Depression and Vitamin D: The Missing Link?
by DK Kara MD on Oct 22, 2021
As daylight gets shorter across the northern hemisphere, you’ll find yourself spending more time indoors. For some, this can bring on bouts of seasonal depression. For others, depression has been with them for a long time.
Mental disorders like depression and anxiety are on the rise, with the age ranges getting lower and lower. Children as young as three (1) are observed showing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you were to see a doctor for your depression, you’re likely to be prescribed an anti-depressant medication. While this is helpful to some, common side effects may cause you to want to weigh other options.
Ever heard of Vitamin D? Your body produces this naturally by being exposed to sunlight. You can also get it from specific foods, which we’ll cover in a bit. You can also take a supplement.
Could there be a missing link between vitamin D deficiency and depression? Research seems to be involved with many other diseases as well, so it’s pretty important.
Nearly half (2) of the American population is deficient in vitamin D– and no wonder! Life has changed a lot over the past 100 years.
Adults work indoors more, and children are in classrooms, daycare, or other indoor environments for long periods of time. The lack of natural sunlight, not eating enough fish, and other factors could all play a part.
If you enjoy history at all, you might like the fact that vitamin D was actually discovered (3) in the 1920s when scientists were looking for a cure for rickets. Rickets is a painful bone disease many children experienced, but since discovering and adding this “vitamin” to foods, the disease all but vanished.
What else could it do for the human body? Researchers wanted to know, so the journey continued.
For those who suffer from seasonal depression or mood disruptions, vitamin D can help. A study (4) was done that included two groups: one group received an hour of phototherapy, and the other received vitamin D. The group that received vitamin D had fewer symptoms of depression than the group that received phototherapy.
Another study (9) focused on the link between how severe someone’s depression was and their vitamin D levels in the blood. Samples were taken and the serum was tested. Those who had the more severe forms of depression also had the lowest levels of vitamin D in their serum.
Clearly, vitamin D seems to help with mental dysfunction. What other ways can it improve your health?
In addition to helping boost your mood, vitamin D has the potential to help (5)✝✝ with:
- Weight loss
- Heart disease
- Prevent some cancers
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Immune support
Natural vs Synthetic
There are two ways to get vitamin D – naturally, and synthetically (or artificially).
Vitamin D is one of those things that seems to break the rules. While most vitamins are defined as organic chemicals that your body needs but doesn’t produce itself (so you have to get them by eating things that have them), your body DOES produce vitamin D by itself.
Granted, you need the sun’s help to produce it. Ultraviolet rays hit your skin and turns a chemical combo (3) into vitamin D. That chemical is then taken to your liver and kidneys, where it’s activated into the vitamin D your body can use.
Certain foods can also have small amounts of vitamin D, like fish and egg yolk. But if you’re struggling with depression, you will likely need to supplement.
Believe it or not, the vitamin D you get at the store comes from sheep (6). They secrete an oily substance that helps protect their wool, and this substance contains the vitamin D that our body can use.
Talk with your doctor about an appropriate dose to add to your current
While vitamin D is helpful for many things, taking too much has the potential to be harmful.
You may have heard that vitamin D3 is used in rat poison. Is it toxic to humans, too? Dr. Peterson (8)✝✝ clarifies that rats have a chemical makeup different to humans, and are much more sensitive to vitamin D3. Also, you would have to take 4 million IU per day for it to do much harm.
Depression can be a serious and debilitating mental disorder. There are different contributing factors, and not everyone responds the same way.
Vitamin D has shown a lot of potential in improving the health of many Americans, as well as others around the world. Could it be the missing link when it comes to depression? Studies suggest it can definitely help.
Spending time outside and eating foods like yogurt, fortified cereals, fish and egg yolk are great ways to get vitamin D naturally. If you’re severely deficient, supplementation may be needed.
Depression is not something you need to struggle with forever. Hope is out there. Talk with your doctor about whether vitamin D supplements are right for you.
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author