Although natural feelings of anxiety occur in response to a stressful situation, such as moving house or getting married, anxiety can affect your body if you are experiencing long periods of worry without triggers.
Anxiety is a natural response to a pending threat known as your ‘fight or flight response’, causing a rush of hormones and neurotransmitters in your body from nerve messages in your brain. Your fight or flight response is a biological process that allows you to respond to a potential threatening situation keeping you safe from harm.
However if you’re experiencing long periods of anxiety, studies have shown uncontrolled overactivity of your fight or flight response can become less effective, leading to changes in your brain and your overall mental health and wellbeing.
Which Anxiety symptoms can someone experience?
Symptoms of anxiety are caused by a heightened fight or flight biological response causing various physical and emotional changes in your body.Physical symptoms
- Having a fast heart rate
- Feeling sick
- Shaking (tremor)
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Fast breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Lack of focus
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling apprehensive, tense or jumpy
- Difficulty falling asleep or poor quality of sleep
If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety, your body will continue to experience changes emotional or physical symptoms over periods of time, eventually affecting your overall mental health and wellbeing.Anxiety can also be a symptom from an underlying medical disorder, such as:
- Phobia, such as agoraphobia
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Anxiety disorders are diagnosed by a health professional using guidelines called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (current known as DSM-V).
Benefits of relieving anxiety with supplements
There is good scientific evidence suggesting supplements can help to relieve anxiety. Some supplements can help you regain control of your fight or flight response, in turn controlling your mental health.
Research indicates the following herbs and supplements can help relieve anxiety:
- Glycine is an amino acid that improves brain function
- GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) is a neurotransmitter in your brain that can slow down an overactive brain
- Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to neurotransmitters that promote calming
- L-Theanine releases neurotransmitters and boosts GABA activity in your brain
- Taurine helps improve nerve function by activating receptors in your brain
- L-Lysine is an amino acid that also is a precursor to neurotransmitters involved in stress and anxiety
- Ashwagandha helps your body adapt to stress
- Rhodiola rosea can help to improve performance and mood under stress
- Niacin-amide is a form of Vitamin B3 and can help you feel calm and therefore reduces anxiety.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate) helps your nervous system and helps with headaches.
- Magnesium is a mineral that helps relax muscles in your body and activating nerve receptors in your brain for GABA
GABA and anxiety
GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain overactivity if it is working too fast, such as when you have anxiety. The result induces a feeling of relaxation. GABA works by counterbalancing the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate when you are stressed or anxious.
Although research has found that GABA may not cross the blood brain barrier, studies have found increasing your levels of GABA can help to control anxiety. GABA levels are also balanced by supplements taurine, L-theanine, vitamins B6 and magnesium.GABA can help to:
- Decrease your body’s response to stress
- Have a calming effect
- Hinders the transmission of nerve impulses in your brain
Rhodiola rosea for anxiety
Rhodiola rosea, also known as Golden Root or Arctic Root, is a perennial flowering plant that can help to improve performance and mood if you’re experiencing stress or anxiety.
A small study found participants, who took rhodiola over ten weeks, had improved symptoms of anxiety, with minimal side effects. Participants had been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) using the DSM-V criteria.
According to the researchers, Rhodiola rosea has been found to improve mood, enhance energy, alertness and has been considered a natural alternative to alleviate stress, reducing anxiety and depression. It works by normalizing your body’s natural response to a variety of stressors.Rhodiola rosea can help to:
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety, such as fatigue and irritability
- Treat chronic anxiety disorders, such as GAD
- Normalize your response to stress
L-Theanine and anxiety
L-Theanine, is an amino acid present in green tea that helps to bring on feelings of calm and relaxation. L-Theanine is one of the most common treatments for anxiety and can sharpen mental focus and calm anxiety at the same time.
L-Theanine increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA that are released by the brain and inhibit nerve stimulation in your brain. A small double-blind placebo controlled study found participants who took L-Theanine at different time periods during acute stress from a mental arithmetic task, could alleviate symptoms of stress while completing this short task compared to placebo.
Researchers suggested participants’ improved symptoms (such as a reduced heart rate) may indicate that L-Theanine also inhibited the sympathetic nervous system’s ‘flight or fight’ response biological surge of adrenalin, which causes the increased heart rate during periods of anxiety.L-Theanine can help to:
Who can benefit from taking a supplement to relieve anxiety?
Herbs and supplements can help you relieve symptoms of anxiety if you’re experiencing periods of stress or have an anxiety disorder.
Supplements can help you if you’re finding medication or lifestyle changes alone are not helping your symptoms or your ability to cope with stress.Supplementation may be beneficial if you’re experiencing any of the following:
Do anxiety supplements have side effects?
- GABA has not been shown to have any side-effects
- Rhodiola rose and L-Theanine are considered safe and there are no known associated long-term side effects.
Anxiety supplement contraindications and cautions
No studies have been done to examine whether supplements containing GABA, Rhodiola rosea and L-Theanine are safe for pregnant and lactating women and children. Therefore you should ask your physician if the intake is possible.
Additionally, GABA should be used cautiously in people with liver or kidney disease, or if you’re taking any drugs that affects the GABA pathways in the brain. These drugs include alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
If you’re unsure whether you may benefit from taking a supplement to help relieve anxiety, always consult your healthcare professional.
Why take a supplement for anxiety?
Anxiety that occurs unrelated to a trigger or over a long period of time, can affect your overall mental health and wellbeing. Although anxiety can be a natural reaction to stress, if you feel you have uncontrolled anxiety, supplements may offer you a source of relief.Controlling anxiety will also help you to:
- Decrease stress hormones levels
- Improve your mood
- Increase your energy levels
- Have stronger and more satisfying relationships
- Decrease negative thinking and worries about worse case scenarios
- Overall improve your quality of life