mental health condition, such as addiction.
If you or a loved one currently live with co-occurring substance use and anxiety disorders, professional help is available at specialized treatment centers, like The Recovery Village. With locations across the country and a multifaceted approach to mental health care that includes nutritional therapy, The Recovery Village can provide hope and healing to individuals with co-occurring substance use and anxiety disorders. If you’re ready to take the first step toward treatment, reach out to a representative today.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.