Taking supplements can not only improve your physical health, it can have a positive impact on your mental health too – but which vitamins help anxiety? Today, we're exploring the links between vitamins and anxiety to find out whether vitamins can really make a difference on anxiety symptoms and which ones are recommended for people with anxiety.
You may not have considered this before because vitamins aren't always the first thing you might think of when it comes to managing anxiety. Yet there is some evidence to suggest that taking certain vitamins – like the best fish oil supplements – can potentially improve mild symptoms. And considering the fact that anxiety levels are higher than ever, this is definitely good news.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) (opens in new tab), anxiety disorders affect roughly 19.1% of adults and 31.9% of adolescents. And, because anxiety medications can sometimes come with dramatic side effects, vitamins may prove to be a useful way to alleviate symptoms of anxiety — particularly for mild cases. We’ve asked the experts which ones could be worth trying, and which are simply a marketing gimmick.
Can supplements actually help anxiety?
It's important to note that there is no known 'cure' for anxiety. Vitamins are unlikely to completely resolve an anxiety disorder. However, according to some studies, they may help you to feel a little better if you have mild anxiety symptoms.
"There is limited but emerging research that diet can have an impact on anxiety," explains Dr. Joan Salge Blake (opens in new tab), a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition professor at Boston University. "In a recent study (opens in new tab) of both animal and human research, there appears to be a potential association between less anxiety and the consumption of a healthy diet pattern, such as the Mediterranean Diet, more fruits and vegetables, a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement as well as zinc, magnesium, selenium, and probiotics. Keep in mind that these above findings were based on a majority of animal versus human studies."
She adds, "Some human studies suggested that consuming chamomile, saffron, and curcumin also found a decrease in anxiety symptoms."
Dr. Joan Salge Blake is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a clinical associate professor at Boston University. She has received the Massachusetts Dietetic Association’s Young Registered Dietitian, Outstanding Dietetic Educator and Outstanding Dietitian awards. Blake is an author and podcast host.
In short, so far, we don't actually know for certain whether taking vitamins can have a real impact on anxiety symptoms in humans. However, based on the first few studies, it certainly looks promising. Blake recommends aiming to eat a balanced diet and getting the recommended amounts of every nutrient and vitamin within that diet. A Mediterranean diet, for instance, may prove to help your symptoms. Of course, she adds, taking the vitamins and supplements listed above usually won't hurt — it may even help you feel a little better.
However, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether a vitamin deficiency is responsible for your anxiety symptoms, so chatting with a doctor or dietitian to better understand your diet and its limitations is usually best.
Of course, if you are feeling increasingly anxious, depressed, or stressed, it is vital to speak to your doctor and get the support you need which could include therapy and/or medication — it's important to remember that vitamins can never be a magic cure for anxiety.
Which vitamins help anxiety?
While avoiding nutritional deficiencies can help to ease anxiety, there are some specific vitamins and supplements that may be more helpful than others.
Studies show that these vitamins are potentially key for reducing anxiety. One study published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care (opens in new tab) found that having lower dairy calcium intake resulted in increased anxiety.
Another study, published in the journal Nutrients (opens in new tab) in 2017, found that taking a magnesium supplement may help reduce pre-existing mild to moderate anxiety. Meanwhile in 2022, research published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental (opens in new tab) found that vitamin B6 and B12 had a similar effect.
Blake notes that selenium, typically found in seafood, organ meats and Brazil nuts, has been shown to have a potential positive impact on the symptoms of anxiety, but warns that studies so far have been inconclusive.
One 2020 study (opens in new tab) showed that taking a selenium supplement could help to alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression.
Another 2020 study (opens in new tab) explored the relationship between iodine, selenium and anxiety in patients with a Euthyroid Nodular Goiter. The study found that anxiety levels tended to be higher in patients with lower levels of selenium, suggesting that a selenium deficiency could result in anxiety.
Several studies have found that fish oil may also be effective for managing mild anxiety. According to a review (opens in new tab) of 19 clinical trials in 2018, for instance, it was found that people who took omega-3 had less anxiety than those who didn't.
We’ve tried and tested the best fish oil supplements at Fit&Well to support a healthy heart and brain.
To improve the gut-brain connection, you could try taking a probiotic supplement, or eating probiotic rich foods. Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote a healthy bacteria balance in the gut, which improves digestion and the absorption of key nutrients into the body.
Poor gut health can result in your body not absorbing essential nutrients effectively, leading to an impact on overall health, fatigue, afternoon slumps, poor immunity, weight loss, increased anxiety and more.
As it turns out, vitamins and minerals may indeed help to ease mild anxiety symptoms. However, it's important to remember that vitamins are never to be used as a treatment for severe anxiety disorders, especially without the consultation of a doctor.
If you find that you are struggling with your mental health, we always recommend speaking to someone you trust along with a dietician or a doctor who can help you create a personalized diet and lifestyle plan to support you with your health.