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Medical research has confirmed three notable causes of panic attacks and anxiety in women: serotonin deficiency, low vitamin B6 levels, and low iron levels.
Natural Supplements for Anxiety and Panic Attacks No. 1: 5-HTP
Since inadequate serotonin levels in the brain induce depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in women, the real issue is how to increase serotonin naturally. The compound known as 5-HTP is a serotonin precursor produced by the body. And research has confirmed that 5-HTP has true antidepressant properties.
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Vitamins for Anxiety: Dosage Considerations
The seed pods of a West African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia contain 5-HTP, which are formulated into supplements. Maximum serotonin response occurs when you take supplemental 5-HTP on an empty stomach between 3 and 4 p.m. and again at bedtime. Start off with the lowest dose—50 mg—and take at each of those times with 4 ounces of juice.
After an initial three days of 5-HTP at 50 mg twice daily, increase the dosage to 100 mg at each of the two times and stay at that level. If this doesn’t do the job within four to six weeks, double the before-bed dose to 200 mg. Also, make sure to take a good B-complex vitamin during the day (see below). B vitamins are cofactors for 5-HTP metabolism.
Warnings: Although having too little 5-HTP is not good for you, taking too much 5-HTP can lead to harmful consequences as well. You should consult with a healthcare professional to know which dose is best for your needs. 5-HTP anxiety remedies may not be appropriate for everyone and may not be compatible with certain types of depression medication. If you are taking an anti-depressant SSRI drug, consultation with a healthcare practitioner is strongly advised.
Maurizio Fava, MD, editor-in-chief of Mind Mood & Memory answers a common questions about the symptoms of a panic attack.
Q: What are the symptoms of a panic attack? Are they dangerous?
A: A panic attack may occur without any warning and usually passes within a few minutes. Fear seems extreme, and involves at least four of the following symptoms:
- A feeling of imminent catastrophe or doom, or a need to escape; fear of “going crazy” or dying; feelings of un-reality or being detached from oneself
- Pounding heart or chest pain
- Trembling, sweating and shaking
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Flushing, chills, or hot flashes
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Dizziness or lightheadedness; nausea
Panic attacks involve a triggering of the fight-or-flight response that helps people react quickly to danger, although individuals who experience panic attacks are not necessarily in any danger. Experts do not know what causes panic attacks. Stressful life events or heredity may play a role in certain cases (people with close relatives who have suffered an attack have four times the risk). Other theories involve an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, greater sensitivity in brain circuits that process feelings of fear, or an over-reaction to changes in carbon dioxide levels. Professional assessment should be considered for frequent attacks.
When suffering a panic attack, help yourself by realizing that you’re not dying or losing your mind, and that you will feel better in a few moments. Take slow breaths, and progressively tighten and relax muscles from your toes to your shoulders and arms to release tension.
No. 2: B Vitamins for Anxiety
Helpful vitamins for anxiety can be a number of B vitamins. The B vitamin deficiencies most often linked to panic attacks, anxiety and depression are B6, B9, and B12. Food sources of these B vitamins for anxiety include:
- B12: Wild salmon, halibut and shrimp, grass-fed beef (especially beef liver), lamb, venison, eggs and yogurt.
- B6 (Pyridoxine): Chicken, turkey, tuna, shrimp, beef liver, cheese, beans, spinach, carrots, brown rice and sunflower seeds.
- B9 (Folic Acid): Spinach and other green, leafy vegetables, asparagus, turnips, beets, Brussels sprouts, avocadoes, beans, beef liver, salmon, and orange juice.
How to take B vitamins for anxiety and panic attacks:
B12: B12 can be given as an injection (called cyanocobalamin injections) or as a nasal spray by an integrative physician. Doctors typically administer injections in doses of 1000 micrograms. Initially, an injection cycle of eight to 10 administrations over the first two to three months is recommended, followed by a decrease in the frequency once you have achieved a therapeutic effect.
If you object to injections, oral supplementation with vitamin B12 is safe, efficient, and inexpensive. Most multivitamin pills contain 100 to 200 micrograms of the cyanocobalamin form of B12. This must be converted to methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin before it can be used by the body.
The actual absorption of B12 is a problem with supplements; therefore, to increase absorption, B12 should be taken along with the other B vitamins. But, another effective approach is to dissolve a sublingual tablet of methylcobalamin (1000 micrograms) under the tongue once or twice every day. This form of sublingual B12 is readily available as an inexpensive supplement.
Since B12 is so important yet hard for the body to absorb in the digestive track, many alert consumers take a sublingual B12 along with their regular B complex supplement.
B6: Vitamin B6 is also sold under the names pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and pyridoxal-5-phosphate and can be found in oral supplements and liquid drops. Adults ages 19 to 50 years require 1.3 mg of B6 daily. Women 51 years and older require 1.5 mg daily. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require 1.9 mg daily.
B9: Vitamin B9 (folic acid) works with vitamins B6 and B12 and other nutrients to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. It also works best when it is taken along with the other B vitamins; thus, taking a B vitamin complex supplement is best. Adults require 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Pregnant women require 600 micrograms per day and breastfeeding women require 500 micrograms per day.
Natural Remedies for Panic Attacks and Anxiety No. 3: Iron
Like taking B vitamins for anxiety, iron plays an important role as a cofactor for the synthesis of serotonin. Having low iron levels can lead to anemia and has been associated with fatigue, weakness, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder in the world.
Women aged 19 to 50 require 18 mg of iron daily as iron deficiency is often caused by menstruation. Post-menopausal women and men require 8 mg of iron daily.
Warnings: Iron is a tricky mineral. While having too little iron is associated with panic attacks and can lead to anemia, having too much iron in the body can lead to a condition known as hemochromatosis, which can cause diabetes, liver damage, and discoloration of the skin. Unlike other nutrients, excess iron cannot be excreted by the human body. Therefore, you should always ask your doctor to measure your iron levels though lab testing and you should never take iron supplements on your own. Also, iron should never be given to infants, children, or pregnant or breastfeeding women except under the direction of a doctor.
Other Natural Remedies for Panic Anxiety, Anxiety and Depression
Serotonin deficiency and vitamin/mineral deficiencies are not the only causes of altered mood. For example, dopamine is another neurotransmitter that actually serves to stimulate the brain. Before taking anxiety supplements, it is important to learn the true underlying cause of your depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
* If you are taking any prescription medications, do not begin a supplement regimen without talking with your doctor.
 Mayo Clinic
This post originally appeared in 2013 and is regularly updated.