Is there a connection between vitamin D and depression? Read along to find out. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has drawn public interest as a promising remedy for depression.
Could this inexpensive vitamin fight the effect of this widespread and deliberating disorder?
Vitamin D is a soluble nutrient that helps keep the bones strong and healthy. It also helps immune function and promotes cell growth.
Vitamin D deficiency comes when your body doesn’t absorb enough vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels can cause bones to become brittle, misshapen, or thin. It can also lead to health problems such as:
- Osteomalacia (bone softening)
- Heart disease
- Rickets in children
- Osteopenia (low bone density)
Vitamin D and Depression
Studies have shown a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression.
A 2013 mental analysis study noticed that the participants with depression also had vitamin D deficiency. The same study found that people with vitamin D deficiency were at greater risk of depression than those without depression.
There are vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with depression. The receptors help regulate emotions and behavior. Vitamin D also helps improve serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone that helps stabilize our feelings of well-being, mood, and happiness.
People with depression have greater risks of vitamin D deficiency because they don’t exercise regularly, stay indoors too much, and are unlikely to eat healthy diets.
If you are receiving treatment for depression, it’s good to ask your doctor to test your vitamin D blood levels.
Does Taking More Vitamin D Help With Depression?
Research has shown that vitamin D is crucial in boosting mood and warding off depression. People who regularly take vitamin D supplements are likely to experience improvement in depressive symptoms.
Increasing vitamin D intake may promote general health and develop a strong sense of well-being. However, no research has proved that vitamin D can be used alone to treat depression.
But, vitamin D can help treat depression caused by vitamin D deficiency.
It can also be effective when combined with therapy, medication, and key lifestyle changes like regular exercise and eating healthy.
Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency
Limited Sunshine Exposure
Sunshine is the primary source of vitamin D for many people. The skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. If you use too much sunblock or stay away from the sun, you limit your sun exposure, leading to vitamin D deficiency.
People with lighter skin absorb vitamin D quickly compared to dark-skinned people. The recommended time for sun exposure to get enough vitamin D is between 15minutes to 3 hours daily.
Few foods contain vitamin D. Not incorporating foods rich in vitamin D in your diet may lead to a deficiency.
The following foods increase your vitamin D intake:
- Fish liver oil
- Animal fats.
- Other fatty fish.
If you adhere more to a vegetarian diet, there are chances you are not taking enough vitamin D.
Darker Skin Complexion
People with dark skin have high amounts of melanin. Melanin reduces vitamin D production in the skin. A 2006 study showed that vitamin D deficiency was higher in dark Americans than in other American populations. In fact, about 40 % of dark Americans are vitamin D deficient.
If you’re more concerned about vitamin D production from the sun, you can seek advice from your doctor. Also, adding vitamin D-rich foods to your diet can help boost your vitamin D levels.
Studies show that people living in the northern latitudes, like the northern part of the US, maybe at risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is because sunshine is available for fewer hours.
If you’re living in such areas, you may want to add vitamin D-rich foods to your diet to boost vitamin D levels. If it’s hard getting enough vitamin D from food, you can use vitamin D supplements.
There is a link between vitamin D deficiency and individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Obese people are required to absorb more vitamin D than lightweight people.
If you’re obese, you should consult your doctor to advise you on a manageable weight loss plan and a good diet to increase your vitamin D intake.
Age can lead to vitamin D deficiency. As one gets older, the skin is less efficient in producing vitamin D. Older people are also likely to spend less time in the sun and consume diets with low vitamin D.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency may have you experiencing:
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Aching bones
- Pain in the muscles and joints
You may also experience symptoms of depression such as:
- Excessive weight gain or weight loss
- Lack of interest in things you enjoyed
- Hypersomnia, i.e., excessive sleepiness or insomnia
- Overwhelming hopelessness, feelings of sadness, and helplessness
- Loss of sexual interest
- Back pains and headaches
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble concentrating
- Thoughts of suicide
If you are experiencing such symptoms of depression, it’s essential to book an appointment with your doctor right away.
Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed through a blood test to measure the levels of vitamin D.
On the other hand, depression is diagnosed through questions from your doctor about your symptoms or by completing a self-assessment test. Depression cannot be diagnosed through a blood test. However, there may be an exam or lab tests to rule out any underlying issue and tests to determine if the depressive symptoms may be linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is essential to your physical and mental health. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to some health issues, including depression.
You can depression related to vitamin D deficiency through:
- Maintaining healthy weight
- Adding vitamin D-rich foods to your diet
- Getting more sun exposure
- Taking vitamin D supplements
Your doctor can also advise you on the best treatment approach.