This week and last I’ve been talking about anxiety. And trying to find some ways to think about it, address it, and learn from it. Because, gosh, anxiety is a pretty consistent part of life. And an understandable response to times like these when so much is in flux. I’d just like to pause and say I am in no way, a medical professional. The supplements for anxiety support I’m about to suggest are not a prescription.
I have, however, covered health as a freelance writer for years. Interviewing numerous doctors and health care providers for their best tips. And I’ve collaborated with many doctors to write books with them. And during that process I get to download a lot of their knowledge into my own brain. Enough to be able to have it come out my fingertips.
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And there are two supplements for anxiety support that crop up in these articles and books. As well as in the scientific literature, over and over as being important players in brain health, mood, and in things like depression and anxiety
So while I absolutely believe that there is a time and a place for everything, including therapy and prescription meds. Especially if your anxiety is getting or has gotten to the point where it feels like its impeding your ability to go about your life. I also absolutely believe that we have to give ourselves the things we need to be our best. And these two supplements for anxiety support are things that we don’t tend to eat in ample amounts. Especially if you’re eating a lot of processed, prepared, or frozen foods. Which, I mean, aren’t we all?
The last thing I’ll say before telling you what they are is, these aren’t the kind of thing where you feel anxious in the moment and want quick relief. Like taking an Advil. These are the kind of thing you take everyday so that your body has the building blocks it needs to make the chemicals it needs to keep your brain happy.
These two supplements for anxiety support are probiotics, and omega-3s.
Let’s talk about probiotics first.
First, did you know we have more bacteria in our body than we do cells? It’s kind of like we’re bacteria transportation vehicles more than human beings. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We give the bacteria a home and provide them food and they in turn help us digest our food. They also make many things we need to survive. Including some vitamins, such as folate. And even neurotransmitters. You know, the serotonin we’ve all heard about that’s so important for warding off depression.
Most traditional cultures consume probiotics via some form of fermented food that’s a staple of their cuisine. Whether it’s yogurt, or kimchi, or sauerkraut, or miso. All over the world, people have prioritized fermented foods. But in America, we don’t eat them so much. Except of course we’re obsessed with yogurt, but most of our yogurt is homogenized which means the bacteria in it is mostly killed by the heating process. And it’s loaded with sugar so we may as well be eating ice cream. SORRY to be a buzz kill. My kids hate how much I know about health, hahaha.
So really, it would serve most everyone to take a probiotic supplement so that you have plenty of neurotransmitters that your body can then use to regulate your mood.
Even very mainstream publications like the Journal of the American Medical Association have published research linking the administration of probiotics with improved mood and reduced anxiety.
I like the probiotic that comes in a loose powder because I am crap with taking pills with any regularity. I can just sprinkle the powder into a morning smoothie and be done with it. Or stir it in to my kids plain yogurt or really over anything. I look in the refrigerated case at my local Whole Foods and just try to buy the one with the highest number of live cultures. (This number is generally in the billions and listed prominently on the label) that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. They are pricey, still; I think of them as an investment in health.
The second supplement that can really help with mood and anxiety and cognitive function in general are omega 3 fatty acids
Which you typically get from fish oil or krill oil supplements. Lately I’ve been buying Cod liver oil that’s been processed in such a way that it only tastes like lemon, I swear. I know it sounds really gross-tasting, but it’s not!
Why Omega 3s for anxiety?
First, Omega 3s are a form of fat, and your brain is 60 percent fat. Omega 3s are used to make the cellular membranes in your brain and they are anti-inflammatory, too. And we don’t tend to eat that many omega 3s. Which are found in fatty fish, pastured egg yolks, and in some nuts and seeds like walnuts and flax seeds. Although the omega 3s from these vegetarian sources have to be converted in order for your brain to use them and that’s not a very efficient process.
Because omega 3s come from fish and because many fish are contaminated with mercury and other contaminants, it’s important to buy an omega 3 supplement that crows about its purification process. Because it’s not easy and it’s expensive and companies that go through the trouble of doing it will make sure to tell you about it. Again, I hate taking pills so I buy the cod liver oil in actual oil form. And, you guessed it, it goes right in the smoothie, along with the probiotics. But you can also take the pills.
A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed the results of 19 different studies that included 1,200 people that compared an omega 3 supplement to a placebo. And the researchers found those people who took omega3s, about 2,000 mg a day, had the most reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Again, I’m not suggesting either of these supplements are anti-anxiety meds, per se
But they do give your body some of the fundamental building blocks it needs to keep your brain humming and that has an effect on your mental health. It’s kind of like going shopping for basic T-shirts and jeans. It’s boring, and not nearly as exciting as looking for a party outfit. But these are the things that will help make your life easier and you feel better day in and day out.
If you’re feeling like your anxiety is frequently running in the background, taking a probiotic and omega 3 supplement could really help your body and your brain get what they need to create a better mental baseline.
Be sure to come back tomorrow, when I’m talking about a way to pull yourself out of feeling anxious about the future and come back home to the present moment, where things are basically OK and where your life is actually happening.