Throughout 2020, the coronavirus pandemic, civil and political unrest, and all sorts of other stresses raised awareness of the importance of self-care. Now, as we kick off a new year, that’s sure to endure. In fact, 2021 already has all sorts of new health and wellness trends brewing. Here, we break down seven of of our favorites to watch out for.
GABA for Good Vibes
Many of this year’s health and wellness trends center around mental well-being. In 2021, we’ll be talking a lot about gamma-aminobutyric acid, more commonly known as GABA, says certified herbalist and doctor of acupuncture Kerry Boyle, D.Ac., L.Ac.
“GABA, a naturally-occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain, is a rising trend I see in clinical practice,” she says. So far, an ever-expanding body of research suggests that a GABA deficit may contribute to mood issues, nervousness, and poor sleep.
As millions have struggled with these issues for the first time or experienced worsening symptoms during 2020, it’s no surprise that interest in supplementing with GABA will grow in 2021. According to Boyle, the non-habit-forming supplement can both support sleep and help you feel at-ease.
Methylated B Vitamins For All
The B vitamins are involved in several key functions in your body, including energy, metabolism, and brain function. Brittany Michels, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe (book a free consultation with her here) predicts 2021 will bring methylated B vitamins (which are already converted into the active form the body can use) to the forefront.
Why methylated Bs? “Almost half of the nation is born with a genetic defect that inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize synthetic folic acid or natural folate into its usable form,” Michels explains. (It’s known as the MTHFR mutation.)
This means that people with this mutation can’t properly convert synthetic folic acid or natural folate into its usable form. Thus, people with these genetic mutations don’t get the most out of conventional B supplements.
Read More: 6 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough B Vitamins
While some supplement brands have always provided methylated B vitamin options to ensure everyone can utilize them, many have not, according to Michels. And being unable to properly convert your Bs comes at a price. “Inhibited conversion has links to mental health issues, neural tube defects, and high homocysteine levels, which can damage the body,” Michels says.
Considering mental health will most likely continue to be top priority throughout 2021, Michels predicts methylated B vitamins will become more common as consumers investigate their absorption and supplement brands rise to meet the demand.
To confirm whether your supplements contain methylated Bs, look for terms like methylfolate (5-MTFR), methylB12 (methylcobalamin), and pyridoxal 5’-phosphate in the nutrition facts. Or, look for language like “active, bio-active and/or methylated” on the bottle, notes Michels.
If you’re unsure of your genetics, Michels recommends considering testing (like 23andMe) or choosing bioactive, methylated supplements (like The Vitamin Shoppe Vthrive brand Bioactive B-Complex) to be safe.
At-Home Workouts Here To Stay
As gyms and fitness studios function at limited capacity, at-home workouts (and innovative home workout systems) become more and more popular.
“This year forced people to invest in their own workout equipment and make do with what they have at home,” says Sarah Pelc Graca, C.P.T., founder of Strong with Sarah. “I think a lot of people are realizing working out at home is not only more time-efficient and cost-effective, but convenient, too. Waking up in the morning to drive 15 minutes to the gym takes a lot more effort than rolling out of bed and doing 30 minutes on your Peloton.”
Pelc Graca believes many people will continue to opt for a balance of gym or studio workouts and at-home sessions long-term. “Now that people know they can do the at-home thing, they will continue to split their time between gyms and fitness studios and their homes,” she says.
The trend is sparking all sorts of innovation in the world of fitness tech, from streaming services to cool new equipment. A few hot examples: yoga, fitness, and meditation streamer Alo Moves (which has a monthly membership for $20 a month) and smart mirror training systems like the barbell-equipped Tempo (from $55 a month) and Tonal (from $149 a month).
Chinese Herbal Medicine Goes Mainstream
As many seek out holistic health practices amidst the pandemic, more and more people in the West are looking to the East for inspiration. As a result, approaches like Chinese herbal medicine are really taking off.
“According to market research reports, Traditional Chinese Medicine is expected to grow over the next five years,” says Boyle. Considering Medicare recently moved to cover acupuncture for chronic low back pain, Boyle isn’t the only one who feels this way.
As Traditional Chinese Medicine becomes more prominent, you’ll also start seeing more of its time-tested herbal formulas packaged in modern supplements.
One example: Ridgecrest Herbals ClearLungs Chinese Herbal Formula, which contains a proprietary blend of herbs like dong-quai root, asparagus tips, almond seed, and more. “This is a great, balanced formula using Chinese herbs, including warming and cooling herbs. It works to clear heat from the lungs and nourishes the lungs’ Qi (or energy),” Boyle says. “It also works to clear dampness, which means phlegm in TCM terms.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Traditional Chinese Medicine, search the National Certification and Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s (NCCAOM) directory of board-certified providers here.
Time Outside Takes On New Meaning
Many National Parks experienced staggering attendance in 2020, showing people’s desire to get outdoors and enjoy nature amidst everything going on. While the CDC still recommends avoiding travel, many of us are regularly heading out to local parks to take a break or crank out a killer workout. At long last, the great outdoors have reclaimed their much-deserved status amongst health and wellness trends.
“A lot of people have realized the importance of getting outside every single day, both for physical and mental health,” says Pelc Graca. Since spending time in nature is also a research-backed stress-reducer, many may find that taking a workout outdoors offers more mental health benefits than logging that time indoors.
“Whether it’s for a jog, a long walk, or simply to take the dog out for a play session, I see this continuing into 2021,” she says. If there’s ever been a time to explore winter hiking or sign up for that park bootcamp class, it’s now.
Vitamin D for Immunity
There’s no denying that vitamin D has been buzzy in 2020, with several scientific studies showing a link between insufficiency of the essential vitamin and the novel coronavirus. In fact, one published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that the majority of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had lower vitamin D levels.
Plus, spending so much time hunkered down at home means many people are not getting enough sunshine to maintain solid vitamin D levels.
Read More: 7 Signs You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency
“Vitamin D turns on and off our immune system, so we must maintain adequate levels for optimal health,” says Michels. It influences a number of immune cells, including B cells, dendritic cells, monocytes, and T cells.
On top of that, “low levels of vitamin D are linked to anxiety, depression, and changes in metabolism and hormones,” Michels adds. Turns out, the vitamin helps regulate neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline—all of which play a role in our mental health and stress response.
Because of COVID-related factors, Michels believes we’ll see vitamin D truly become a household name for immune support in 2021. It’s a no-brainer, she says.
Michels recommends having your vitamin D level checked and supplementing if you’re low or don’t get inadequate sun exposure. (We need about 20 to 45 minutes per day, depending on factors like our skin tone and the weather). Your best bet for proper absorption: a vitamin D3 supplement, like The Vitamin Shoppe brand Vitamin D3.
Functional CBD Blends Catch Fire
Just when you thought you’d seen every possible CBD-infused oil, gummy, and muscle rub, 2021 will usher in a whole new slew of innovative CBD products.
In addition to offering new flavors and forms, 2021’s CBD products will increasingly feature accompanying herbal ingredients for additional support, says Michels.
“For example, The Vitamin Shoppe’s plnt brand recently launched a CBD blend that includes ashwagandha, an adaptogen that helps to counteract the negative effects of stress on hormones,” Michels says. Another noteworthy arrival? The Vitamin Shoppe’s VThrive brand Broad-Spectrum CBD Hemp Extract + Sleep Blend, which combines CBD with GABA, Venetron®, and melatonin for a restorative night of shut-eye.
“With a rising focus on mental health, stress management, and sleep support in 2021, these ingenious blends will provide an array of supportive benefits,” Michels says.