was successfully added to your cart.

Cart

When I first started researching anxiety, I was keen to know whether there was a more natural approach I could take – for example taking vitamins for anxiety – rather than taking medication. 

I know I’m not alone as it is becoming increasingly popular to look for alternative ways to improve mental health. However there is a lot of conflicting and non-evidence based information out there. I wanted to put out this article on vitamins for anxiety to help break through the fog of information.

I’m only going to present the 7 vitamins for anxiety and 3 nutrients for anxiety that have been proven to actually work, as well as the research and the links to the studies so you can make up your own mind. 

Many people believe that vitamins and nutrition are key to improving anxiety symptoms. This is because a lack of certain vitamins and nutrients has been linked to anxiety.  So it seems to make sense that ensuring an adequate amount of these vitamins and nutrients should have the opposite effect and decrease anxiety symptoms.  

Whilst any treatment for anxiety needs to take into account the entire person – mind as well as body – it does seem likely that if you are deficient in a particular vitamin, it’s likely that adding this to your diet could decrease your anxiety symptoms. 

A lack of certain vitamins and nutrients has been linked to anxiety.  So it makes sense that ensuring an adequate amount of these should have the opposite effect and decrease anxiety symptoms.

Should I take vitamin supplements for anxiety?

It may not be necessary to take any supplementation if you are eating a balanced diet and know which foods to eat to combat stress and anxiety.

I would recommend getting your vitamins from a healthy diet rather than from supplements. However, if you know that your diet is lacking in certain nutrients, or that you have a deficiency, it may be helpful to supplement whilst you get your nutrition back on track.

Some supplements can interact with other medications, especially in high doses so talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

So which are the vitamins for anxiety that we should look out for?

Below I’ve listed the vitamins and nutrients that have been linked to anxiety, the research and some natural sources.

vitamins for anxiety

Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C and E

Eating adequate quantities of antioxidants are thought reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. This is because antioxidants help to fight free-radicals. 

Free radicals

Free radicals are produced as a by-product of the normal metabolic processes in the human body (plus other, environmental pressures such as natural and artificial radiation, toxins in the air, food and water; and miscellaneous sources of oxidizing activity, such as tobacco smoke).

Free radicals are electronically unstable atoms or molecules that take electrons from other molecules in an effort to achieve stability. When they do this they create even more unstable molecules that then attack their neighbours in domino-like chain reactions. By the time a free radical chain fizzles out, it may have ripped through vital components of cells causing extensive cell damage (which leads to accelerated ageing).

When there is a disturbance in the balance of free radicals and antioxidants, it is called oxidative stress. Stress and anxiety are linked with increased oxidative damage. 

The brain may be more prone to this type of damage than other areas of the body. As a result, it needs a good way to neutralise these free radicals and avoid problems. Foods rich in antioxidants are believed to neutralise free radicals by donating electrons to them and cutting off the chain reactions early in their course.

A recent study showed that people with anxiety and depression had lower levels of antioxidants in their system than the control group. After increasing the levels of antioxidants in those with anxiety and depression for 6 weeks, the study showed a significant reduction in their anxiety and depression scores.

What this study shows, is that ensuring an adequate quantity of antioxidants in the system can be a helpful add-on therapy for those experiencing anxiety and/or depression. 

Sources

Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants and are great vitamins for anxiety. Foods which are rich in these are:

Orange or yellow fruit and vegetables such as: carrots, sweet potato, apricots, rockmelon. Dark fruits and berries, for example: blueberries, cherries, grapes, prunes, goji berries.

Tomatoes contain a pigment called lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant. Tomatoes in all their forms are a major source of lycopene, including tomato products like canned tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato juice and even ketchup. Lycopene is also highly concentrated in watermelon.

It’s always better to eat the fruit or vegetable whole in its natural form, (rather than juicing) because some of the potency is lost when the juice is extracted.

Ensuring an adequate quantity of antioxidants in the system can be a helpful add-on therapy for those experiencing anxiety

B Vitamins: B6, B9 and B12

Deficiencies in vitamin B are linked to panic attacks, anxiety and depression. In particular deficiencies in B6, B9 and B12. 

Vitamin B9

Also known as folate, Vitamin B6 may help to decrease the risk of depression. It helps to prevent the build-up of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain. 

Excess homocysteine can also interfere with the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Usually increasing your natural folate intake from plant based sources fixes the problem.

Sources of B9 (folate) vitamins for anxiety

Dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, avocado, brussel sprouts, citrus fruit.

Vitamin B6

It is possible that Vitamin B6 may help to reduce anxiety symptoms. Vitamin B6 synthesizes neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) and amino acids, and cannot be stored in the body.

A Japanese study on women experiencing panic or hyperventilation attacks found that their Vitamin B6 and iron levels were lower than the control group. They found that “a reduction in Vitamin B6 and iron levels can suppress the progression of the serotonin synthesis”. They concluded that “low serum concentrations of vitamin B6 and iron are involved in panic attacks and hyperventilation”. The full study can be read here. 

In addition, a study on monkeys found that an increase in vitamin B6 appeared to increase serotonin levels.

Although these studies show some promise, more research is needed.

Sources of B6 vitamins for anxiety

Chicken, turkey, tuna, prawns, beef liver, cheese, beans, spinach, carrots, brown rice, sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 plays a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to mood problems, including depression and anxiety. It can also affect nerve tissue and memory. 

Several studies have shown that B12 may be helpful for those suffering from depression. One study concluded “The vitamin B12 level and the probability of recovery from major depression may be positively associated”.

There are also a few studies that indicate that low B12 levels are more common than previously believed and may have an effect on mental health even if they don’t reach the point of deficiency.

Vitamin B12 can be difficult to absorb in older adults and those with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s or coeliac disease. Vegetarians and vegans may also have trouble getting enough B12. 

Sources of B12 vitamins for anxiety

Wild salmon, prawns, grass-fed beef, venison, eggs, yogurt.

vitamins for anxiety

Vitamin D

In terms of vitamins for anxiety, Vitamin D is an important one. A deficiency of this vitamin is associated with many mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

It is estimated that as much as half the world have low levels of vitamin D. People with darker skin and people who mostly completely cover up their bodies under the sun are most at risk. 

If you are vitamin D deficient and have anxiety and depression, then you are likely to benefit from correcting that deficiency. Doing that is easy enough as our bodies make vitamin D from the cholesterol in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight.

Many studies show that the body is most efficient at making vitamin D around midday. 

A good general guideline is around 10-15 minutes sun exposure per day. 

Other sources of vitamin D

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel.

A deficiency of Vitamin D is associated with many mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids

In a study posted to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers noted that people that do not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids might have higher rates of depression. Eating omega-3 fatty acids may increase the level of healthy fats available to the brain, keeping the brain working at the highest level. This in turn reduces the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. You can also find good sources of omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, avocado and nuts such as almonds and walnuts.

Zinc and Copper

There have been a few studies showing that individuals with anxiety have higher levels of copper and lower levels of zinc (than the control group). Elevated levels of copper have been associated with women having a history of postpartum depression. There is commonly an inverse relationship between zinc and copper in the body; when a person has elevated copper, their zinc level is low.

These studies suggest that ensuring adequate levels of zinc could work as a therapy for anxiety. Zinc is well known as one of the most important trace elements in the body. Dietary zinc deficiency is associated with anxiety as well as a variety of physiological defects including anorexia, skin lesion, and growth retardation.

Sources of dietary zinc

Oysters contain more zinc than any other food, but red meat and poultry are also good sources, as are crustaceans (particularly crab and lobster) and fortified breakfast cereals.  There’s a moderate content of zinc across lots of different foods so variety in your menu is the key.  Try to include pumpkin seeds, chick peas, yoghurt, milk, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, chicken and cheese.

vitamins for anxiety

Magnesium

Research suggests magnesium could be useful in treating mild to moderate anxiety, anxiety due to PMS, postpartum anxiety, and generalized anxiety. Magnesium is an essential mineral and is used in the human body in more than 300 biochemical reactions.

One study found that magnesium may help with brain functions that reduce stress and anxiety. Magnesium is believed to affect a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which helps to regulate the pituitary and adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for the stress response.

41% of men and 35% of women do not consume adequate amounts of magnesium. 

Sources of magnesium

Dark leafy greens, seeds, beans, fish, whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate, yogurt, avocados, bananas and more.

Other common supplements

There are a few other nutrients/supplements that manufacturers claim to be helpful in combatting anxiety. Many of them, while possible in theory, don’t yet have the scientific evidence to back them up.

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and neurotransmitter, a type of chemical responsible for carrying information from one cell to another. 

There is some evidence that people with depression are more likely to have low levels of GABA.

GABA supplement manufacturers claim that GABA supplements can boost the brain’s GABA levels and therefore treat stress, anxiety and depression. They tend not to contain the neurotransmitter itself but rather they contain substances that help the body produce its own. However there is little research on the health effects of GABA supplements. Furthermore, we have not yet been able to determine if GABA ingested in supplement form can even reach the brain or make any beneficial changes. 

There are a few other nutrients/supplements that manufacturers claim to be helpful in combatting anxiety. Many of them, while possible in theory, don’t yet have the scientific evidence to back them up.

L-theanine and Glutamine

L-theanine and glutamine are amino acids and precursors of GABA. It has been suggested that eating a diet rich in sources of these substances can help the body produce its own calming neurotransmitters. 

L-theanine

L-theanine occurs naturally in the human body. One study found that drinking green or black tea is thought to increase one’s L-theanine levels, relaxing the mind.

Glutamine

Because glutamine increases GABA production, it is thought that glutamine can also help to decrease symptoms of anxiety. However, there is only one clinical study that supports the benefits of glutamine supplementation on anxiety symptoms and therefore there just isn’t enough evidence to prove its benefits. 

Natural sources of glutamine

Broccoli, citrus fruits, whole grains, bananas, spinach, herbal teas, almonds, walnuts and brown rice.

A final word

Whatever it is you decide to do to manage your mental health, adjusting your nutrition to ensure you are eating a healthful diet rich in vitamins and nutrients can only be a good thing.

At The Nurture Project we believe beating stress and anxiety is a skill you can learn. Nutrition is one part of that, along with self care, physical activity, meditation and sleep. 

To find out how severe your anxiety is, take the confidential, 2 minute anxiety test here.

Leave a Reply

Learn the skills to defeat anxiety for good

With our free ebook showing you what you need to feel strong, unafraid and in charge of your life again.