I have had anxiety for most of my life. Not my adult life, mind you. My ENTIRE life. Literally as far back as I can remember. Unfortunately, it’s only gotten worse over the years, particularly when I was 18, then when I was 21, it was at its absolute worst. I’m 29 now (even though I think I’m 19) and have a great handle on it, but it’s not without some serious effort, which includes taking the best supplements for anxiety.
It also includes eating well, avoiding gluten is crucial for me, I also avoid refined sugars. It includes exercising, meditating (let’s be real – TRYING to meditate), doing my best to maintain positivity, getting enough sleep and living an overall healthy, positive life. It’s simply not possible to out-supplement a bad diet and unhealthy lifestyle. These supplements are incredibly beneficial, but if you’re eating fast, frozen or processed food, not exercising, working a job you hate and spending majority of your time cooped up indoors – you need a lifestyle change.
These are the supplements that I’ve found most helpful, and have a lot of scientific backing as to why and how they’re beneficial for anxiety sufferers.
I’m going to describe the benefits of each supplement individually, but if you’re bored you can skin ahead. I also linked to the products individually in case you’d like to purchase them that way.
What most people don’t realize is that what’s happening in the gut is happening in the brain.
It’s called the gut-brain axis. f you’re dealing with constipation, indigestion, stomach cramps, diarrhea or digestive issues, it’s going to affect your brain. From Harvard Medical School,
“The brain has a direct effect on the stomach. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.” (emphasis mine)
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met and worked with who complained of depression and/or anxiety that have altered gut function. They go hand in hand. Majority of our serotonin receptors are found in the gut, therefore if you suffer from gut issues, your normal serotonin function will be altered as well.
To improve gut function, it’s best to eat whole, unprocessed meats, seafood, veggies and healthy fats. It’s best to eliminate foods that can irritate the gut – like grains, gluten, sugar and potentially even dairy. While removing these foods, it’s a great idea to add gut healing foods like bone broth and fermented foods – aka probiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial gut flora normally found in the gut, but for a variety of reasons, the beneficial gut flora can be reduced, diminished and even overthrown by bad bacteria in the gut. When I was in my early twenties and experiencing the worst anxiety of my life, I was feeding the bad bacteria with tons of sugar and carbohydrates from “healthy” whole grains.
If you’re thinking, really, you expect probiotics to improve my anxiety? Let me assure you, it’s science! Plus – it works for me.
In one study, scientists found that giving mice probiotics reversed their autistic symptoms (of which anxiety was one).
A study from the University of Toronto found that supplementing with probiotics in people with chronic fatigue syndrome led to reduced feelings of anxiousness.
In 2011, scientists found that giving people a probiotic for 30 days reduced their depression and anxiety.
A study out of UCLA found that women who ate yogurt twice a day had improvements in the part of the brain that process emotion, and improved anxiety symptoms.
This is one of my favorite probiotic brands, with clinical testing and several strains of bacteria that are beneficial for mood.
It’s been estimated that over 90% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Which makes sense. Our soil has been depleted of it, and our food rapidly loses magnesium the longer it is from the time it’s picked to the time it reaches your plate.
Magnesium is essential for a balanced mood. It’s a mineral that provides feelings of calm and relaxation. It helps us sleep. But when we’re stressed, our bodies rapidly deplete magnesium. When we eat sugar, our body uses magnesium to process it. Considering that most people are stressed and regularly eat sugar, chances are that you’re not just lacking magnesium, you might be severely deficient.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Emily Deans discusses case studies on the effects of magnesium,
“A 40 year-old “irritable, anxious, extremely talkative, moderately depressed” smoking, alchohol-drinking, cocaine using male took 125mg magnesium taurinate at each meal and bedtime, and found his symptoms were gone within a week, and his cravings for tobacco, cocaine, and alcohol disappeared. His “ravenous appetite was supressed, and … beneficial weight loss ensued.”
“A 59 y/o “hypomanic-depressive male”, with a long history of treatable mild depression, developed anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and insomnia after a year of extreme personal stress and bad diet (“fast food”). Lithium and a number of antidepressants did nothing for him. 300mg magnesium glycinate (and later taurinate) was given with every meal. His sleep was immediately restored, and his anxiety and depression were greatly reduced, though he sometimes needed to wake up in the middle of the night to take a magnesium pill to keep his “feeling of wellness.” A 500mg calcium pill would cause depression within one hour, extinguished by the ingestion of 400mg magnesium.”
Your brain is made up of fat. Fat is brain food.
I’m not talking about French fries and pizza. I’m talking about organic butter, grass-fed meat, wild salmon, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil and other healthy, unadulterated fats. These fats are rich in vitamins A, E, D and K as well as the omega-3s EPA and DHA.
I was deeply skeptical of everything when I was dealing with my anxiety. Sure, it might’ve worked for someone else, but it probably wouldn’t work for me. I’m not sure why I had that mentality. If you do, I’m telling you this works for me. And here’s some science to back it up:
These are just a few doctors and studies discussing the beneficial effects of healthy fats.
Basically, you need to feed your brain.
We know that our bones deteriorate if we don’t consume enough calcium and magnesium. We know eating junk food can lead to skin issues like eczema and breakouts. We know that eating sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to gut issues and constipation. Likewise, if you’re not eating to feed the brain, it can lead to issues like poor cognitive function, depression and anxiety.
I take this fish oil daily. I like Nordic Naturals and their sustainability practices, their purity standards and testing. I like this particular fish oil because it has a concentrated dose of EPA and DHA.
I take a prenatal daily. I like Garden of Life, Seeking Health and Pure Encapsulations for both multivitamins and prenatals. Seeking Health is one of my favorites because they are super high quality and the B vitamins are methylated. However, as always, first discuss with your doctor. It’s ideal to get full blood work done, see what you’re lacking and then supplement appropriately.