Panic and anxiety are normal emotions that we all experience occasionally. When anxiety becomes chronic, and panic turns into full-blown panic attacks, this becomes a major health problem. It’s well-known that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to various health problems, but did you know that they can also be linked to anxiety and panic disorders?
Low Serum Vitamin B6 and Iron Could Contribute to Anxiety and Panic Disorders
According to a 2013 study done by Okayama University in Japan, low serum concentrations of vitamin B6 and iron are related to panic attacks and anxiety. While the research is older, it is still relevant. The researchers looked at data from just 21 patients who had been admitted to the hospital. Ten were patients with panic attacks, and 11 had hyperventilation attacks. When they looked at the patient’s blood work, they found that their levels of vitamin B6 and iron were significantly lower than that of the control group. The control group consisted of healthy individuals. (1)
Why Does B6 and Iron Affect Anxiety and Panic Disorders?
The researchers believe that this is because of serotonin’s role in anxiety disorders. Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan during the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Vitamin B6 plays the role of coenzyme for tryptophan. Iron is a cofactor for aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase that participates in the production of serotonin. If either of these is low, but especially if both of them are, your body will ultimately have trouble producing serotonin.
It’s important to note that the researchers didn’t examine whether or not anxiety and panic disorders are caused by low serotonin levels. They simply found a link between the two. A lot more research will be needed before scientists can say with certainty what causes these mental health conditions.
How To Support Natural Serotonin Production
Of course, if you have low vitamin B6 and/or iron levels, the first thing you want to do is to increase those. The first course of action here, unless you are extremely deficient, is to correct using diet. This means specifically increasing your intake of foods that contain that vitamin and/or mineral.
Foods high in vitamin B6 include (2):
- Beef liver
- Organ meats
- Starchy vegetables
- Non-citrus fruits
- Fortified cereals
Foods that are rich in iron include (3):
- Red meat
- Organ meat (such as liver)
- Fish or shellfish
- Dried fruit
- Wholegrain breads and pasta
- Fortified breads and cereals
- Beans and legumes
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
If absorption is the problem, or you have iron deficiency anemia, then your doctor will likely suggest supplementation. This is especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian. Levels of vitamin B6 are highest in meat products, and the type of iron available in vegetarian food sources is often harder for the body to absorb. In these cases, supplementation will likely be needed.
Other Natural Ways To Boost Serotonin
If you are experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Supplements, diet changes, and natural remedies can all help, but they should never take the place of medical intervention when it is necessary. Using natural remedies and strategies along with your doctor’s plan can help you to better manage your anxiety and panic episodes.
Besides just vitamin B6, the other B vitamins can also be beneficial for managing anxiety. This includes B12 and B9, also known as folic acid. Another natural remedy is the plant Griffonia simplicifolia. This plant contains 5-HTP, which is a precursor to serotonin. It is available in supplement form, however, you should consult your healthcare provider before taking it. Too much 5-HTP can have negative consequences. This is especially important if you are already on any other depression medications. (4)
Yoga and meditation are other ways to help calm the body and mind. These, along with breathing techniques, can help you to manage anxiety and panic when it does arise. Regular yoga and meditation practice can also help to decrease the frequency of these episodes.
The Bottom Line
This study did find a potential link between vitamin B6 and iron levels. This was a small study, however, and doesn’t give us any definitive causation. Just because you have low levels of either one of those nutrients doesn’t mean you will have anxiety and panic attacks. Vice versa, just because you have anxiety and panic attacks doesn’t mean you are low in vitamin B6 or iron. That being said, this is not the first time that nutrition status has been linked to mental health. We know that by eating a healthy, balanced diet, we can prevent many conditions and illnesses – including anxiety. As always, follow your doctor’s instructions, don’t stop taking medications in favor of “natural solutions,” and don’t start taking supplements without first checking with your doctor.
Keep Reading: Lion’s Mane: The Mushroom You Should be Taking To Support Nerve Regeneration and Cognitive Performance
- “Low serum concentrations of vitamin B6 and iron are related to panic attack and hyperventilation attack.” PubMed. Yasuhito Mikawa, et al. 2013.
- “Vitamin B6.” NIH
- “Foods high in iron.” Health Direct
- “L-5-hydroxytryptophan alone and in combination with a peripheral decarboxylase inhibitor in the treatment of depression.” PubMed. K Zmilacher, ete al.1988.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.