One minute you can be lying in bed without a care in the world thinking about your day ahead of you and the next minute, your mind is convinced that today is the day that you will get a flat, you’ll get to work late and you will for sure be fired on the spot. Your chest hurts and you can’t breathe. Anxiety can feel overwhelming and come out of the blue without any warning.
Luckily for us, there are many techniques that can help us reduce and overcome anxiety, one category is the use of supplements to help reduce, manage and treat anxiety. In this article we will take a look at the best supplements for anxiety.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid also known as GABA is a neurotransmitter as well as amino acid and functions as a chemical messenger. GABA is considered to be an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it can block and inhibit certain signals in your brain and can reduce activity in your nervous system.
GABA attaches itself to a protein called a GABA receptor, when this is done it produces a calming effect that can help reduce anxiety, fear, stress as well as seizures.
Studies have also shown that individuals with anxiety have a low level of GABA, by supplementing with GABA, it can help replenish these levels and helps reduce anxiety, so a win-win situation.
GABA is found in a few food sources such as kimchi and miso, not always the most popular food sources. However no need to fret, GABA is also found in the form of supplements and has been a popular supplement in the use of alleviating anxiety (1).
A herbal household treatment for anxiety, passionflower has been shown to help promote positive moods, improve sleep quality and can reduce nervousness. This herb is commonly used in the form of extracts or tablets in teas or tinctures and can be combined with additional calming herbs such as valerian root and lemon balm.
Studies have shown that passion flower can be as effective as the drug oxazepam however it can take longer to elicit effects compared to oxazepam and can be used to reduce anxiety in patients undergoing surgery.
So how does this herb work? Passionflower is believed to work by increasing the levels of GABA in the brain thus helping to invoke a feeling of calmness (2).
NAC for anxiety is a common use of NAC, also known as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) ; it is a supplemental form of cysteine and has been shown to have numerous benefits including the management of anxiety.
NAC is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce free radical damage and improve longevity as well as wellness.
Glutamate is a building block for glutathione and is required for normal brain activity. An excess in Glutamate and a deficiency in glutathione can cause damage to the brain resulting in psychiatric symptoms such as depression, OCD and anxiety.
NAC works by inhibiting the glutamate receptors thus reducing levels and helps to boost glutathione levels, this helps to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety (3).
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves and also in supplemental form. Its chemical structure makes it able to cross the blood brain barrier quickly after consumption.
Once across the blood brain barrier, it can up regulate the inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA and can modulate serotonin and dopamine in the brain. This has been shown to have anti-stress effects thus helping to relieve anxiety (4).
Studies have found that L-Theanine with a dosage of 50-200mg exerts a calming effect that can last from 8-10 hours (5).
Our gut has been dubbed the ‘second brain’ and for good reason, the bacteria in our gut has been shown to positively affect our mood as well as brain function.
Not all bacteria however can be beneficial for us, our gut is lined with bacteria, good and bad bacteria. With the stresses of life, antibiotics and illness like COVID, our good bacteria can reduce. As the beneficial bacteria decreases, it can result in mental health symptoms such as anxiety.
Supplemental probiotics can help replenish our gut, providing beneficial bacteria. They also have the ability to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA and acetylcholine. It has been found that individuals with anxiety can have a deficiency in these neurotransmitters by supplementing with probiotics, it can naturally help improve these levels thus helping to relieve anxiety.
Additional ways probiotics can help relieve anxiety is by improving inflammation and exerting beneficial effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Chronic inflammation as well as a dysfunctional HPA axis has been found to be underlying causes of anxiety (6).
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B complex refers to a family of water soluble vitamins which includes Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. These vitamins have multiple benefits such as providing energy, maintaining healthy nerves, growth of the red blood cells as well as brain function.
These vitamins all play important roles in our mental health and a deficiency can result in anxiety. The B vitamins that are crucial in mental health include; Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Folic Acid and Vitamin B12
Niacin, plays an important role in synthesizing serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that has been shown to help anxiety. Pantothenic acid supports the adrenal glands and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Folic acid together with vitamin B12 can help to balance out depressive moods.
These vitamins are water soluble, meaning they are excreted through our urine, this means that toxicity from supplementation is rare and it also means we need to take these in daily otherwise a deficiency can occur.
Supplementing with the B vitamins can improve our levels and help to reduce any anxiety symptoms we may be experiencing. All in all, this complex can be a serious mood booster (7).
With so many treatments and supplements out there claiming to cure your anxiety it can be tricky to choose one and also where do you start? If you feel a little lost, that’s ok.
Chatting to a healthcare provider may help point you in the right direction, especially if you have chronic illness or on chronic meds as there could be possible interactions with these supplements.
A healthcare provider would also be able to run additional blood tests to see if there is a nutrient deficiency, this will help provide you with more targeted treatment.
The nice thing about supplements is that there are many available with so many studies being done on the safety and efficacy of them that there is bound to be one that will help you find your zen.
Daniel Louwrens has 10 years of experience in the bodybuilding & fitness world as a Certified Personal Trainer. He has graduated with a degree in Chemistry, and he aims to educate people who have questions about anything and everything fitness: Training, Nutrition, Recovery, and PED’s.
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