Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin because when the sun hits your skin, your body produces it. Almost 42 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Research shows a link between low vitamin D and depression. But does vitamin D3 help with anxiety and depression?
What is the Connection Between Vitamin D and Depression?
A vitamin D deficiency can lead to medical issues and psychological problems. The vitamin D level must be proper for the body to function correctly. Low vitamin D levels can contribute to adults developing depression, schizophrenia, and seasonal affective disorder.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
A person struggling with low vitamin D levels often has symptoms similar to symptoms of depression. These symptoms include:
- Mood changes that accompany feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and fun activities
- Suicidal thoughts
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your doctor will typically check your vitamin D levels.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression changes a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Symptoms often include:
- Trouble sleeping or eating
- Loss of interest in hobbies and previously enjoyed activities
- Isolation and withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Suicidal ideations
If you have any symptoms of depression, especially thoughts of suicide, it is crucial to seek help immediately.
Can Vitamin D Help With Depression?
Researchers have found that a significant number of people struggling with depression are also deficient in vitamin D. A number of studies show those with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy struggle with postpartum depression more often than women with normal levels.
Researchers have also found a possible association between low vitamin D and depression in people with chronic spinal cord injuries, gout, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. However, some studies show mixed results when answering, “does vitamin d help with depression/?
Because the finding of the studies is mixed, more research needs to be done on the connection between vitamin D and depression. But, if you struggle with depression, it would be wise to check your vitamin D levels.
Does Vitamin D Help with Depression?
Evidence shows people struggling with depression often have low vitamin D levels. And although the research is limited on the benefits of vitamin D on depression, vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the following reasons:
- Helps with bone health
- It enables the body to regulate blood sugar levels
- Prevents heart disease
- It can prevent multiple sclerosis
Vitamin D is crucial to overall health and well-being. Being unhealthy physically can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. So if you do not spend much time outside, it is important to get your vitamin D from supplements or foods.
Does Vitamin D Help with SAD?
Doctors and mental health professionals often prescribe vitamin D to patients with the seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some studies show taking this vitamin can be as effective as light therapy. Light therapy has been the main form of treatment for SAD since the 1980s. This is because people with SAD are typically vitamin deficient.
If you struggle with Seasonal affective disorder, other treatments that may help include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
The skin produces vitamin D when it absorbs sunlight. Without vitamin D, a person is at risk of seasonal affective disorder and multiple other health problems.
What Are the Signs of Depression?
It is normal to feel sad sometimes. However, it is not normal when it lasts for an extended period. If you have been feeling sad for two weeks or more, it is important to see a doctor.
Signs of depression include:
- Having persistent feelings of emptiness and sadness
- Being increasingly more irritable
- Losing interest in things you enjoy
- Talking or moving slower than normal
- Big changes in your eating and sleeping habits
- Having thoughts of suicide
- Having unexplained health problems
- Experiencing memory loss
- Trouble making decisions
What is the Connection Between Vitamin D and Anxiety?
More scientists seem to agree about the connection between vitamin D and anxiety more often than vitamin D and depression. However, some scientists are unsure when asked, “does vitamin D3 help with anxiety?” Regardless, many studies show a vitamin D deficiency can increase anxiety.
One study, in particular, gave supplements to participants low in vitamin D for six months. With the help of a test called the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale-14, they rated their level of anxiety. Another group didn’t receive vitamin D supplements. The study showed people taking the supplements had significantly less anxiety than those who didn’t.
However, further studies must be done before they can definitively answer if people should take vitamin D for anxiety.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety?
Stress sends signals to the body that it is time to take action. While this is good in life-threatening situations, it can lead to physical and mental health issues. Anxiety disorders cause people to have stress levels disproportionate to the situation.
Anxiety comes in different types. One person may have social anxiety, and another may struggle with constant stress for no reason. However, all anxiety disorders have common signs and symptoms.
Signs of anxiety include:
- A sense of impending doom
- Excessive sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling restless
- Trouble sleeping or eating
- Worrying constantly
- Extremely tired all the time
- Mind going blank
- Inability to hold back tears
- Unexplained health issues
Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency
Factors like age, lifestyle, and lack of exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Knowing what can lead to low vitamin D and depression and anxiety can help you lower your risk of developing physical and mental health issues.
The primary source of vitamin D for most people is sunlight. People who spend more time indoors limit their exposure. This can lead to vitamin D deficiency. The amount of sun exposure a person needs depends on their climate and the time of year.
People who are low in vitamin D can increase their vitamin D levels by eating foods high in vitamin D. Natural sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish
- Fish liver oils
- Animal fats
- Orange juice and cereals
People who follow vegan or vegetarian diets often need more vitamin D in their diets. Vegans should include the following to increase their vitamin D intake:
- Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light, which increases their vitamin D content
- Fortified plant-based milk, juices, and grain products
Vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. is more prevalent in people with darker skin tones than in other populations. One study found over 17 percent of Black people were at risk of low vitamin D levels. This is compared to 7.6 percent of Asian people, 2.1 percent of white people, and almost six percent of Hispanics.
The disparity is likely because people with dark skin tones have higher amounts of melanin. Melanin is a natural pigment that gives the skin its color. It also appears to interfere with vitamin D production in the skin. For this reason, it is important to increase your vitamin D intake with food and supplements.
People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher typically have a vitamin D deficiency. They need to absorb more vitamin D to maintain normal levels compared to people with lower BMIs.
If you struggle with obesity, checking your vitamin D levels is essential. If you also have anxiety attacks, your doctor may suggest taking vitamin D for anxiety to reduce your symptoms.
There is a known link between vitamin D deficiency and aging. As a person gets older, their skin becomes less efficient at vitamin D production. Older adults not only spend less time in the sun, but they also eat smaller meals with insufficient amounts of vitamin D.
How Do You Treat A Vitamin D Deficiency?
A person can increase their vitamin D levels in various ways. Let’s look at the three most common ways to increase vitamin D levels while simultaneously reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Plenty of foods are high in vitamin D. Eating these foods can significantly improve your levels. Although many foods are high in vitamin D, other food and drinks are fortified with this vitamin.
A study on vitamin D and depression listed the following foods as a form of treatment:
- Atlantic herring
- Canned pink salmon
- Channeled catfish
- Light canned tuna
- Yoplait yogurt
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified milk
- Fortified cereal
Many other foods are fortified with vitamin D, including juices, margarine, and pasta.
We all have vitamin D receptor cells. They convert cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3 after exposure to sunlight. However, too much sun can lead to skin damage and even cancer.
It is typically recommended to spend 15 to 30 minutes a day outside. However, people with darker skin tones may need to spend more time in the sun than those with lighter complexions.
Eating foods high in vitamin D and spending time in the sun is not possible for everyone. In this case, taking a vitamin D supplement can help with vitamin D deficiency. Supplements are available in pill or liquid form and can be found anywhere vitamins are sold.
Taking vitamin D for anxiety and depression is cost-effective and has few side effects. However, checking your levels before starting a vitamin D supplement is important.
Adler Health Can Assist with Anxiety and Depression Disorders
A natural way to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety is by increasing vitamin D levels. However, for some people increasing vitamin D intake isn’t enough. At Adler Health, we provide the following options for treating depression and anxiety.
- Psychotherapy or individual therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Trauma therapy
- Group therapy
We believe each person is different, and their treatment plans should be tailored to their specific needs. While mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can be overwhelming, a happier life is possible with the right treatment. Contact us today to find out more.