The 6 best vitamins and minerals for easing anxiety
There are many natural supplements for anxiety and alternative treatments that can provide anxiety relief and they now have been receiving more recognition with studies reporting their benefits on mental health.
The management of anxiety should be multi-faceted including not only the appropriate supplements but of course coinciding with optimal nutrition and lifestyle changes which play a powerful role in managing chronic stress and reducing the symptoms of anxiety.
Not only can natural treatments be effective but they also tend to come with minimal adverse effects.
Magnesium is an essential mineral well known for its calming effects that can help to reduce the stress response and aid sleep.
Research supports magnesium in reducing cortisol levels and anxiety symptoms as it can help to improve brain function and regulate neurotransmitters and adrenal gland function (1).
There is now a link associating magnesium status with anxiety levels (2).
Magnesium has been shown to prove helpful in improving sleep quality and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep (3).
Sleep disturbances are common in those experiencing anxiety disorders and trouble with sleep could increase the risk of anxiety disorders (4).
Magnesium is also needed to maintain healthy levels of amino acids like GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
GABA is an amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter that possesses anti-anxiety effects, as it works to reduce nerve excitability. Low levels of GABA are thought to play a role in anxiety and symptoms of depression as well as other mental disorders (5).
GABA may be another worthwhile natural treatment for anxiety and depression to consider due to its antidepressant effects (6)(7).
Magnesium supplements come in different forms and types however for anxiety it is often recommended to choose magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate.
The dose of magnesium will vary but will typically range between 200-600mg per day.
Food sources may include almonds, leafy greens, dairy products, beans, soy, cashews, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and certain fortified foods such as breakfast cereal.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important vitamin and hormone for mental health and mood regulation.
Research suggests vitamin D deficiency may also be linked with mental health issues and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression (8)(9).
For many people vitamin D deficiency is an increased risk factor during the winter months thus it is recommended to test your blood levels of vitamin D to assess your status.
Foods rich in D may include salmon, mushrooms, cod liver oil, herring, sardines, tuna, egg yolks, and milk.
A vitamin D supplement is often needed as it can be challenging to obtain enough through food alone.
Believe it or not calcium also plays a surprisingly important role in anxiety. Calcium is needed for healthy brain function and a deficiency can negatively impact the nervous system and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression (10).
What's important to note is that the body requires vitamin D to maintain optimal calcium levels which means these nutrients work synergistically.
Always verify with your medical professional before taking calcium supplements as they can potentially promote adverse reactions in certain cases (11).
Decreased zinc levels have been associated with increased anxiety and symptoms of stress (12).
This mineral is essential for many body functions including brain function. It is associated with GABA regulation, which we talked about previously has anti-anxiety effects.
Zinc supplementation may play a role in improving anxiety symptoms by increasing zinc plasma levels, raising GABA levels, and decreasing oxidative stress (13)(14).
Oxidative stress has been shown to play a role in anxiety disorders and zinc acts as an antioxidant helping to protect against oxidative stress, a key culprit in many health conditions (15).
Iron is an important mineral for brain health and is involved in emotional regulation.
Low iron can interfere with GABA levels, result in poor brain myelination and promote feelings of anxiety. Human studies now link anxiety-driven behaviors to poor iron status (16).
Supplementing iron to correct anemia has been shown to improve anxiety levels in students who took a multivitamin that included this mineral (17).
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, especially among women. For this reason and the important role this mineral plays in health it's worthwhile to get your levels tested on a regular basis.
6. B vitamins
The B vitamins are essential for optimal function of the adrenal glands as well as brain health (18).
B vitamins can help to regulate stress levels and reduce levels of stress hormones while having a number of positive effects on mood (19).
These vitamins play a role in neurotransmitter regulation and the production of brain chemicals. They are also important for the nervous system.
Lack of these natural vitamins can potentially promote mental stress.
B complex supplements provide a blend of the B vitamins together to help you cover all of your bases.
Research has found that supplementation with a B complex was able to significantly improve mental health quality and even depression (20).
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA which both play a significant role in mood regulation (21).
Low levels of vitamin B6 can alter mood states even promoting anxiety and depression while supplementation can help with stress reduction.
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is known to regulate neurotransmitters while reducing stress and supporting energy levels (22). It is also involved in the synthesis of acetylcholine, which helps to support brain function and help us cope with stress. Also known as the anti-stress vitamin, B5 is another B vitamin involved in regulating adrenal function and normal production of cortisol.
It is common to see low levels of vitamin B5 among those chronically stressed.
An important reminder is that B vitamins are more quickly used up by the body during times of stress.
People with anxiety may benefit from a B vitamin supplement and should first discuss with their doctor if it might be a good option for them.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.