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Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (or 18% of the population), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And it can be dangerous: Stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death, including cancer and coronary heart disease. But you don’t have to suffer. Tame your tension with these research-based natural solutions.
The mineral magnesium, critical in a number of bodily functions, also influences the production of and the body’s reaction to cortisol, a primary stress hormone, and moderates the physiological stress response. Low blood levels of magnesium have been linked with feelings of anxiety, and research also shows stress can deplete magnesium from the body. Some studies link a higher dietary intake of magnesium with lower levels of anxiety, and in one study, taking magnesium for six weeks led to a clinically significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety.
TRY: Natural Vitality Natural Calm Raspberry Lemon Flavor (8 oz). $24, naturalvitality.com
Pick the Right Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms like reishi and lion’s mane can help support adrenal health, ease anxiety and promote calm. They may be especially effective combined with other stress-busting herbs like ashwagandha. Studies have found that ashwagandha, an adaptogen traditionally used to support adrenal function, normalizes cortisol levels and improves resistance to stress. Intrigued? .
TRY: Host Defense MycoBotanicals Stress Decompress. $30, amazon.com
Herbs like passionflower, skullcap, lavender, chamomile and others have been used for thousands of years to promote calm, and modern research supports their use for easing anxiety and reducing stress. Passionflower works in part by influencing brain levels of GABA, a compound that helps regulate mood, and some studies show it’s as effective as prescription anti-anxiety medications. Skullcap also works with GABA to reduce anxiety. Lavender contains compounds that are thought to interact with neurotransmitters to ease stress, while chamomile and holy basil (Tulsi) have properties that have been shown to promote relaxation and calm. Vervain has proven anti-anxiety and sedative properties.
TRY: Gaia Herbs Calm A.S.A.P. (30 count). $16, amazon.com
Related: Is Magnesium the Miracle Mineral?
Get Your Omega-3s
These fatty acids, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), work in part by influencing stress hormones and neurotransmitter function, and also by decreasing brain inflammation. Some researchers suggest the lower intake of omega-3s in our modern diet is linked with anxiety, as well as depression and other mood disorders. Studies show people with symptoms of anxiety have significantly lower levels of omega-3 fats and, in some studies, a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the blood and in the brain. Supplementing with omega-3 fats has been linked with a significant reduction in anxiety, as well as improvements in mood, concentration and fatigue, in both people with clinical anxiety and healthy young adults without an anxiety disorder diagnosis. In one study, stressed-out students who took an omega-3 supplement for 12 weeks had a 20% reduction in symptoms of anxiety, compared with those who received a placebo.
TRY: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega. $28, amazon.com
The Sunshine Vitamin
In addition to its role in bone health and immunity, vitamin D also influences neurotransmitters that impact brain function and mood, and vitamin D receptors are widespread in brain tissue and the central nervous system. Several studies have linked low blood levels of vitamin D with increased anxiety, worry, poor sleep and depression. Other research shows vitamin D supplementation can improve mood and reduce anxiety.
TRY: Country Life Vitamin D3 5,000 IU (200 count). $16, amazon.com
Related: 5 Reasons to Take Vitamin D
The Gut Connection
There’s a definitive link between gut health and mental function, and research shows that gut microbiota communicate with the central nervous system through a variety of pathways. Studies suggest gut microbes are involved in the regulation of the stress response, and a healthy microbiome can protect against anxiety and other mood disorders. A review of 34 controlled clinical trials found probiotics had “small but significant effects” on anxiety. In one study, people with chronic fatigue syndrome who took probiotics experienced a reduction in anxiety, and another found probiotics improved anxiety and sleep quality in students during periods of stress.
TRY: Renew Life Mood & Stress Probiotic. $22, renewlife.com