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Anxiety is becoming ever more prevalent and it can totally suck the joy out of life.
But before you reach out for medications to get rid of it, did you know that certain vitamin deficiencies in diet might be worsening or even contributing to your anxiety?
Yes, studies have shown that certain vitamins play a key role in maintaining good mental health. These vitamins for anxiety could offer a completely natural remedy for your anxiety and depression issues.
Moreover, you should think twice before using anti-anxiety medications because it is reported to increase your death risk by 36%. (1)
And satisfying deficiencies of these vitamins for anxiety, naturally through foods or supplements, can conveniently help you manage your anxiety without any further side effects.
Below is a complete guide on everything you need to know about the seven essential vitamins for anxiety and how you can take care of these vitamin needs through your diet or other natural sources.
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Disclaimer : The information provided in this post is not meant to replace professional medical advice. While many supplements are safe to take, always consult a medical professional before consuming supplements and making any changes to your medication/ treatment routine.
A 2012 article published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (2) found patients with severe GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and depression to have a major deficiency of Vitamin A (along with Vitamin C and E). Treatment of these patients with dietary supplementation of the deficient vitamins led to a significant reduction in GAD and depression symptoms.
Vitamin A or retinol plays an important role in our vision, immunity, reproduction and helps organs function properly. It also has antioxidant properties and is a fat-soluble nutrient naturally found in many foods.
Vitamin A are of two types:
One is preformed vitamin A which is found in organ meats (beef or lamb liver), fish (salmon), and dairy products.
Another is provitamins that are found in leafy greens and colored vegetables, fruits and other plant-based products.
The most common type of Vitamin A dietary supplement is beta-carotene that is found in carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, mangos, collard greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, and other orange, red, and dark green fruits and vegetables.
Although Vitamin A deficiency is rare, making sure you’re reaching the recommended daily amount of 700 to 900 mcg (micrograms) (for adults) can prove beneficial in reducing risks of developing cancer, age related vision loss, anxiety disorders and measles (in children). (3)
Note: High intakes of preformed Vitamin A can be harmful, especially for pregnant women.
B Complex Vitamins (B6, B9, B12)
There are eight different types of B complex vitamins : B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B8 (inositol), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin)
All eight of them aid in the functioning of different key enzymes in our body. Out of the eight, Vitamin B6, B9 and B12 are the most notable ones that research attribute to playing an influential role in stress, anxiety and depression. (4)
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine plays an important role in the production of serotonin and GABA, with studies (5, 6) suggesting that a deficiency of Vitamin B6 might lead to increased psychological stress which can be treated with supplementation of pyridoxine that seemed to decrease stressful behaviors and anxiety. Vitamin B6 also supports healthy cognitive functioning, aids in the production of hemoglobin, prevents clogged arteries, and fights inflammation.
Vitamin B9 or folate is another key vitamin that aids in the control of blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Numerous studies (7, 8, 9) have attributed folate deficiency to cause anxiety and depression, and folate combined with Vitamin B12 has been found effective in treatment of depression.
Our body needs Vitamin B12 or cobalamin for the formation of red blood cells, neurons and DNA. It also aids in promoting better bone health and skin, hair and nail health. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked (10, 11, 12) with a higher risk of developing cognitive difficulties, memory loss and psychiatric disorders along with a multitude of other issues (anemia, fatigue, difficulty in walking, numbness, etc.)
All B complex vitamins are extremely essential for our health and well-being and making sure you consume the daily recommended intake can help you lead an active and anti-anxiety lifestyle.
Best sources of Vitamin B6, B9 and B12 are:
Vitamin B6: The recommended daily intake is around 1.3 mg (milligrams) (for adults) and the best sources are meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey), fish (salmon, tuna), chickpeas, whole grain cereals like oatmeal, wheat germ, brown rice, red chili peppers, jalapeno peppers, and potatoes. (15)
Vitamin B9: The recommended daily intake is around 400 mcg (micrograms) (for adults) and the best sources are liver (beef), spinach, cowpeas, asparagus, white rice, brussel sprouts, lettuce, avocado, broccoli, peas, kidney beans, tomato juice, orange juice, turnips, peanuts, eggs, fish (halibut). (16)
Vitamin B12: The recommended daily intake is around 2.4 mcg (micrograms) (for adults) and the best sources are clams, liver (beef) and fish(trout, salmon, tuna). (17)
You can also pick up avocados and almonds as they pack in almost every essential B vitamin.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is one of the most popular antioxidants that is associated with anxiety, stress, depression, energy levels and mood states.
A random trial (18) on 42 high school students reported reduced anxiety levels and mean heart rate after oral supplementation of Vitamin C after a 14 day trial period. This led researchers to suggest the use of Vitamin C as an effective medical and psychological treatment for anxiety.
Vitamin C deficiency has also been linked with stress related diseases with several studies showing evidence of improvement in mood and antidepressant effects of vitamin c supplementation. (19)
Vitamin C plays an important role in the formation of blood vessels, muscles, collagen, promotes healthier bones, teeth, skin, heart and protects cognitive functioning with age.
It is also vital in enhancing your sleep quality with a deficiency of vitamin C leading to reduced sleep with frequent night awakenings and other sleep disorders (20).
Since our body does not produce Vitamin C, it becomes extremely important to ensure you consume the daily recommended intake amount of 75-90 mg (milligrams) (for adults).
Citrusy foods like oranges, grapefruit, kiwis and strawberries are the best sources along with red/green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and brussel sprouts being the other major contributors of Vitamin C. (21)
Multiple studies (22, 23) have linked Vitamin D deficiency with higher levels of anxiety and depression, with evidence of significantly low levels of calcidiol (Vitamin D3) in patients with anxiety disorders.
Consequently other trials studies (24, 25) have suggested the effectiveness of Vitamin D supplementation for the therapeutic treatment of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders, improving mood,long term health and quality of life.
Vitamin D is an extremely vital nutrient our bodies need for better bone health, immunity, brain functioning, heart health and management of insulin levels. Recent studies (26, 27, 28) have also suggested its profound role in sleep health with deficiency of Vitamin D found to be influential for sleep related disorders.
More research on Vitamin D is only going to justify it’s massive significance in our health and well-being, and it becomes increasingly important for you to fulfill the recommended intake amount of 15 mcg (micrograms) (for adults).
The best source is sunlight exposure, which enables our bodies to produce vitamin D internally. Daily sunlight exposure for 20-30 mins is recommended. The best dietary sources of Vitamin D include cod liver oil and fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, mackerel), and mushrooms. (29)
Vitamin E plays an important role in protection and functioning of cells. The same research study that found out links between anxiety and deficiency of Vitamin A, discovered that patients with GAD also suffered from deficiency in Vitamin E.
Upon treatment through supplementation of Vitamin E (along with Vitamin A and C) showed a reduction of anxiety levels.
In another study (30) on rats, researchers discovered that Vitamin E deficiency led to increased anxiety-like behaviors.
Apart from being an antioxidant, Vitamin E also aids in the healthy functioning of the brain, eyes and blood. Recent studies (31, 32) have suggested that Vitamin E might play a critical role in promoting sleep-related memory consolidation and maintaining testosterone levels during sleep.
Being fat soluble in nature, our body can store Vitamin E and use it as and when required. The recommended dietary intake amounts to around 15 mg (milligrams) (for adults) and the best food sources of Vitamin E are wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach and broccoli. (33)
Note: High doses of Vitamin E can increase risks of hemorrhagic stroke.
There’s no denying that every vitamin is essential to your health and well-being.
For this reason, taking supplements can be beneficial in ensuring you satisfy your body’s need for the essential vitamins. Make these seven vitamins for anxiety part of your anti-anxiety toolkit.
Apart from that, always try to include whole foods to your diet and drink enough water to stay hydrated. Try to eat these 7 foods that can reduce anxiety and definitely look out for foods that can aggravate your anxiety.
Make the necessary changes immediately because it’s your life that is at stake here. Lastly, never hesitate to reach out for support or consult a mental health professional to understand your anxiety better.
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