December 21st 2016
The best supplements and natural remedies for anxiety
August 19th 2016
Give defences a helping hand for coping with the signs of anxiety with these mental health boosting supplements and herbs
Can specific supplements and herbs help make us feel less anxious? Alone no, but they could help strengthen defences physically to ensure we’re more mentally prepared to tackle its effects. “Anxiety can present itself in many different ways, from feeling sick in the stomach to a full blown panic attack,” says nutritional therapist and GTG Expert Zoe Stirling. “It’s becoming increasingly common – so what are we doing to cause anxiety and what can be done to help? Firstly, it’s important to highlight that anxiety and anxiety disorders can manifest for so many different reasons and therefore treating it will differ in nutritional, lifestyle and supplementary approaches from one person to the next. The root of anxiety may be due to stress, poor sleep or a lifestyle high in stimulants. It’s therefore important to note that managing anxiety is best done through a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes with a targeted supplement plan, best designed by a nutritional therapist.”
In our recent article - ‘Could a healthier gut lead to a happier mind?’ - we detailed some exciting research highlighting how a combination of two strains of bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52 and Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175, found in the product, OptiBac Probiotics ‘For every day’) could help boost both body and mind. So, we wanted to take this one step further and see if other supplements could also help from a mental health perspective. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all, but there are some nutrients, vitamins and minerals that could make a difference depending on the cause of your anxiety. A valuable piece in the puzzle, we asked Zoe for her top recommendations.
1. Adrenal complex
“The effect of stress is one of the greatest drivers of anxiety. Modern lifestyles are incredibly unforgiving both in terms of the mental and emotional stressors as well as the dietary stressors in the form of stimulants we regularly consume. Your cup of coffee may be doing far more damage than you might think, especially if you’re susceptible to anxiety. In addition, our diets on the whole tend to be devoid of essential nutrients that support our adrenal glands responsible for the stress response and further weakening our ability to cope with stress. An adrenal supplement containing B vitamins and vitamin C along with magnesium are a great way of supporting the adrenal glands during stressful periods.”
Try: Biocare AD 206, £11.90: “A blend of adrenal gland supportive nutrients and adaptogenic herbs.”
2. Siberian ginseng
“Siberian ginseng is an adaptogenic herb, a natural supplement that helps the body adapt to stress. As discussed above, the effects of long-term stress can be a common causative factor of anxiety and therefore reducing stress levels is often key in managing it. Siberian ginseng should not be confused with Ginseng, American or Chinese/Korean Ginseng as they’re used for very different purposes. Siberian Ginseng is uplifting while also being calming; it creates equilibrium, especially for the nervous system making it ideal for anxiety.”
Try: Herbs Hands Healing EnergiRevive powder, £18: “Use in smoothies, on porridge or in yoghurt.”
3. Calming herbs
“Sleep is one of the most important commodities when it comes to reducing anxiety levels. It has been well documented in research for some time that those who do not get enough sleep, sleep lightly and/or suffer from insomnia are more prone to suffering anxiety. While poor sleep may be rooted for many reasons (yes, stress has an impact on this too!), certain herbs such as skullcap, valerian root and hops can be used to encourage sleep by acting like a natural sedative while also helping to promote a deeper, more restful sleep. These herbs are also thought to work directly on helping to reduce anxiety.”
Try: WelleCo Sleep Welle Fortified Calming Tea, £48: “Although this might smell rather unusual(!) the moment you pop it into some water it starts to smell and taste more fruity, so it’s perfectly palatable.”
4. B vitamins
“GABA is your body’s natural form of Valium! It’s a neurotransmitter and its job is to calm the brain so it’s an incredibly important neurotransmitter to highlight in the context of anxiety. GABA levels can often become low due to modern diets, especially those high in stimulants like sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Although there are a number of GABA supplements on the market, the jury is still out as to whether they are effective. Therefore co-factors for neurotransmitter production are important to ensure the body has all the building blocks it needs to convert raw materials into neurotransmitters within the body and B vitamins are essential for doing this.”
Try: Wild Nutrition B Complex Plus, £22: “All the Wild Nutrition supplements are Food Grown® rather than synthetic, so they’re in a form that the body finds easy to understand and therefore absorb.”
“L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea and matcha. It has been shown that it helps to increase low levels of serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all neurotransmitters that are essential for calming the brain and creating a sense of happiness. Increasing levels of these neurotransmitters has also been linked to reducing anxiety. Try swapping coffee for a matcha latte or green tea to help increase L-Theanine levels.”
Try: Clearspring Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder – Ceremonial Grade, £15.99: “Try making a matcha latte using almond milk or simply adding Matcha to hot water to make a cup of tea.”
“Anxiety has long been related to IBS causing digestive upset and uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. We have known for some time that the central nervous system and the nervous system of the gut known as the enteric nervous system, are directly connected and this is known as the gut-brain axis. There are correlations between gastrointestinal symptoms and depression, anxiety and stress but only until recently have specific strains of probiotic bacteria been identified to induce physiological responses in the brain. Take the work of Professor John Cryan, who has presented a TED talk on the subject and identified L. rhamnosus as having a calming effect on mice, so much so that it was more effective than Valium! There’s still a lot of research to be done in this field but it’s incredibly exciting.”
Try: Symprove non-dairy Liquid Probiotic, from £79: "Take 60ml first thing in the morning on an empty stomach ideally for 12 weeks to reap the best benefits."
Lavender is a well-known herb and has been shown to be a natural alleviator of anxiety and stress. There are also no reported side-effects of using lavender oil as a way of promoting calm and enhancing one’s mood. Lavender oil is incredibly versatile and can be added to a bath, onto pillows at night or used in a diffuser.
Try: Doterra Lavender Oil, £13.45. “This brand is so pure that it is certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG) and means it is also fine to ingest unlike many other essential oils.”
Disclaimer: Certain supplements are used for different reasons and a one-size-fits-all approach shouldn’t be adopted. In addition, pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a supplements programme.
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