The following nutrients may help balance brain chemistry naturally:
An amino acid from the diet or another chemical is already present in the brain. Enzymes are then used to convert the amino acid into the needed brain chemical.
Insufficient intakes are associated with increased symptoms of anxiety. Supplementation with L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been shown to elevate brain serotonin levels and enhance both mood and one’s sense of well-being. Vitamin B6, magnesium, and vitamin C, nutrients already taken by most health-conscious people are cofactors that facilitate the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin in the brain. There are no reported adverse effects, but pregnant women and individuals taking MAOIs should avoid high doses.
An L-lysine deficiency has been shown to increase stress-induced anxiety. When presented with a stressful situation, supplementation with L-lysine reduced anxiety in human subjects.
Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, produces a calming effect on the brain. Theanine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. It increases the production of GABA and dopamine and protects the cells of the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory in the brain from damage.
- S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM-e).
SAM-e occurs naturally in the body. It is concentrated in the liver and brain and is a major methyl donor in the synthesis of hormones, nucleic acids, proteins, phospholipids, and catecholamine neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. SAMe facilitates glutathione usage and maintains acetylcholine levels, helping to preserve cognitive function while aging and possibly attenuating neurodegeneration.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to anxiety disorders in several clinical studies. When taken for one month in combination with a multivitamin, zinc and calcium, magnesium dramatically decreased symptoms of distress and anxiety. Further, supplementation with magnesium and vitamin B6 effectively reduced premenstrual-related anxiety.
Selenium has been shown to reduce anxiety. Selenium supplementation reduces anxiety in elderly hospitalized patients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and HIV patients receiving Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). In a selenium deficiency state, thyroid hormone synthesis may deteriorate, and can lead to poor mood and many other negative conditions.
Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are necessary for proper brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a variety of health benefits, most recently being improved mood and reduced anxiety.
Botanical herbs have been shown to manage many psychiatric disorders, including anxiety. The quality, composition, conditions for growth & extraction processes of herbal products can vary a lot; care should be taken in choosing an herbal remedy. The following herbs either have anti-anxiety effects or target key molecular sites associated with neurotransmitters in the central nervous system:
Ginkgo biloba binds to and activates the GABA receptor, and like a benzodiazepine, reduces anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety disorders without side effects.
Valerian (Valeriana officiaonalis). Components of valerian root have been shown in laboratory studies to bind to GABA receptors, increase the release of GABA, and decrease its reuptake. Valerian root extracts have also been shown to activate glutamic acid decarboxylase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of GABA
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, sometimes used as a culinary herb and flavouring agent. The plant also has several anti-anxiety actions. Lemon balm contains compounds that strongly suppress the breakdown of GABA, which may prolong the anti-anxiety effects of the neurotransmitter.
Rhodiola rosea is a known adaptogen, an herb that helps improve one’s resistance to stress. It has also shown promise in alleviating anxiety disorder.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).
Ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, has long been used by Ayurvedic practitioners as a rejuvenating tonic. The herb has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and rejuvenating properties. It has also been shown to reduce anxiety.
GABA is the chief inhibiting, or calming neurotransmitter in the brain, functioning as a brake on the neural circuitry during stress. Low GABA levels are associated with restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and a poor mood. The use of GABA as a dietary supplement relieves stress, anxiety, and increases the production of alpha brain waves (associated with relaxation.
Shows promise for alleviating mood disorders through a variety of mechanisms. It acts as a precursor to glutathione, a potent cellular antioxidant that may help ease neuronal oxidative stress. This might lessen the excitatory transmission triggered by glutamate.
There are receptors for vitamin D throughout the brain, and data indicates that lower vitamin D signalling leads to increased anxious behaviour. There is a considerable association between low vitamin D levels and depression, but the connection with anxiety is less clear.
Our bodies are truly elegant in their design. Glutamate accelerates brain activity (excitatory), while GABA puts the brakes on (inhibitory). Together, they keep the brain working along at just the right pace—not too fast, not too slow. If you have developed anxiety, then the balance of these two chemicals has been thrown off. As a result, the brain’s activity level is turned up too high, at least in some areas.