9 Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Make You More Anxious

When I first started looking for ways to overcome my chronic anxiety, I originally didn’t think nutrition had anything to do with it. 

But I was wrong.

Being deficient in certain nutrients can actually cause or worsen anxiety.

And getting more of the right vitamins and minerals can increase your ability to properly manage stress.

Anxiety itself can also deplete nutrient levels. 

So the more anxious you are, the faster your body will burn through its vitamins and minerals. 

And the lower your nutrient levels, the more anxiety you’ll have.

It can become a never-ending cycle, eventually leading you to a psychiatrist’s office.

But instead of checking your nutrient levels, your psychiatrist is likely to prescribe you anti-anxiety medication.

And what most people don’t realize – including most psychiatrists – is that anti-anxiety medications can further deplete your nutrient levels.

This all might sound like a disaster, but I promise you – it’s not.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

You can nip the problem in the bud. 

This article lays out nine nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to anxiety.

Making sure you get enough of these vitamins and minerals through food or supplementation can make a profound difference. 

All of them have really helped me at one point or another.  

Note: If you also have depression, check out my other post, 20 Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Make You Depressed

A cartoon little boy looks stressed and anxious.

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, and it’s absolutely essential for optimal brain and mental health.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough of it, even if they eat a healthy diet.

In fact, research shows that many people are deficient in magnesium nowadays (1-3). 

This is a big problem because magnesium is needed for the proper functioning of your nervous system and optimal neurotransmitter activity.

Researchers have found that low magnesium levels contribute and worsen many neuropsychiatric problems, including anxiety (18). 

In one study, it was shown that not getting enough magnesium can significantly increase your anxiety (19). 

Magnesium-rich foods on a table, including avocados, bananas, almonds, spinach, dark chocolate, etc. A magnesium deficiency can make you more anxious.

And another study found that a magnesium deficiency can increase anxiety by changing the composition of gut bacteria (23). 

The good news is that nine different studies have concluded that magnesium supplementation can reduce anxiety in humans and improve anxiety-related disorders (20-22, 24-25). 

Plenty of researchers have also found that magnesium has a calming effect in animals by activating GABA (A) receptors. These are the same receptors activated by anti-anxiety medication (26-30). 

So if you have anxiety, it’s clearly important to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium so that you don’t have a deficiency.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to do this. 

First, you should try to eat magnesium-rich foods on a regular basis.

Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate and bananas.

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Mental Health.

Epsom salt baths are another source of magnesium and an excellent way to increase your levels. You can simply throw the salts in your bathtub and take a nice relaxing bed at night before bed.

I also recommend a high-quality magnesium supplement so that you know you’re covering all your bases.

I personally take this magnesium supplement

Magnesium is one of the three supplements that I think everyone should be taking

Correcting a magnesium deficiency can also help you overcome trauma, depression, addiction and withdrawal

2. Zinc

Zinc is another important mineral for mental health, and you want to avoid a deficiency at all costs.

Like magnesium, it supports neurotransmitter production and nervous system functioning, and research shows that having a deficiency can worsen your anxiety

More than one study has found that individuals with anxiety have significantly lower levels of zinc (31, 35-36). 

But supplementing with zinc can effectively increase zinc levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety (31).

Zinc-rich foods on a table, including salmon, red meat, nuts and seeds. A zinc deficiency can increase anxiety and make you more anxious.

Other studies have also revealed a link between zinc deficiency and anxiety (32, 34).

And when animals are fed a zinc-deficient diet, they display increased anxiety-like behaviour (33). 

Unfortunately, researchers estimate that there are more than 2 billion people in the world that are deficient in zinc. And studies have shown that even a minor deficiency of zinc impairs brain function in children and adults (4-6). 

So, if you struggle with anxiety, it’s quite possible that you’re deficient.

And you’ll definitely want to take steps to optimize your zinc levels

Eat zinc-rich foods is a good start.

Some of the best food sources of zinc include oysters, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, mushrooms and spinach.

However, if you’re deficient like I was, I recommend taking a high-quality zinc supplement, at least for a short period of time. 

I created and take the Optimal Zinc supplement to make sure my zinc levels are optimal. 

Check out my previous post all about zinc, copper and anxiety if you want to learn more about how zinc impacts your mental health and can contribute to your anxiety.

The article also includes other steps you can taken to increase your zinc levels and lower your anxiety.

Zinc can also stimulate your vagus nerve, which reduces anxiety. 

3. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a key nutrient that supports your entire nervous system. 

It accomplishes this by playing a key role in the production of calming neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin and GABA.

So having a deficiency in Vitamin B6 can definitely increase your anxiety.  

Vitamin B6 levels have been shown to be significantly lower in individuals who have anxiety and panic attacks (37). 

Foods on a table that contain Vitamin B6, including pistachios, chicken, beef, bananas, potatoes, etc. A deficiency in Vitamin B6 can make anxiety worse and make you more anxious.

Some of the best food sources of Vitamin B6 include potatoes, bananas and chicken.

But if you want to see quick improvements, you may want to try supplementing.

Studies have found that Vitamin B6 supplements reduce anxiety (38-40).

When I took antidepressants and benzodiazepines for my chronic anxiety, multiple functional and integrative doctors suggested I supplement with vitamin B6.

This is because psychiatric medication can actually further deplete Vitamin B6, increasing anxiety in the long run. 

If you take a medication to manage your anxiety, or simply have anxiety and want to manage it better, I highly recommend supplementing with Vitamin B6

That’s why I included it in the Optimal Zinc supplement.

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4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning your body cannot produce them itself.

They are also necessary for the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system.

So not surprisingly, not eating enough omega-3 fatty acids can increase anxiety. 

Researchers have found low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in anxious individuals (41-42). 

Salmon, avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds on a picnic table. Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can make you more anxious.

In fact, people with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids tend to have most severe anxiety (46-47).

Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in cold water fish such as salmon, black cod, sablefish, sardines and herring.

Unfortunately, most people don't consume enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet.

That’s why I recommend supplementing with krill oil, a special kind of fish oil that contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids. 

I take this one

I feel more anxious when I stop taking it. I actually notice the difference.

Researchers have also noticed this, as numerous studies show that supplementing with fish oil can lower inflammation and reduce symptoms of anxiety (43-46, 48). 

Other than reducing anxiety, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to stimulate your endocannabinoid system and lower cortisol.

You can read more about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids here.

5. Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that was only discovered in 1998.

So it’s fairly new.

Your body makes a small amount of choline, but you still need to eat enough of it through your diet.

Otherwise, you can develop a deficiency.

And many people do.

Most people don’t meet the recommended intake for choline because very few foods in the Western diet contain it.

And researchers have found that adults with low levels of choline are more likely to have anxiety (49-50). 

A broken egg and egg yolk. Egg yolks contain choline. A deficiency in choline can increase anxiety and make your anxiety worse.

Animal studies have also shown that choline supplementation during pregnancy can prevent or dramatically reduce the chance of offspring developing anxiety disorders (51). 

The best food sources of choline include grass-fed beef liver and egg yolks, and I definitely recommend eating those foods regularly.

But taking a high-quality choline supplement can have a more noticeable and immediate effect on stress levels. 

Citicoline (also known as CDP-Choline) is my favourite choline supplement. 

I find that it reduces my racing thoughts when I’m stressed or anxious. 

Another good source of choline is Alpha GPC. 

Both Alpha GPC and CDP-Choline are included in the Optimal Brain supplement

Choline can also promote the regeneration of myelin

6. Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is important for many bodily processes that affect your brain and mental health.

Research shows that being low or deficient in selenium is associated with a significantly greater incidence of anxiety, and selenium supplementation diminishes anxiety (54). 

Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are the best course of selenium. A selenium deficiency can increase anxiety and make you more anxious.

In one study, researchers found that individuals with the lowest levels of selenium reported they had increased anxiety (52). 

But then after five weeks of supplementing with selenium, their anxiety decreased (52).

Another study found that selenium supplementation reduced anxiety in HIV+ drug users (53). 

Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium, but it can also be found in wild-caught seafood, pastured eggs and grass-fed meat.

I also make sure I’m not deficient by supplementing with it.

Selenomethionine is a highly-absorbable form of selenium.

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7. Iron

Iron is a trace mineral found in every living cell in our bodies.

It carries oxygen to all parts of your body, and low levels can leave you feeling tired, pale and irritable.

But research also shows that iron is an important cofactor in the synthesis of serotonin, and an iron deficiency can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder (57). 

In fact, iron levels are significantly lower in individuals with panic disorder (58). 

A spoonful of spirulina. Spirulina is an excellent source of iron. An iron deficiency can increase anxiety and make you more anxious.

And other studies have found that iron-deficient individuals have increased anxiety and increased fearfulness (55-56). 

Animal research also supports the idea that iron deficiency increases anxiety, and normalizing iron levels can reverse anxiety-like behaviour (56). 

Despite all this, I don’t actually recommend supplementing with iron because some research suggests that too much iron can cause health problems and actually increase anxiety (56). 

It’s definitely a much better idea to test your iron levels and naturally get your iron from food. 

I make sure I get enough simply by taking these grass-fed beef liver capsules.

Beef liver is one of the best sources of iron.

But I don’t like the taste of cooked beef liver, so I go with the capsules instead. 

Some other good sources of iron include spirulina, dark chocolate, spinach, sardines, pistachios and raisons

8. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

It’s actually more accurate to describe it as a hormone because your skins synthesizes it when it’s exposed to sunlight.

Every tissue in your body has Vitamin D receptors, including the brain.

So developing a deficiency can lead to a number of costly physiological and psychological problems, including anxiety.

And this is backed up by research.

Researchers have discovered significantly lower levels of Vitamin D in individuals with anxiety (60, 62). 

An illustration of the sun. It says Vitamin D in the middle of the sun. Humans get Vitamin D from sunlight. A deficiency in Vitamin D can make you more anxious.

And two studies found that fibromyalgia patients and pregnant women with Vitamin D deficiency have higher levels of anxiety (59, 61). 

Unfortunately, reports indicate that Vitamin D deficiency is very common and a major health problem across the globe (11).

Researchers estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency (12).

It’s best to get your Vitamin D by going outside and getting sunlight, but some people can’t get enough, especially during the winter.

That’s why I recommend using a Vitamin D lamp. I use this one.

Or you can take a Vitamin D supplement

Increasing your Vitamin D levels can also help with depression, addiction and withdrawal

9. Antioxidant Nutrients (Vitamins A, C, and E)

Lastly, some nutrients have antioxidant effects in the body, and being deficient in them can increase your anxiety. 

One study found that people with generalized anxiety disorder have significantly lower levels of Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin C and Vitamin E, all of which have antioxidant properties (68). 

But after six weeks of supplementing with these vitamins, researchers observed a significant increase in the blood levels of these nutrients, and the anxious patients experienced a significantly reduction in their anxiety (68). 

An image of fruits rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can reduce anxiety.

Researchers have also found that taking both Vitamin C and Vitamin E together reduces anxiety (15-17).

And several other studies show that high dose Vitamin C decreases anxiety (14, 69-71).

In addiction to getting Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables, I take at least 500 mg of Vitamin C every day.

I’ve tried taking up to 10 grams of Vitamin C daily, and it helped me manage anxiety. But you don’t need to do that regularly unless you find it really helps you.

Good food sources of Vitamin E include almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, olive oil, sunflower seeds and butternut squash.

Vitamin E is also included in the Optimal Antiox supplement, along with Vitamin C.

For Vitamin A, I don’t typically recommend supplementing with it. Instead, you should get enough from food, such as grass-fed beef liver, pastured egg yolks, grass-fed butter/ghee, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and broccoli. 

Cod liver oil is also a very good source of Vitamin A, and it includes Vitamin D as well. I take cod liver oil throughout the winter. 

Antioxidants can also reduce your body’s main stress hormone

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Bringing It All Together: Why You Should Take Them in Combination

The mainstream approach to treating anxiety is through talk therapy and medication.

But you can’t treat a nutrient deficiency with counselling and prescriptions.

And it’s important to note that taking all the above nutrients in combination will provide the greatest relief from anxiety.

Together, they have a synergistic effect.

For example, numerous researchers have found that taking Vitamin B6 and magnesium together is more likely to reduce your anxiety than simply taking a magnesium supplement by itself (64, 66-67). 

At this point, you may be thinking that you could just take a daily multivitamin, and that would cover your bases. 

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Why? 

Because one-a-day multivitamins often contain too much of the nutrients you don’t need (synthetic folic acid), and not enough of the nutrients you do need (magnesium, Vitamin D). 

Overall, if you have anxiety, I would recommend:

If you need additional support, I also recommend this anti-anxiety supplement. It contains a number of natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to manage my anxiety. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount.

And don’t forget to stimulate your vagus nerve regularly and process any emotionally traumatic experiences from your past. 

Nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle. 

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health!

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00048670802534408

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516

(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9861593

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22664333

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21939673

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22673824

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12493090

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5314166

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14769778

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17522618

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543765

(12) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/28/vitamin-d-deficiency-signs-symptoms.aspx

(13) https://goo.gl/sK35dL

(14) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12208645

(15) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21036190

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560823/

(17) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21839761

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198864/

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2959081/

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27869100

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25773775

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26591563

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20305593

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159129

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18799816

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28389335

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21835188

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25773775

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738454/

(32) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20689416

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868572/

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954453/

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23754591

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27825785

(37) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23603926

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572855/

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516/

(40) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4161081/

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16243493

(42) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25591045

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2275606/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21784145

(45) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191260/

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19906519

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23945451

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17110827

(49) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/4/1056.full

(50) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19656836/

(51) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25300468

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1873372

(53) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12906343

(54) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884624/

(55) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10742372/

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4253901/

(57) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680022/

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23603926

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16850115

(60) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26680471

(61) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4089018/

(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27827293

(63) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3759100/

(64) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208934/

(65) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23738221

(66) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26978056

(67) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18825946

(68) http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC3512361/

(69) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27932080

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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Inositol: An Important Nutrient For OCD, Anxiety and Depression

The nutrient that I want to talk about today isn’t very well known.

But it has helped me manage OCD, anxiety and depression over the years, especially after I weened off psychiatric medication.

I first found out about it in the book Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain by Dr. William Walsh, and started experimenting with it soon after finishing the book.  

It’s called inositol, or myo-inositol

Inositol is a non-essential vitamin and naturally-occurring compound in the body. It's structurally similar to glucose and small amounts of it can be found in food.

Researchers extracted and isolated it in 1849, but it wasn't until the 1980s that they discovered high levels of it in the central nervous system, and found that it plays a key role in neurotransmission (1, 4). 

Studies show that it can increase GABA-A receptor function and enhance serotonin receptor sensitivity, working similarly to anti-anxiety (benzodiazepines) and antidepressant (SSRIs) medications (2-3, 5). 

Inositol levels in the brain have also been shown to be lower in people with several neuropsychiatric conditions (30).

Considering this, it’s not too surprising that researchers have found that supplementing with it can help treat anxiety and depression

If you have one of the following anxious and depressive conditions, inositol could help you. 

Woman eating a salad outside.

Depression

First of all, researchers have found reduced levels of inositol in the spinal fluid of depressed patients (14).

They’ve also found significantly less inositol in brain samples of suicide victims (16). 

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a form of neurostimulation that helps treat depression, and one of the reasons it works may be because it causes a significant increase in brain inositol levels (15). 

But you don’t need to do tDCS to increase inositol levels in the brain.

Clouds raining on a stick man.

Supplementing with inositol has also been shown to increase inositol concentration within the central nervous system and treat depression in adults (17):

  • In one study, 11 people with treatment-resistant depression took 6 grams of inositol every day for four weeks, and nine of them experienced major improvements in their mood (18).

  • Another study had depressed patients take 12 grams of inositol every day for four weeks. Researchers found that these depressed patients experienced significantly greater improvements in their depression compared to the patients who took placebo (19, 22).

  • And people with bipolar disorder who were going through a major depressive episode supplemented with inositol for six weeks, and it led to a 17.4% reduction in their depressive symptoms (20).

Despite all of this research, it’s important to point out that I found one meta-analysis concluding that “it is currently unclear whether or not inositol is of benefit in the treatment of depression” (21). 

That’s not to say it won’t work for you though. 

In my experience, inositol does help with depression – just not with everyone.  

If you typically respond to SSRI antidepressants (like I do), it’s more likely that inositol will help you with your depressive symptoms (23). 

If SSRI antidepressants don't improve your mood when you take them, it’s less likely that inositol will help you.

Overall, it’s worth a try though. 

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Woman with PMDD holds stomach and head in worry.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition in which a woman has severe depressive symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation, which disrupts her social and/or occupational life. PMDD symptoms are more severe than symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (12). 

Inositol has been shown to help treat PMDD. 

Over the course of six menstrual cycles, women with PMDD supplemented with 12 grams inositol daily, and they experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms of dysphoria and depression.

Researchers concluded that they “were able to clearly prove the efficacy of myo-inositol in PMDD” (13). 

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Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

Based on my research and experience, inositol is better at reducing anxiety and treating anxious disorders than depression

Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience sudden panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.

Some people stop going into environments in which they previously had a panic attack, anticipating that it will happen again. This is considered agoraphobia. They may avoid public places such as shopping malls, public transportation, or large sports arenas. 

Many patients with panic disorder and agoraphobia don’t respond well to current treatments, or they discontinue drugs because of their side effects.

Woman with agoraphobia stares outside through window.

Luckily, there is research showing that inositol can help treat both of these conditions with little to no side effects.

In one study, researchers compared the effects of inositol to fluvoxamine (Luvox), an SSRI antidepressant commonly used in the treatment of panic disorder. 

Twenty patients with panic disorder took 18 grams of inositol every day for one month, and then took 150 mg of fluvoxamine every day for another month. 

Researchers found that inositol decreased the number of weekly panic attacks per week by four, while fluvoxamine only reduced them by two. Fluvoxamine also had side effects such as nausea and lethargy, and inositol didn’t have any side effects (6). 

In another study, twenty-one patients with panic disorder (with and without agoraphobia) took 12 grams of inositol daily for four weeks.

Compared to placebo, the frequency and severity of panic attacks, and the severity of agoraphobia, significantly declined after taking inositol. And there were hardly any side effects!

The researchers concluded that inositol is an “attractive therapeutic for panic disorder” (7, 8). 

Inositol has also been shown to reduce anxiety in children and decrease anxiety-like behaviours in rats (24, 25). 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Illustration of man on ladder fixing OCD sign.

In his book Nutrient Power, Dr. William Walsh says he uses inositol with all his patients with OCD.

I personally noticed a reduction in my obsessive-compulsive tendencies while supplementing with it. 

And there is some research to support this. 

In one study, patients with OCD took 18 grams of inositol or placebo daily for six weeks. 

At the end of the six weeks, the patients who took inositol had significantly lower scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.

The researchers concluded that inositol can effectively treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (9, 10). 

 
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Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a condition characterized by frequent and recurrent binge eating episodes, while bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging.

Research has shown that inositol supplementation can help with both of these conditions.

In one study, people with these disorders took 18 grams of inositol daily for six weeks, and researchers found that it reduced symptoms of binge eating significantly better than placebo. It also reduced depressive and anxiety scores.

The researchers concluded that “inositol is as therapeutic in patients with bulimia nervosa and binge eating as it is in patients with depression and panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders” (11). 

Inositol Dosage and My Personal Review and Experience

As a standard dietary supplement, many people take between 1 and 3 grams of inositol daily.

But for the brain and mental health benefits, you need to take much higher doses. 

The usual dosage for anxious disorders ranges between 12 and 18 grams. One of the depression studies used just 6 grams, but I haven’t found any research suggesting that it works neurologically at doses any lower than that. 

I took 18 grams (4.5 grams, 4 times daily) of this inositol powder while weening off psychiatric medication and it made the transition much easier.

However, some people find relief with lower dosages.

Therefore, it’s best to start with a lower dose and work your way up to 18 grams if necessary. 

Since you’ll likely need to take large amounts, and capsules usually only contain 500 mg of inositol, I recommend inositol powder.

I used this one, but there are a number of different choices through Amazon. It’s easy to consume because it has a sugary taste. 

You may need a scale like this one to measure your doses.

Inositol is known to be extremely safe. There are no documented cases of drug interactions from studies in which inositol was taken alongside psychiatric medications such as SSRIs.

I started taking it while taking medication, and soon realized I was experiencing more side effects from my antidepressant. This is sometimes a sign that you're on too high of a dose of medication. At that point, I could lower my SSRI dose easily because inositol was helping.

This anti-anxiety supplement also includes several other natural compounds that have helped me manage my anxiety over the years. It can help reduce stress and anxiety alongside inositol.

Conclusion

If you struggle with anxiety or depression, supplementing with inositol is worth a shot.

The current research suggests it can help with illnesses that respond well to SSRI antidepressants, but probably isn’t beneficial to people struggling with other disorders, such as autism, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and ADHD (26-29).

This aligns with my personal experience, as it helped me the most with anxiety and depression. And I had pretty severe symptoms of ADHD and cognitive decline, and inositol never helped me with that. 

Unfortunately, researchers don't have a financial incentive to continue looking into the benefits of inositol. This is because inositol is a natural compound and cannot be patented by pharmaceutical companies that fund and significantly influence "science-based medical research"

But that doesn’t mean you can’t just go ahead and try it yourself and see if it helps you. 

I hope it does. 

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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