Winter is Coming: Vitamin D & Depression
Winter is lurking; it’s right around the corner.
With colder temperatures, some people look forward to “sweater weather,” cozying up around a fire and engaging in winter sports.
What people don’t look forward to are the gray days and lack of sunlight that winter can bring. Sunlight delivers vitamin D, and a lack of it has been associated with depression. Vitamin D is activated in our bodies when UV rays from sunlight strike the skin. According to the Healthline newsletter, “unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions like a hormone, and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it.”
A lack of vitamin D is more common than you might think. The journal, Age and Aging, reported that as many as 1 billion people may suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Many may not even know they have a deficiency because symptoms are often subtle.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiencies
Healthline indicates that “you may not recognize [vitamin D deficiency symptoms] easily, even if they’re having a significant negative effect on your quality of life.” Some of the more common impacts of the deficiency can include:
- Getting sick more often, as vitamin D helps your immune system fight illness
- Exhaustion, including chronic fatigue and tiredness
- Bone pain or bone loss, as vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium
Additionally, vitamin D deficiency may lead to depression – though the jury is still out. Research has shown that vitamin D receptors in part of the brain have been identified as contributors to the regulation of moods. However, research has been conflicted on whether a vitamin D deficiency causes depression… or if depression causes a vitamin D deficiency.
Is There a Connection Between Vitamin D and Depression?
Possibly. According to Psychology Today, research has suggested that people with depression may produce less vitamin D, which is believed to play a role in serotonin activity. Further, it writes that vitamin D insufficiency may be associated with clinically significant depression symptoms.
Recent research from Oregon State University found a correlation between depression and vitamin D in young, otherwise healthy, women. The study included 185 female college students, who had their vitamin D levels measured with blood tests at different times during the school year and completed a depression symptom survey every week for five weeks.
The study found that more than 60 percent of participants had vitamin D levels below what is considered enough (most experts agree on a vitamin D blood level of at least 20 nanograms per milliliter).
Further, the study found that vitamin D levels varied depending on the time of year – declining in the fall, lowest in winter, and higher in the spring. Perhaps most interestingly, the lower the women’s levels of vitamin D, the more likely they were to have clinically significant symptoms of depression.
The Right Amount of Vitamin D
A blood test can be used to determine whether your own vitamin D levels are within normal ranges. The Vitamin D Council recommends that healthy adults take 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, even more if they get little or no sun exposure. The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board say 600 IU/day is enough for adults and the Endocrine Society says 2,000 IU/day is enough for most adults.
Segments of the population who are more likely to be vitamin D deficient include people with darker skin, people who spend a lot of time indoors during the day, and people that live in the northern part of the United States or in Canada.
Using Vitamin D to Fight Depression
Regardless of why you might be experiencing depression, if you’ve been battling it over the course of many months or years, finding the right medication for you could help.
Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about how to manage your depression, including medication, alternative treatments, exercise, or nutrition including, potentially, vitamin D supplements.
To read more about this topic, please read our blog post at https://genesight.com/blog/patient/studies-remain-inconclusive-on-vitamin-d-and-depression/.
Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
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