Are you feeling stressed out frequently? If yes, your health could suffer. Increased levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol, can worsen immunity, worsen inflammation, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Chronic stress can immensely affect all facets of your health, including headaches, type 2 diabetes, and even anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
According to the World Health Organisation, in 2019, 301 million people, including 58 million children and teenagers, suffered from an anxiety illness. And things only got worse during the pandemic. Aside from tried-and-true methods like a balanced diet, lots of exercise, rest, and mental health support, you should also consider adding dietary supplements to your toolbox.
Do Anxiety Supplements Really Work?
The simple answer is: they can, and it largely depends on the root cause, the anxiety degree, and how you use them. It’s always a good idea to consult your health provider before incorporating any supplements into your diet or looking into alternative therapies.
Traditional therapy can be significantly helpful, but some people who struggle with anxiety might discover that it doesn’t always work as well as they’d like. The estimations are that over 50% of patients who receive standard medications for generalised anxiety disorder won’t benefit from first-line therapy, including antidepressants. Antidepressants may cause some people to avoid or quit taking them due to side effects like weariness, headaches, weight gain, and loss of libido.
To find therapeutic relief, about 40% of people with moderate mental discomfort, which frequently includes anxiety, claim they use complementary and alternative medicine techniques, including supplements.
How to Choose Supplements for Anxiety and Stress
You must consider some crucial factors when looking for effective anxiety supplements such as ingredient quality and dosage. Take your time to research and opt for products that have undergone independent testing. It’s critical to choose vitamins from reputable manufacturers because the FDA doesn’t regulate them in the same manner that it does drugs.
In addition, bear the following in mind when looking for stress-relieving products:
• Intended result. Does stress interfere with your sleep or concentration? Look for a product designed to address your unique problems. Rhodiola and L-theanine are better options for focus and productivity, while melatonin may aid with sleep.
• Price. Knowing how much you’ll spend each month is crucial, especially if you want to take supplements for a long time.
• Professional assistance. Before using supplements, speak with your doctor. They can advise you on which goods to buy, order blood tests, or examine your food to determine whether you lack any necessary nutrients that may impact your stress levels.
• Drug interactions. If you already take prescription or over-the-counter medications, seeing a healthcare expert before taking any new anxiety supplements is vital because some ingredients can interfere with pharmaceuticals.
What Supplements Are Best for Stress and Anxiety?
Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry and Indian ginseng, has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine. It is considered an adaptogen, believed to combat disease and regulate stress effects on the body.
This herb shows some evidence of reducing stress and anxiety and may aid in improving sleep. Studies involving stressed but healthy adults indicated that ashwagandha intake led to decreased anxiety, depression, and stress levels. Participants also reported better sleep and reduced stress than those who took a placebo. However, due to the small sample sizes of these studies, there are no significant results.
L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, is believed to have a relaxing effect and offers various health benefits. It may help lower stress and improve focus, memory, and verbal ability. Studies have shown positive results, including improvements in sleep problems, depression, and anxiety, in individuals who took L-theanine supplements. It can also reduce stress and anxiety in people exposed to stressful conditions.
You can get L-theanine by brewing tea, such as green, black, white, or oolong. However, the amounts of L-theanine in tea are much lower than those used in research studies. Supplementation is recommended in capsules, liquids, or powders to get the desired dose of L-theanine used in stress research.
Magnesium is essential for numerous bodily functions, such as nerve and muscle function, protein synthesis, and bone health. Some research suggests that magnesium supplements may be beneficial for mild anxiety. But the quality of the evidence is low, and further research is needed to establish magnesium as a stress reducer.
Various foods, including green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and fortified foods, have magnesium. However, many individuals don’t get the proper amount of magnesium. The recommended daily intake ranges from 310 to 320 mg for most women, 400 to 420 mg for men, and up to 350 mg in supplement form. Magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, or chloride are more absorbent than magnesium oxide or sulphate. Consider the magnesium content of laxatives and antacids if taken alongside supplements.
Vitamin D is vital for regulating mood and supporting nerve and brain health. Studies have indicated a connection between vitamin D levels and depression, suggesting that vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial in treating the condition. Some research suggests a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety disorders. A study in 2017 showed that vitamin D supplements improved depression and anxiety symptoms in women with type 2 diabetes.
However, research on the relationship between anxiety and vitamin D has yielded mixed results, emphasising the need for further investigations to explore this association. The body synthesises vitamin D through sunlight exposure on the skin. Increasing sun exposure, consuming vitamin D-rich foods like oily fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel), or taking vitamin D supps can help raise vitamin D levels.
Vegetarian or vegan diets may provide limited sources of vitamin D, as few plant foods contain significant amounts. Therefore, individuals following these diets may struggle to obtain sufficient vitamin D through diet alone. Vitamin D is unlikely to interact with anti-anxiety medications but may interfere with other prescription drugs.
Vitamin B Complex
The vitamin B complex is a group of eight nutrients that regulate various bodily processes, including stress management. Research in 2017 revealed a link between lower blood levels of vitamin B12 and a higher likelihood of experiencing depression or anxiety.
Furthermore, a study conducted in 2018 demonstrated that individuals who consumed foods rich in B vitamins, particularly yeast-based spreads like Marmite and Vegemite, exhibited better anxiety and stress scores than those who did not consume such foods. The effect was more significant when fortified with vitamin B12.
Taking a B-complex product can be beneficial to ensure an adequate intake of all B vitamins. In general, a varied and nutritious diet can provide sufficient B vitamins. However, specific B vitamins, such as B12 and B2 (riboflavin), are primarily found in animal-based foods. Hence, individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets may need alternative sources to obtain these nutrients. It’s important to note that vitamin B supplements are typically safe to use alongside anxiety medications, but they may interfere with other prescription medications.