There are 8 B vitamins in total and each has their own role within the body. Research has found that food sources of the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin could help to lower the risk of PMS symptoms.1
• B1 – affects nerve function and is important for energy production and the creation of DNA
• B2 – is linked to energy production and oxidation of fatty acids
• B3 – many believe that B3 (or Niacin) plays a role in the production of serotonin (a chemical that plays a key role in maintaining our mood balance
• B5 – supports the adrenal glands, creates neurotransmitters and oxidises fatty acids
• B6 – for serotonin and norepinephrine neurotransmitter production and amino acid production. In combination with magnesium, vitamin B6 also helps to balance out anxiety that occurs with PMS
• B7 – helps to process and metabolise carbohydrates and proteins and is not thought to have a huge impact on our mood
• B9 – (also known as folate or folic acid) needs to be consumed in food and helps to repair DNA and prevent anaemia, deficiency may be linked to anxiety and depression
• B12 – affects the brain and nerves, deficiency can lead to mood problems and affects nerve tissue and memory.
Although it may seem tempting to start loading up on whichever form of vitamin B you feel you need most, this may not help your anxiety much! The specific forms of B vitamins work best together so overloading on one form can actually cause more damage than good. Too much of vitamin B6 for example, can result in nerve damage so we have to take care when considering a supplement.
As with any of the nutrients listed here, the absolute best way to get more of them into your body is through your food because this is the way that you were designed to consume them! If you do decide to pick a supplement to support your dietary intake choosing a vitamin B complex that contains a range of the essential forms is better than a supplement that contains a high dose of one type.
Click here to learn more about B vitamins and some easy food sources you can include in your diet.
Not only does vitamin D have strong associations with strengthening our bones, teeth and joints, people with anxiety and depression tend to have lower levels of this vitamin. Usually this occurs due to lack of exposure to natural sunlight which is our main source of vitamin D. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also referred to as SAD or seasonal depression, is thought to be strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms of SAD include irritability, insomnia, reduced sex drive, decreased appetite and weight loss – all of these symptoms can result or contribute to higher anxiety levels. Vitamin D is also thought to affect our serotonin levels in the brain and is therefore connected to our mood and depression.2
Unlike most of the nutrients on this list, there aren’t many food sources of vitamin D which is why sunlight exposure is so important. Often during the winter months a supplement is also recommended to help to keep deficiency at bay. Although there is definitely not many foods contain vitamin D it can be found in spirulina and wild mushrooms.
Click here to learn more about vitamin D and how to be sure you’re getting the right amount.
Magnesium, often referred to as the ‘original chill pill’ is thought to be the most powerful relaxation mineral and so is crucial if we want to keep anxiety at bay. Lifestyle factors and choices such as excess alcohol, salt, sugar, coffee, stress and medications such as antibiotics and diuretics all deplete our magnesium levels.
Low magnesium levels alter the body’s ability to cope with the physical effects of stress and anxiety. It is thought to support healthy brain functioning by binding to and stimulating receptors of GABA, an anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. GABA helps to relax our brain by reducing excessive neural activities which, in turn, helps to soothe anxiety and insomnia.
Magnesium also comes in handy if we suffer from chronic stress. Stress elevates our stress hormone cortisol in combination with adrenaline to help us to cope with whatever stressful situation comes our way. But, what happens if our stress triggers don’t disappear? Well, chronic or long term stress can take hold. High levels of our stress hormone over a prolonged period of time can result in a number of health problems including digestive distress (constipation, diarrhoea and IBS symptoms), cardiovascular issues such as heart disease or high blood pressure and reduced immune system functioning.
Magnesium is thought to be beneficial for chronic stress by reducing the over-activity of the HPA axis which contributes to high cortisol levels. It also reduces our overall levels of cortisol helping to protect us from the negative effects that prolonged exposure to this hormone can cause. What’s more, magnesium is also necessary for activating vitamin D in the body so, if we don’t have enough magnesium to do this our vitamin D will also be affected which can result in even more negative repercussions for our mood and mental wellbeing!
Click here to learn more about magnesium and some easy food sources you can include in your diet.
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Zinc plays a key role in neurotransmission, nervous system functioning and the production of neurotransmitters. An imbalance of neurotransmitters can result in symptoms of anxiety so to prevent this we need a proper balance of serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA and dopamine.
• Serotonin affects our mood, sleep, digestion, appetite, memory and sex drive
• Norepinephrine is released by our sympathetic nervous system in response to stress
• GABA reduces the activity of neurons or nerve cells and low levels are linked to anxiety
• Dopamine is your body’s natural pain killer and pleasure centre
It is thought to enhance GABA activity in the brain and activate our digestive enzymes to help break down food which can avert mood fluctuations that often occur as a result of food allergies, or chemicals in food. In relation to anxiety, enzymes containing zinc are necessary for the creation of serotonin, which is important for our mood, sleep, digestion, appetite memory and libido. Research has found that low levels of zinc could result in lower levels of GABA and glutamate and that increasing your intake may help to improve anxiety symptoms.3
Click here to learn more about zinc and some easy food sources you can include in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 cannot be produced by the body alone so need to be found in dietary sources. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good brain and nervous system functioning and in particular, our mood and memory. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of omega-6 have been linked with inflammation and depression. One 12 week study found that omega-3 supplementation could lower inflammation, plus it found a 20% drop in anxiety symptoms in medical students, although no significant change was observed in depressive symptoms.4
Omega-3 is thought to have a beneficial effect on anxiety by balancing out our serotonin levels. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to benefit the HPA axis which stands for the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands. These organs operate together and control the release of various different hormones that impact our mood and digestion.
Click here to learn more about the omega fatty acids and some easy food sources you can include in your diet.
A solution involves more than nutrition
Anxiety is a complex condition that can be affected by numerous lifestyle factors. Taking steps to identify any possible nutritional deficiencies by visiting your doctor is a good place to start, but it’s important to consider other areas of your life that could contribute as well. Having a balanced diet that contains a wide range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals can help to prevent and relieve anxiety. Looking at easily available food sources rather than supplementing is often the best way to go as, sadly, supplementing alone just won’t cut it. Try to eat fresh, raw produce wherever possible as overcooking and over processed foods lose some of their original nutritional value.
If you feel like you need an extra bit of support our helpful herbs are also at hand. Our AvenaCalm remedy contains the herb Avena Sativa to help soothe your anxiety and worries. If you feel overwhelmed don’t forget that you can always reach out and talk things through with friends, family and loved ones.