We asked Dr Shane what we can be doing to help our mental health and especially anxiety, here is what he recommends:
The charity MIND informs us that in England alone 1 in 4 of adults experience a mental health problem of some kind each year. In any given week this rate is 1 in 6 adults experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression).1
MIND also indicate that in each week in England many are affected:
- Mixed anxiety and depression: 8 in 100 people
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): 6 in 100 people
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 4 in 100 people
- Depression: 3 in 100 people
- Phobias: 2 in 100 people
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): 1 in 100 people
- Panic disorder: fewer than 1 in 100 people.
Though these rates are alarming they are realistically an under reporting of the current crisis as the rates relate to prior to the current Covid pandemic. We can all feel anxious, stressed, or low at times, but it can be a problem if these feelings get worse, go on for a long time or affect our daily lives.
TREATMENTS AND SUPPORT
The NHS inform us that it can take time for someone’s mental health to improve, and some of us may need professional help (1 in 8 are currently getting any kind of treatment), but there are ways to help and support someone get back to positive mental health. They also offer a list of “top things you can do to help others”. These are:
There are many treatments and therapies available to support our mental health. The more common ones are psychiatric medications, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness, talking therapy and counselling.2
INFLUENCE OF OUR LIFESTYLE
In addition to seeking expert medical help, as required, current evidence suggests that bad dietary habits, smoking, malnutrition, alcohol use, and low physical activity all play a significant role in determining our mental health.3 Furthermore, our eating patterns and physical activity are crucial determinants for our physical and mental fitness.4
We eat for hunger, for pleasure, for boredom, and for addiction.5 Our food has always influenced our mental abilities. Therefore, we need to ensure we are regularly consuming a diet that is highly nutritious to support all our needs, not just our mental health and wellbeing. The basics of this approach, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, form the cornerstone of many national healthy eating guidelines, including the UK’s Eatwell Guide. These are characterised by:
- higher consumption of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, seafood, nuts, seeds, and pulses
- moderate consumption of dairy
- unsaturated fats as an important fat source e.g. olive oil
- lower intakes of fatty/processed meat, refined grains, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages
- lower salt and lower saturated fat intakes5
THE ROLE OF SUPPLEMENTATION
As mentioned in other blog posts, we understand that following a healthy dietary pattern (as described above), which is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre, as well as other bioactives is essential in protecting against us against ill health.
Supplementation with appropriate nutrients has shown promise in helping with our mental health and can provide several beneficial effects, due to their multiple biological roles.6
Magnesium is an essential (cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems) to ensure the correct functioning of all human cells, including within our brains. It seems that magnesium levels are lowered during several mental disorders, especially depression. It is the fourth most abundant mineral, and our intake comes mainly from the ingestion of leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish.7 In the UK there are reported shortfalls below the lower recommended nutrient thresholds for magnesium across the adult population.8
There are a range of magnesium supplements available to support our needs. The most popular forms include magnesium malate, L-threonate, bis- glycinate, oxide, citrate, and chloride. Absorption of magnesium from different kinds of magnesium supplements varies. The standard dose is 200 mg of elemental magnesium once a day, though up to 350 mg have been reported.9 Since magnesium might have a sedative effect, it is often recommended to be supplemented before bed. Furthermore, magnesium L-threonate has been shown to be easily absorbed and is potentially the most effective type for increasing magnesium concentrations in brain cells. Hence, it is frequently promoted for brain benefits including depression and age-related memory loss.10
ARGININE AND LYSINE
Strong evidence exists for the use of L-arginine and L-lysine for anxiety symptoms and disorders.11 The amino acid L-lysine is reported to reduce anxiety and help normalise stress-induced hormonal responses, in otherwise healthy subjects with relatively high perceived anxiety. Plus, with the addition of L-arginine (another amino acid) this positive action appears to be further enhanced.12 Smriga and colleagues concluded in their research looking at reducing anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy human that, “a significant decrease in both the long-term and stress-induced anxiety in healthy adults treated for one week with orally given L-lysine and L-arginine.” Plus, “because the safety profiles of dietary L-lysine and L-arginine are well established, their combination may provide a useful dietary intervention in humans with high perceived stress and anxiety.” 13
VITEX ANGUS-CASTUS (CHASTE BERRY)
Nowadays, V. agnus‑castus is used more than any plant in complementary and alternative medicine for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in the USA. Furthermore, the European Medicines Agency and German health authorities approved the beneficial effect of V. agnus‑castus on regulating the menstrual cycle and treating the PMS and breast pain.14 Studies have shown the benefit of V.angus-castus on reducing irritability, cravings and improving sleep during PMS, which in turn improves mood and indirectly reduce anxiety.15 Supplementation protocols recommend taking 150–250 mg of the dried berry once a day with breakfast.16
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen (indicates its ability to regulate physiologic processes and thereby stabilize our body’s response to stress).17 It is considered an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant herbal supplement and has been studied as a treatment for various health conditions.18 In regards to anxiety and stress, a systematic review has indicated that ashwagandha produced favourable results (showed significant differences) when compared with a placebo.19 Individual supplementation of ashwagandha can be either one hour before an anticipated stressful event or daily (usually in a morning). Depending of specific products this could be a root powder or standardised extract. If the latter, you need to look for withanolide content (aiming for 15–60 mg of withanolides per day).20
Inositol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that may serve as an antioxidant.21 Studies have shown that inositol can show beneficial effects on anxiety, depression and panic attacks. These initial studies are promising for the use of inositol for anxiety. With large doses (14 to 18 g/day) recommended, in one or more doses with food.22
- More and more of us are experiencing mental health issues, yet many of us will not seek professional support.
- Certain groups have experienced disproportionate effects on their mental health as a result of the pandemic.
- Our lifestyle choices and physical health can have a massive effect on our mental health and emotional wellbeing.
- Making changes in sleep, diet and exercise can be instrumental in both improving our emotional wellbeing but also in preventing future mental ill health.
- Research shows that specific nutrients may be particularly effective at improving our mental health. We have summarised some of the main nutrients and their benefits in this blog.
N.B. All products and custom formulas are made with ingredients from some of the most reputable suppliers in the world. Furthermore, with no use any hidden fillers, coatings, or binders and each formula been manufactured with strict compliance to FDA and cGMP guidelines, their products are an obvious choice for consumers.
If you have a specific interest or would like to see a particular product or nutrient reviewed, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Educating our customers in respect to the importance of nutrients and the idiosyncrasies between formulas and products is at the heart of what we want to achieve.
This post is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.