Megan Sheppard says there are a number of nutrients that are important when it comes to reducing anxiety levels.
Q. I have always been a shy person, not really comfortable in strange situations or with people who I don’t know very well, but recently I have become more anxious than usual and prone to panic attacks.
I am not interested in taking medications. Are there any supplements that might help me?
A. There are a number of nutrients that are important when it comes to reducing anxiety levels — in particular the B vitamins.
While therapeutic doses of individual vitamins have been shown to be beneficial in alleviating certain symptoms, it is always a good idea to take a good B-complex alongside individual B vitamins since they work synergistically.
Vitamin B1 is important for balancing blood sugar levels, which are a significant factor in anxiety levels.
Vitamin B3 plays a crucial role in the synthesis of serotonin and has been shown to help with anxiety at a dosage of 1,000-3,000mg per day.
Vitamin B5 supports the adrenal glands, which reduces stress and anxiety levels.
Vitamin B9 (also known as folate or folic acid) and vitamin B12 are important in balancing out depressive moods.
Vitamin B6 together with magnesium can balance out anxiety that occurs in conjunction with PMS.
Great foods for getting your B vitamins include liver, meats, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, legumes, nutritional yeast, and molasses.
Inositol (vitamin B8) is a water-soluble fatty lipid necessary for healthy cell production.
This can be a particularly useful nutrient to consider where obsessive rumination of thoughts is a problem.
Inositol triggers the release of calcium, and plays a role in the transmission of messages throughout the central nervous system.
Calcium, along with magnesium, helps to nourish the nervous system and prevent anxiety, panic attacks, and restlessness or irritability.
Magnesium has long been known for its calming properties on the nervous system, and it is also used to relax tight or overworked muscles.
Magnesium and calcium are usually taken together, where you need twice as much magnesium as calcium, although anxiety sufferers may need to supplement with magnesium alone.
While most people supplement somewhere between 400-600mg of magnesium (and a corresponding 800-1,200mg of calcium), evidence suggests you may need up to 1,000mg daily of magnesium to help with panic attacks.
Leafy greens are rich in magnesium, along with whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, beef, chicken, fish, and bone broths.
Essential fatty acids either from fish oil or seeds (such as chia, flaxseed, and hemp) are also useful in reducing the frequency and severity of panic and anxiety attacks.
Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked with anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The body makes its own vitamin D as a response to sunlight exposure, and it is also found in eggs and fatty fish.
It is also important for immune function, bone health, and heart health, along with protecting against cancer.
If you decide to supplement with this nutrient, make sure that you choose vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), not the synthetic D2 form (ergocalciferol).
Other factors worth considering are hormonal imbalances, thyroid imbalance, and adrenal dysfunction.
The adrenal glands are often overstimulated, particularly where physical, emotional, or mental stress is ongoing.
If this increased production of cortisol goes on for too long, then adrenal fatigue sets in, where cortisol levels are too low.
Hormone levels are all linked, so an imbalance in one area likely indicates that all three —thyroid, sex hormones, and adrenals — need rebalancing.
You mention you don’t want to take medications, but it is still important to work alongside a health professional.
Integrative or functional medicine practitioners are open to nutritional treatment and will be aware of which tests are useful to keep track of your levels of vitamins, minerals, and hormones in order to tailor a specific plan for your needs.
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