Taking supplements for anxiety, or panic disorder, is an important part of an overall treatment plan. On their own they are not likely to fix your anxiety problem, but they will help support your nervous system and speed your recovery. Occasionally, especially in the early stages of the development of anxiety problems and where there are high levels of stress, they can make a huge difference - they can settle the nervous system back down before an anxiety cycle becomes entrenched.
Supplements for anxiety are important for the following reasons:
Vitamin B complex is an important supplement for anxiety and whenever we experience stress. It is possibly the single most important factor in maintaining the health of the nervous system and, as it is not stored by the body, it must be included in the diet everyday. Since B vitamins are often removed during the processing of many foods, the average western diet these days tends to be deficient in these important nutrients. The need for this complex of vitamins is increased during infection and stress, also where there is a large intake of carbohydrate (including alcohol) and when various medications are used (in particular antibiotics, contraceptive pills and sleeping pills).
A high potency B complex twice a day is recommended. You should take it in the morning and at lunchtime - generally speaking avoid taking in the evening as it may interfere with sleep.
Vitamin C requirements also increase substantially during times of stress, so this is an important vitamin for anxiety sufferers. The adrenal glands in particular use this vitamin during the stress response. Vitamin C also plays an essential role in fighting infection. Since the immune system is weakened by stress and anxiety, it's sensible to take steps to boost your immune response by increasing your intake of Vitamin C during recovery from anxiety states. It is more efficient to take frequent, small doses (e.g. 250 mg) throughout the day than a large amount in one dose (e.g. 1 or 2 gms) as the body can only absorb a limited amount at a time, the rest being excreted.
During times of acute anxiety or when recovering from an anxiety disorder it is sensible to take about 1gm per day. Look out for Vitamin C tablets that have a 'sustained release' - this way you can take your dose in the morning and the Vitamin C will be released gradually throughout the day, making absorption more efficient and reducing the amount that gets excreted. Later, a maintenance dose of 250gm per day is recommended.
Calcium is probably the most important mineral to consider taking as a supplement for anxiety, or alternatively you could increase your intake of calcium rich foods - dairy foods, almonds, fresh figs, raw apricots, small fish such as sardines (with bones) are all good sources.
Calcium is important because of its role in nerve transmission and correct muscle metabolism. Even small deficiencies can lead to cramps and sensitivity of nerves and muscles. It's helpful in easing insomnia and has been shown to reduce the nervousness, irritability and headaches associated with menopause.
If you're looking for a calcium supplement, choose a brand that contains mainly calcium citrate as this has a higher absorption rate. Also make sure it has the correct proportion of magnesium (calcium to magnesium should be 2:1). Dosage should be at least 1g per day, more for pregnant or lactating women.
Other vitamins and minerals
If you are not eating well due to poor appetite or other reasons, it would be advisable to take a multi vitamin and mineral supplement, for anxiety problems can result in poor nutrition. This should be in addition to the above depending on which of the many available brands you choose.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids, in particular fish or Krill oil, is not just a useful supplement for anxiety problems but the more you hear about it the more it seems to be good for just about everything - general mental health, arteries, cholesterol reduction, joints, skin problems and reducing inflammation in particular.
It has been shown to be very effective in easing depression and its associated symptoms of anxiety, sleep problems, sadness, lowered libido and so on. These fatty acids can also be found in flaxseed and walnut oils in particular. One gram per day of fish oil is enough to produce beneficial effects. There is no evidence as yet to suggest that higher quantities will produce better results. Allow up to six weeks to start experiencing the benefits.
SAMe - short for S-adenosylmethionine and pronounced ‘sammy’, this is a molecule that the body produces naturally as fuel for various body functions. It was discovered in 1952 and has been used for many years in Europe primarily to treat arthritis and back pain. However, it has also been found to be especially beneficial in treating depression and consequently can be an effective supplement for anxiety.
It works faster than anti-depressants and has no significant side effects. It is very important to take a high-quality vitamin B complex supplement along with SAMe to assist with its metabolism. Dosage is 400-800 mg twice a day on an empty stomach. Its use for many people is prohibitively expensive, but may be worth trying if you get no significant benefit from other more affordable options. Don't take SAMe if you suffer from severe depression without consulting your doctor first. And don't discontinue other antidepressants or reduce your dosage without consulting your doctor.
Don't overlook these supplements. For anxiety sufferers, it's best to tackle the problem from several different angles and these supplements help to provide some of the basic building blocks for a healthily functioning nervous system.