Under high stress levels, your stress response causes your body to create stress hormones like cortisol. Short-term cortisol production is one of the body’s many helpful ways to deal with normal stressors, increasing your blood sugar levels and boosting energy.
But chronic, or long-term stress, is a significant health risk than the occasional stressful situation. When cortisol levels are high for too long, your nervous system is taxed, leading to adrenal fatigue and other negative consequences for physical and mental health.
The gut-brain relationship is interconnected and can affect how you interpret and manage day-to-day stress. Eating foods rich in probiotics (such as sauerkraut and kimchi) and taking probiotic supplements could help reduce inflammation, support the natural production of B Vitamins in the gut, and support healthy neurotransmitter production in the brain.
We also recommend the following 12 vitamins and dietary supplements to support a low-stress lifestyle in the short or long term. Below, you’ll find information on how they work, their food sources, and what supplement forms to try.
- Thorne Vitamin B Complex
- Quicksilver Scientific Liposomal Vitamin C
- PrimeHealth Vitamin D with K2
- Pure Encapsulations Vitamin E (with pure tocopherols)
- PrimeHealth Ultra Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Gaia Herbs Ashwagandha Root
- Designs for Health Glycine Powder
- Thorne L-Theanine
- PrimeHealth Magnesium
- Gaia Herbs Rhodiola Rosea
- Vital Nutrients Valerian Root
- Designs for Health Melatonin
Before starting a new supplement regimen, talk to a healthcare provider about your unique situation and needs. None of the suggestions in this guide should replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified provider.
1. Vitamin B Complex
How It Works
B-complex vitamins help the body manage levels of the amino acid homocysteine and are critical for maintaining proper brain function, as well as lowering risks of heart disease.
Deficiencies in these vitamins are associated with many psychological and mood disorders, including chronic stress, depression, and anxiety.
8 types of B vitamins:
- thiamine (vitamin B1)
- riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- niacin (vitamin B3)
- pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- biotin (vitamin B7)
- folic acid (vitamin B9)
- cobalamin (vitamin B12)
Does B12 help with stress? Vitamin B12 helps with stress by building myelin sheath to surround nerves, thus creating a healthier and more protected nervous system.
Food Sources of B Vitamins
- Dairy products
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Some fruits and nuts
You can find most B vitamins in any B complex supplement. You can also find many B vitamins included in most multivitamin supplements.
Our favorite B vitamin supplement is Thorne Vitamin B Complex.
Avoid taking high doses of B6 or B12, especially if you have ever been a smoker, now or in the past, as they may increase your risk of lung and esophageal cancer.
2. Vitamin C
How It Works
Stress-related depression and anxiety are associated with vitamin C deficiencies. High-dose vitamin C may reduce anxiety and prevent blood pressure spikes caused by stressful situations, especially in women.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to inflammation). Vitamin C also helps to boost the immune system, which can help the body fight off infection and disease.
Food Sources of Vitamin C
- Bell peppers
- White potatoes
- Whole citrus fruits (including oranges, kiwi, lemon, and grapefruit)
- Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower)
Many people think of orange juice when they hear “vitamin C,” but fruit juices are often filled with unhealthy added sugars (which can worsen stress).
Vitamin C supplements can be found as standalone vitamin supplements or as part of inclusive multivitamin supplements.
Liposomal vitamin C supplements are the most bioavailable, meaning your body can absorb them most effectively without side effects. If you can, opt for liposomal vitamin C rather than standard vitamin C.
Our favorite vitamin C supplement is Quicksilver Scientific’s Liposomal Vitamin C.
3. Vitamin D
How It Works
Vitamin D deficiency affects anxiety, depression, and psychological stress. This nutrient also supports bone health, muscle function, and the immune system.
Vitamin D is produced in the body when sunlight hits the skin. Many people do not get enough sunlight, putting them at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. In the US, it’s estimated that at least 35% of adults are vitamin D-deficient.
People at the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency include:
- Elderly people
- Nursing home, hospitalized, and long-term care patients
- Darker-skinned people, particularly those living in areas with limited sunlight
How can one obtain more vitamin D? In addition to food and supplement sources, one can obtain more vitamin D by spending time in the sun, especially at midday and without sunscreen. Try spending just 10-15 minutes per day in the sun before applying sunscreen.
Food Sources of Vitamin D
- Beef liver
- Vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice
- Vitamin D-fortified plants
Vitamin D3 can be taken as a standalone supplement, as part of an inclusive multivitamin supplement, or in cod liver oil supplements. It’s important to get plenty of vitamin K2 with your D3 for the best absorption.
Our favorite vitamin D supplement is PrimeHealth Vitamin D with K2.
While you can’t overdose on vitamin D from the sun or in food, it’s possible — though very rare — to overdose on vitamin D supplements. Follow your doctor’s orders and dosing instructions when supplementing with vitamin D.
4. Vitamin E
How It Works
Taking vitamin E may help offset some of the side effects of chronic stress, such as brain fog due to sleeplessness and elevated corticosterone levels. However, these results are based on animal studies, so vitamin E’s impact on stress in humans is less clear.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in many foods, supplements, and skin products. It is known for its antioxidant properties and its ability to help protect the skin from damage.
Vitamin E deficiencies are rare in the United States but can be caused by a diet lacking fruits and vegetables. Potential causes of deficiencies in Americans may include problems with absorption or certain medical conditions.
Food Sources of Vitamin E
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanuts (or peanut butter)
- Leafy greens (such as beet greens, collard greens, and spinach)
- Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds
- Red bell pepper
Vitamin E can be found in inclusive multivitamins as well as standalone vitamins. Supplement options include capsules, liquids, and tablets.
Our favorite vitamin E supplement is Pure Encapsulations Vitamin E (with pure tocopherols).
5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
How It Works
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for optimal brain health and are correlated with lower stress and anxiety levels.
A 2007 randomized controlled trial found that 1000 mg per day of EPA (a specific omega-3) performed as well as 20 mg daily of fluoxetine, a pharmaceutical antidepressant. Another double-blinded study in 2012 showed that participants taking omega-3 had a 20% reduction in anxiety levels over 12 weeks.
Omega-3, predominantly found in fish and other seafood, keep cell membranes healthy and protect against chronic inflammation.
People with poor diets or conditions affecting fat absorption, such as Crohn’s disease, may be prone to deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids.
Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For those who wish to avoid fish or animal products, some plant sources are high in omega-3s. However, eating a larger amount of these sources may be necessary to get the same benefits as fish sources.
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Fish oil
- Krill oil
- Flaxseed oil
Our favorite omega-3 fatty acid supplement is PrimeHealth Ultra Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
How It Works
Ashwagandha can significantly reduce perceived stress levels and improve sleep quality for people with chronic stress. This adaptogenic herb is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine and is also known as Withania somnifera or Indian ginseng.
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that have a non-specific impact on the body’s stress response. These herbs have a protective effect on the central nervous system and can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in response to stress.
Some adaptogens increase mental work capacity, meaning you can mentally handle more stress without experiencing fatigue.
Other benefits of ashwagandha include:
- Reduced inflammation
- Nervous system protection (at the cellular level)
- Increased mental function
- Improved immunity
- General relaxation
Food Sources of Ashwagandha
The seeds, roots, and fruit of ashwagandha can all be ingested or used to make herbal products like teas. However, ashwagandha as a food is more challenging to find in the US and throughout North America, which is why most people rely on the supplement form.
Common supplement options for ashwagandha include capsules, tablets, powders, and tinctures. It may also be included in blended herbal supplements.
Our favorite Ashwagandha supplement is Gaia Herbs Ashwagandha Root.
How It Works
This amino acid is involved in the synthesis of proteins that help regulate the body’s metabolism. Glycine may effectively reduce stress and anxiety by inhibiting the release of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.
GABA is important for regulating the nervous system and causes a calming effect on the brain. It may also help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
Food Sources of Glycine
- Red meat
- Poultry (turkey and chicken)
- Canned salmon
- Whole grains
- Hard cheese
Glycine is often available in powder, capsule, and tablet forms. It can also be found in some supplement products for athletes and weight lifters.
Our favorite glycine supplement is Designs for Health Glycine Powder.
How It Works
L-theanine is an amino acid in green tea. It may promote relaxation and reduce stress by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
Food Sources of L-theanine
The primary known food source of L-theanine is green tea. However, the amino acid can also be found in black tea and certain types of mushrooms.
L-theanine is most commonly found in supplement form as a capsule or tablet. It’s also used as an additive in some energy drinks.
Our favorite L-theanine supplement is Thorne L-Theanine.
Magnesium is a mineral that reduces the side effects of stress. Magnesium supplements can help with stress relief by relaxing the muscles and nerves. It is also involved in energy production and blood pressure regulation.
Food Sources of Magnesium
- Pumpkin seeds
- Spinach, boiled
- Soy products (preferably fermented)
- Black beans
- Dark chocolate
- Magnesium glycinate
- Magnesium oxide
- Magnesium chloride
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium sulfate
- Magnesium gluconate
Each of these may be available as tablets, capsules, and sometimes liquids.
Our favorite magnesium supplement is PrimeHealth Magnesium.
10. Rhodiola Rosea
How It Works
Rhodiola rosea is another adaptogenic herb native to Europe and Asia. Rhodiola helps reduce stress by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Rhodiola rosea may interact with certain medications and other serotonergic drugs. Check with a doctor before using it, especially if you are on any medications.
Food Sources of Rhodiola Rosea
Like ashwagandha, parts of Rhodiola rosea can be eaten raw, cooked, or made into tea. It may be purchased from online retailers under several different names, including golden root, rose root, roseroot, and king’s crown.
Rhodiola supplements are available in tablets, capsules, powders, and liquid extracts.
Our favorite rhodiola rosea supplement is Gaia Herbs Rhodiola Rosea.
11. Valerian Root
How It Works
Valerian root is an herb used for its sedative and anxiety-reducing properties. It is commonly taken in supplement form but can also be brewed into tea. It works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps calm the nervous system and improve sleep quality.
Food Sources of Valerian Root
Like its herbal counterparts above, valerian root is edible. It can be used in foods or teas and can sometimes be found in health food stores or online retailers.
In addition to whole forms, valerian root may be available in tablets, capsules, powders, tinctures, and liquid extracts.
Our favorite valerian root supplement is Vital Nutrients Valerian Root.
How It Works
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain in the absence of light, signaling your body to prepare for sleep. Taking melatonin may lower sleep-anxiety by helping the body fall asleep easier and achieve more healing rest.
Ingesting melatonin through food and supplements also raises gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain, which can reduce anxiety symptoms and produce a sense of calm.
Food Sources of Melatonin
- Tart cherries
- Goji berries
Melatonin supplements can be found in the form of pills, liquid drops, and gummies.
Our favorite melatonin supplement is Designs for Health Melatonin.
How We Chose the Best Vitamins and Supplements for Stress
We drew upon the collective expertise of our medical team, comprised of a Medical Doctor, Naturopathic Doctor, Physician Associate, Nurse Practitioner, health coaches, to develop this list. Our selection process is rooted in evidence-based medicine and augmented by our extensive clinical experience with patients.
Rather than solely relying on research papers or general industry recommendations, we’ve had the unique advantage of observing how these vitamins actually impact our patients in terms of their effectiveness, side effects, and impact on overall well-being.
The recommendations put forth in this article are not based on casual observations but on a rigorous evaluation process that considers a range of factors. These include the bioavailability of the vitamin, the presence of any additives or fillers, and the ethical standards of the manufacturer.
Additionally, we have taken into account the varying needs and stress profiles of our diverse patient population to ensure that our recommendations are broadly applicable. Our aim is to provide you with a list of vitamins that are not only scientifically sound but have also proven to be effective in real-world applications.
In other words: We’re healthcare providers who actually recommend these supplements to real patients and developed recommendations based on real-life experience.
Choosing the Right Stress-Relief Supplements
A good multivitamin may provide many of the vitamins crucial to stress management and overall wellness. The best way to find the right stress-relieving supplement is to consider your specific health needs and budget.
What are the symptoms of vitamin deficiency?
The symptoms of a vitamin deficiency include fatigue, slow wound healing, dry skin and hair, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, and weight loss.
Other health factors to consider are your hormone levels and any predisposition you may have to psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Talk to a healthcare professional if you struggle with any of these issues.
Other Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Stress
While the vitamins and supplements listed in this article are a good support to reducing stress, they should not be relied upon alone. It’s important to implement the following practices into your daily routine to live a low-stress lifestyle:
- Get enough sleep
- Minimize screen time in the evening
- Minimize social media usage
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced diet
- Seek out healthy relationships within your community
- Spend time outdoors and prioritize sunlight in the morning
We’re Here to Help
We are dedicated to optimizing our clients’ health and well-being. If you’re struggling with stress or health-related issues, don’t hesitate to schedule a free phone consultation. We also offer holistic health coaching and are always ready to serve.
Follow us on Instagram for more tips for managing stress and anxiety.
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