Do you have a vitamin D deficiency? There’s a large chance you might as an American. Around 42% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, but the percentage is larger in certain populations. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is naturally produced in the body. It’s also available in certain foods.
However, a large percentage of Americans don’t get enough. Research indicates that there is a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety as well as depression. Individuals struggling with a mental illness may turn to problematic behavior to mask the pain.
A dual diagnosis is when a person has multiple health conditions. This includes mental illnesses which commonly co-occur together. Holistic medicine can help heal the mind and body.
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Vitamin D and Depression
Many scientists have posed the question “does vitamin D help with depression?” The scientific community responded with a mixed answer. Like most scientific hypotheses, some argued that there wasn’t a strong enough link while others said it was.
A group of researchers analyzed 61 peer-reviewed articles on vitamin D and depression. Ultimately, they saw that there is a negative correlation between this vitamin and depression. In other words, people with low levels of vitamin D had a higher risk of clinical depression. While this doesn’t mean it can cure clinical depression, it could potentially help, especially in certain sub-groups.
Does Vitamin D Help With Depression?
Evidence suggests that vitamin D can help with depression, despite how some scientists feel. To clarify, most scientists refute the link between this vitamin and depression because there isn’t enough research on it. However, some studies show promising results.
For example, one study found that some of the brain receptors are associated with vitamin D and depression. It went on to say that vitamin D may act on cells and stimulate cell growth. In theory, a vitamin D deficiency can limit this behavior and stunt cell growth. This might stunt brain function as a whole.
The Cambridge University Press lists a journal that aimed to find a link between vitamin D and depression. The meta-analysis and review found that people with depression seemed to have low levels of vitamin D. They concluded that depression is more likely to surface in people with vitamin D deficiencies than people with normal or high levels.
So, does vitamin D help with depression? Evidence shows that people struggling with depression have low levels of vitamin D. It might help, although there is limited research. Either way, it’s an essential nutrient for the following reasons:
- Helps with bone health
- Prevents heart disease
- It can prevent multiple sclerosis
- Helps the body regular blood sugar levels
It’s evident that vitamin D is crucial to overall health. Bad physical health can lead to bad mental health. It’s important to get enough vitamin D to promote a healthy body and mind.
Does Vitamin D Help With SAD?
Medical professionals often prescribe vitamin D to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Studies show that it might be as effective as light therapy. Since the 1980s, light therapy is one of the main forms of treatment for this type of depression. People with SAD typically have a vitamin D deficiency.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people get during certain seasons. They tend to get depressed during the fall from the winter months (winter-patterned SAD/winter depression) when there is less sunlight, but it can happen during spring and summer as well. This rarer kind of SAD is summer-pattern SAD or summer depression.
Other forms of treatment for SAD include:
- Talk therapy (Cognitive-behavioral therapy for SAD)
- Bupropion (extended-release form)
Research suggests that SAD possibly happens because of a lack of regular sunlight. Skin manufactures vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. A deficiency links to multiple health problems, including SAD.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Feeling sad is normal. However, sometimes it’s not. This is the case when a person has felt depressed for an extended period of time. A person should see a doctor for depression if they have a depressed mood for two weeks or more.
Signs of depression are:
- Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Increased irritability
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Visibly moving or talking more slowly than usual
- Drastic appetite or sleep changes
- Thoughts of suicide
- Random health problems without any direct cause
- Memory loss
- Difficulty making decisions
Vitamin D and Anxiety
It seems that more scientists agree about the link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety than depression. Though, some members of the scientific community are skeptical about how much it helps with anxiety. Regardless, multiple studies find that a vitamin D deficiency may increase anxiety.
One study gave participants with vitamin D deficiencies supplements for six months. They used a test called the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale‐14 to rate participants’ level of anxiety. One group didn’t receive any vitamin D supplements. Ultimately, vitamin D supplements significantly helped lessen symptoms of anxiety in the group as opposed to the group that didn’t take any. Further studies the link between a vitamin d deficiency and anxiety.
The Link Between a Vitamin D Deficiency and Anxiety
Multiple studies illuminate the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety. The Journal of Diabetes research conducted a study to see if supplements could improve mental health and type 2 diabetes. Forty-six women participated in the study for six months and completed a survey about their mental health. The study found that taking vitamin D supplements significantly decreased anxiety levels in women suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Another study found that those suffering from anxiety had lower levels of calcidiol. Broken down vitamin D produces the byproduct, calcidiol. The study notes that low levels of vitamin D are thought to increase the chances of depression, diabetes, and cancer. The study also notes that literature from thousands of years ago hints at the link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety. An ancient text writes about poor mental health after lack of sun exposure.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
Stress signals to the body that it must take action. It’s great for life-threatening situations but can lead to physical and mental issues if it gets out of hand. People with anxiety disorders feel a level of stress that isn’t proportional to the situation at hand.
There are different types of anxiety. Some may feel anxious in a social setting whereas others will feel it constantly for no reason. They all share common symptoms.
Signs of anxiety are:
- Excessive sweating
- Shortness of breath
- A sense of impending doom
- Feeling restless
- Difficulty sleeping or eating
- Constant worries
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Increased irritability
- Mind going blank at times
- Health problems that have no source
- Inability to hold back tears
How To Treat a Vitamin D Deficiency
Eat a Healthy Diet
There are plenty of foods that have plenty of vitamin D. Eating a diet packed with vitamins can help treat a vitamin D deficiency. Certain fish and animal byproducts are packed with essential nutrients. Though, some drinks and food are fortified with this vitamin.
A study on vitamin D and depression listed these types of food as a form of treatment:
- Atlantic herring
- Canned pink salmon
- Channel catfish
- Light canned tuna
- Yoplait yogurt
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified milk (including soymilk)
- Fortified cereal
There are many types of food fortified with vitamin D. Examples include juices, pasta, and even margarine. Making a conscious effort to choose fortified food can help with a vitamin D deficiency and anxiety as well as depression.
Spend More Time Outside
Every person has vitamin D receptor cells. These receptors convert cholesterol in the skin after it’s exposed to the ultraviolet B rays from the sun. In turn, it produces vitamin D3. Too much sun can damage skin and lead to cancer. Yet, it’s still important to get regular amounts of sunlight.
Some medical professionals recommend getting around 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight each day (without sunscreen). People with darker skin will need to spend more time in the sun than those with pale complexions. Apply sunscreen right after to avoid a sunburn or serious health complications in the future.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
Regular sunshine and a healthy diet can’t help everyone. A potent way to battle a vitamin D deficiency is through supplements. Vitamin D supplements are available in a liquid or pill form. Doctors can prescribe higher doses of this nutrient to be taken once a week. Most pharmacies and grocery stores carry everyday vitamin D supplements.
Taking one small pill might prevent anxiety and depression. It’s worth a try because it’s cost-effective and has few side effects. Though, it’s best to talk to a medical professional when deciding to take supplements or address a nutritional deficiency. Vitamin D supplements can interact with other medications.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment in California
Vitamin D may be a natural way to help reduce symptoms of mental illness. It could act as a tool to help dual diagnosis treatment with fewer side effects. At Montare Behavioral Health, we believe a combination of hard-science techniques with holistic medicine is key to a fleshed-out treatment plan. Contact us now to see how our personalized plans help patients overcome mental health disorders.