If you've ever experienced a panic attack, you probably live in tremendous fear of the next. Panic attacks can feel like you're having a heart attack or dying. While vitamins are not a cure, certain nutrients may alleviate anxiety and possibly decrease the frequency of panic attacks. If you suffer from panic attacks, consult your doctor rather than attempting to treat the condition with supplements. Discuss any supplements you might be taking with your doctor, as supplements may cause interactions with certain medications.
About Panic Attacks
You might be taken completely off guard when you experience a panic attack, as they seem to come from out of nowhere. If you suffer panic attacks without an easily identifiable cause, you may have a panic disorder. Physical symptoms include trembling, heart palpitations or a pounding heart, sweating, chest pain, shortness of breath or hyperventilation and muscle tension; mental symptoms include feelings of fear and increased anxiety, as though your life is being threatened. While panic disorder is usually treated with medication and psychotherapy, certain vitamins and nutrients can have a calming effect and help regulate your nervous system, according to holistic health expert Christopher Hobbs and Dr. Elson Haas in their book "Vitamins for Dummies."
Vitamin B Complex
The B-complex vitamins are crucial for the proper functioning of your nervous system, according to authors Hobbs and Haas, and may be beneficial for patients who suffer from panic attacks. The B-complex vitamins include B-1, or thiamin; B-2, or riboflavin; B-3, niacin; B-5, pantothenic acid; B-6, pyridoxine; B-7, biotin; B-9, folic acid; and B-12, cobalamin. The B-complex vitamins are often referred to as anti-stress nutrients. According to the American Cancer Society, vitamins B-1 and 2 are found in cereals and whole grains, B-3 is found mostly in liver, fish and chicken, B-5 is in almost all foods, B-6 is found in fish, liver, pork and bananas, B-7 is in peanuts, liver and egg yolks, B-9 can be found in green leafy vegetables and liver, and B-12 is in eggs, meats and poultry, among others. B vitamins are crucial for production of mood regulating neurotransmitters. According to the Better Health Channel, B vitamins are easily destroyed when foods are cooked or processed. While uncommon, some people experience deficiencies of certain B vitamins if their diet does not include enough of these foods. Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to anxiety, mental confusion, fatigue and depression, among other possible symptoms. Clinical studies are limited regarding the effectiveness of supplementation with B vitamins on anxiety and panic; however, one study published in the April 2009 issue of the journal, "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics" showed that B vitamin supplementation significantly decreased anxiety and depression and improved feelings of well-being in patients with celiac disease. According to Dr. Benjamin Root in his book "Understanding Panic and Other Anxiety Disorders," many people believe in the efficacy of B vitamins, especially B-6, 9 and 12, for alleviating anxiety. However, more research is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of these vitamins for panic attacks.
During times of stress, your body quickly uses up its supplies of vitamin C. Vitamin C is vital for stress regulation and adrenal support. During situations of panic, your adrenal glands, which contain high amounts of vitamin C, disperse the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. Without enough vitamin C, your adrenal glands actually release more cortisol into your bloodstream, and this can lead to increased feelings of panic and anxiety. According to author Jack Chellem in his book "Feed Your Genes Right," without an adequate daily intake of vitamin C, you're also likely to feel more fatigued and stressed. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends an average daily intake of 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Good dietary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, cantaloupe and other fruits and vegetables.
Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium and magnesium are two minerals that often go hand in hand, as magnesium is required for calcium absorption. According to authors Hobbs and Haas, calcium and magnesium have tranquilizing effects that may help people suffering from anxiety and panic disorder. In her book "Stress & Energy: Reduce Your Stress & Boost Your Energy," naturopath Linda Page recommends including foods rich in calcium, such as sesame seeds, almonds and foods containing soy, as well as magnesium-rich foods like sea plants, nuts and bran to help prevent panic attacks, although this is not confirmed by clinical studies.
Is This an Emergency?
- Journal of the American Medical Association: JAMA Patient Page: Panic Disorder
- "Vitamins for Dummies"; Christopher Hobbs, L.Ac and Elson Haas, MD; 2011
- "Feed Your Genes"; Jack Chellem; 2005
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- American Cancer Society: Vitamin B Complex
- "Understanding Panic and Other Anxiety Disorders": Benjamin Root, MD; 2000
- "Stress & Energy: Reduce Your Stress & Boost Your Energy"; Linda Page, ND, Ph.D.; 1999
- Better Health Channel: Vitamin B
- "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics"; B Vitamins Improve.."; C. Hallert et al; April 2009