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Can Vitamin D Help With Depression

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Supplements May Still Benefit People With Vitamin D Deficiency

Ask Dr. Doreen: Do You Believe that Vitamin D can Help Depression?

A limitation of this study was that participants, on average, already had adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood when they began the study. So, it’s not clear whether people who are already deficient in the vitamin could benefit from the treatment when it comes to depression and mood.

More than 1 in 3 people in the US could have a vitamin D deficiency, according to previous research. People with darker skin are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency, since high melanin levels in darker skin slow the process of producing vitamin D from sunlight. Elderly people, too, are at higher risk of low vitamin D levels, since they may be less able to spend adequate time in the sun. More research is needed to see whether supplementing could provide some benefits for these specific at-risk groups.

Vitamin D also plays other important roles in our body, including support strong bones and a healthy immune system.

“It’s not time to throw out your vitamin D yet though, at least not without your doctor’s advice,” Okereke said in the press release.

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Treating Vitamin D Deficiency

The best way to treat vitamin D deficiency is to:

  • Increase your exposure to the sun
  • Increase your intake of food fortified with vitamin D
  • Take supplements

Your doctor may also give you antidepressants to treat depression. You can take them separately or with dietary supplements. Join a support group, exercise regularly and practice proper sleeping habits.

Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is as vital for mental health as it’s essential for physical health. There is sufficient research to show that not having enough of the vitamin can lead to depression-like symptoms. People with depression have higher chances of having vitamin D deficiency. Prevent this from happening by adding food rich in Vitamin D to your diet and getting adequate sun exposure.

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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is described as depressive episodes occurring at the same time each year, predominantly in the winter or autumn season, with symptoms easing at other times of the year.

A person might experience the blues or a more depressed mood as the colder winter season, with shorter days, begins. Improvement in mood returns with the warmer seasons and longer days.

It can occur at other times of the year, however, it is much less common outside the autumn and winter seasons.

Vitamin D is known to play a role in SAD since the condition mainly occurs when people have less exposure to the sun, often resulting in a vitamin D deficiency.

SAD is a common type of depression, affecting 11%¹ of people with seasonal bouts of major depression.

Its classified as a serious mental health issue since it can significantly affect a persons behaviors, daily functioning, and relationships with others. Its a complex disorder likely influenced by several factors.

Early treatment can reduce the chances of the disorder becoming worse and can help to improve your quality of life.

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When To See A Doctor

Most people do not realize that theyre vitamin D deficient, as symptoms are generally subtle. You may not recognize them easily, even if theyre significantly affecting your quality of life.

As a rule of thumb, you may consider asking your doctor to check for vitamin D deficiency if you notice any possible symptoms and have any risk factors. They can check your vitamin D levels with a blood test.

Your doctor may also help rule out other causes behind some of the symptoms youre experiencing.

Assessment Of Depressive Symptoms

Can low levels of vitamin D cause depression? Doctors not yet sure, but ...

Depressive symptoms were measured by a short eight-item version of the validated Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. The CES-D scale is not a diagnostic instrument for clinical depression but can be used to identify people at risk of depression in population-based studies. This short version had good internal consistency at each wave and comparable psychometric properties to the full 20-item CES-D. Respondents were asked whether they had experienced any depressive symptoms, such as restless sleep or being unhappy in the week prior to interview. Respondents who reported four or more depressive symptoms in the week prior to the interview were classified as reporting elevated depressive symptoms,.

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What Exactly Is Depression

The Mayo Clinic calls depression a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

Depression ranges from mild to moderate to severe. Mild depression can make you feel low, making almost everything harder to do while severe depressionalso known as clinical depression or major depressive disordercan lead to feeling hopelessness, or even suicidal thoughts or actions. There are proactive steps you can take, often in combination, to help manage your depression, including counseling/therapy with a trained social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist lifestyle changes, such as getting regular sleep, exercise and a well-balanced diet with appropriate supplements prescribed antidepressant medications and medical procedures such as electroconvulsive therapy.

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Depression can be caused by a number of things, including changes in lifes circumstances , negative thought patterns and lack of self-esteem, genetics, hormones and chemical changes in your brain. Depression often occurs in those dealing with other serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimers disease and more, and cyclically depression may lead to some of those same diseases.

Depression can last a long time and affect your everyday lifeespecially if you dont take steps to manage it.

Habit And Lifestyle Changes

It doesnt just have to be about your vitamin D level or being worried about a vitamin D deficiency.

A healthcare professional may advise you to address health concerns related to weight, blood pressure, dietary habits and other issues that could be having negative effects on your health mental or otherwise.

Exercise, for example, has been found to be as effective as drugs in certain conditions.

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Recommendations For Future Research

Based on the above, we propose the following recommendations that may be kept in mind by prospective researchers who intend to study the preventive and therapeutic roles of vitamin D in depression:

  • Use standard doses/duration/frequencies/route of administration of vitamin D: Preliminary evidence shows that oral and parenteral routes are comparable in efficacy, but compliance is likely to be of greater concern in oral supplementation. Parenteral supplementation may be more efficient in this regard, and there are supporting studies showing beneficial effects of a single adjunctive parenteral dose of vitamin D in depression

  • Use uniform assay procedures and outcome measures: This is necessary to facilitate inferences. Researchers must develop standard protocols for vitamin D assay and supplementation in clinical practice. The recommended assay to measure different types of vitamin D is the chromatographic procedure of liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry . Uniform instruments must be used to assess depression outcomes of interest. Adhering to these steps would, undoubtedly, enhance cross-cultural comparability of findings

  • Investigate the benefits of suprathreshold dosing of vitamin D: Thus far, the available trials have only looked at using supplementation to correct preexisting vitamin D deficiency. It may be worthwhile to check if additional supplementation helps with residual symptom management in depression and prevention of further episodes

  • Vitamin D And Depression: Biological Underpinnings

    Can Vitamin D Help With Depression?

    The exact biological mechanisms linking vitamin D and depression are not fully understood. However, possible pathways include an imbalance in the calcium homeostasis of intracellular and extracellular compartments and a possible fallout of disequilibrium between glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, and GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This, in turn, affects cellular signalling. Vitamin D may have a potential role in restoring this calcium and neurotransmitter imbalance by regulating intracellular calcium stores and cellular signalling and impacting the onset of depression favourably.

    Research has uncovered a possible neurotrophic and immunomodulatory role for vitamin D, leading many researchers to label it as a neurosteroid hormone. Preclinical studies have shown that administration of vitamin D modulates the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the animal models of multiple sclerosis, a neurodegenerative condition with an inflammatory basis. This is important because evidence suggests that depression is also a condition with elevated levels of systemic inflammation. Increased region-specific expression of VDRs has been noted in the prefrontal and cingulate cortices, thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus, all key brain areas implicated in the pathophysiology of depression.

    Postulated biological links between vitamin D and depression. HPA: Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical

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    Ways To Ease Anxiety & Get More Vitamin D In Your Life

    1. Alternate Light Source

    Daily exposure to appropriate levels of direct sunlight can boost vitamin D3 levels which can help improve your mood and ease anxiety. If you have a hard time getting enough natural light during the winter, consider buying a therapy lamp for your home or work desk. Though many artificial light boxes claim to do the job, make sure to purchase one thats as close as possible to the natural sunlight spectrum and proven to increase vitamin D levels.

    2. Go Somewhere Sunny

    If getting sufficient levels of UVA rays from the sun proves difficult during the winter months, especially if you live anywhere near the Great White North, consider saving up some money during the summer for a vacation to a sunny destination during the winter. This will make enduring the cold, dark months more bearable.

    3. Get Quality Sleep

    Insufficient and inconsistent sleep can increase irritability, moodiness and poor judgment. To remain at the top of your game, its recommended that you get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting appropriate levels of sunlight during the day, or adequate amounts of vitamin D from foods or supplements can also help maintain your bodys natural production of serotonin. In the evening, the brain naturally converts serotonin into melatonin, our main sleep hormone that improves our chance of getting a good nights sleep.

    4. D-Rich Diet

    5. Take Sunshine Supplements

    Gaps In Understanding Of The Relationship Between Vitamin D And Depression

    Gaps in understanding of the association between vitamin D and depression

    Much of the evidence linking vitamin D with depression in adults comes from cross-sectional studies. Cohort or case-control studies are few and RCTs, considered superior for establishing causality, are even fewer.

    As the bulk of the literature is from observational studies, several questions remain. Chief among them is the issue of small and unrepresentative samples, varying measures of depression , and the potential problem of reverse causality. Given that two of the important negative studies came from China and Hong Kong, the issue of latitude moderating the association between vitamin D and depression needs further examination.

    Owing to several sources of bias in existing studies and the danger of publication bias impacting the literature on vitamin D and depression, the possibility of a meta-analysis answering this question with finality remains bleak. More RCTs are therefore needed to examine the efficacy of supplemental vitamin D on prevention and treatment of depression.

    Knowledge gaps in biological underpinnings between vitamin D and depression

    Gaps in understanding the effect of vitamin D supplementation in depression

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    Who Suffers From Depression

    Whether youre feeling a little blue or are unable to get out of bed in the morning, youre not alone. Depression is a major public health issue worldwide, impacting more than 264 million people, according to the World Health Organization.

    In the U.S., the statistics are just as staggering. The governments National Institute of Mental Health says that more than 17 million U.S. adultsover 7% of all adultshad at least one major depressive episode in 2017. For adult women, the prevalence of major depressive episode was nearly 9% versus just over 5% for men. Those individuals in the 18-25 age range experienced the highest level of a major depressive episode.

    And thats not even taking into account mild or moderate depression.

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    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites these 2019 statistics from the National Health Interview Survey:

    And those statistics are prior to COVID-19. According to one study published in September 2020 in JAMA, depression symptoms in the U.S. tripled during COVID-19 compared to prior to the pandemic.

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    A new report from Mental Health America , a community-based non-profit organization, claims over 47 million American adults experience mental illness, ranging from mild to serious, with 57% of those adults not receiving treatment.

    Here are few more key findings from the MHA report.

    Impact Of Other Factors On Vitamin D Status

    Can low levels of vitamin D cause depression? Doctors not yet sure, but ...

    Individuals obtain vitamin D either exogenously, from dietary sources, or endogenously, from activation of a subcutaneous vitamin D precursor by ultraviolet rays . Dietary sources can be obtained through naturally-occurring vitamin D in foods, fortification of foods with vitamin D, and a vitamin D supplement. As vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, metabolism requires normal digestion and absorption of fat. Subcutaneous synthesis is stimulated by exposure to sunlight though this effect varies based on the amount and duration of exposure, latitude, season, and race .

    Optimal vitamin D status is hampered by several factors. The limited number of naturally rich foods with this nutrient causes some groups to be at risk for inadequacy . The optimal daily requirement for various age groups is under scientific debate . The current Adequate Intake , which is part of the Dietary Reference Intakes , is 200 IU/day for both women and men from infancy to age 50 400 IU/day for those between 5170 years and 600 IU/day for those > 70 years . Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended increasing the daily intake of vitamin D to 400 IU/day for all infants, children, and adolescents .

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    Why Vitamin D Impacts Your Depression

    Vitamin D was discovered a century ago by biochemist Elmer McCollum after a series of events. He and fellow researcher Marguerite Davis had identified Vitamin A in 1913 as they were involved in a long-term study to develop the perfect food for livestock.

    Building on their study, British physician Edward Mellanby began conducting nutrition experiments aimed at treating rickets. He discovered that cod-liver oil cured rickets in laboratory animals, and theorized that Vitamin A might be the curative agent.

    McCollum set out to test Mellanbys theory in 1922. He fed cod-liver oil that was free of Vitamin A to dogs with rickets and found that the animals recovered. This proved that another substance in the oil was responsible for the cure. McCollum called it Vitamin D.

    Scientists eventually discovered that humans could get Vitamin D in more than one way. It is not only gained through diet. It can also be formed by the human body when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

    More study of the vitamin revealed its essential role in the body. It helps the body build strong bones, regulates the level of phosphate and calcium, promotes cell growth, is involved in the neuromuscular system, and enhances the immune system. It also reduces inflammation in the body.

    Some studies indicate that the risk of developing certain types of cancers may be connected with a deficiency in the vitamin.

    Other Natural Vitamins For Depression

    Along with the vitamins and supplements listed above, other natural vitamins for depression may include:

    • Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the function and health of the brain. Natural sources of Omega-3s include certain fatty fish such as salmon, as well as seeds and nuts.
    • Magnesium. According to the Nutrition Reviews journal, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. experience some level of magnesium deficiency. This deficiency can cause sleep problems like insomnia, constipation and muscle tension. It can also cause symptoms of depression and other mood disorders because magnesium is important for the production of feel-good hormones in the brain.
    • Vitamin C. Supplementing with vitamin C can help improve both mood and cognitive function. Studies have also indicated vitamin C may help reduce symptoms of anxiety as well as depression.

    While depression is a serious medical condition, it is fortunately treatable. Vitamins for depression shouldnt be used as a replacement for medical treatment, but they can be used in conjunction with professional treatment to improve its effectiveness. Nutrition often plays a critical role not only in physical but also mental health.

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    Vitamin D And Depressive Symptoms

    Vitamin D low levels have been previously associated with the risk of depressive symptoms and depression worldwide . However, few publications have been discussing this relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic . Mehta et al. discussed that vitamin D can be hypothesized to trigger as well as sustain the psychiatric symptoms and can also be expected to alleviate the psychiatric manifestations in COVID-19. An observational study in Rome showed that low 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum levels were significantly associated with higher psychological distress in patients with mood disorders during the COVID-19 outbreak .

    How Does It Work

    Eating these vitamins can help with depression, doctors say

    Vitamin D receptors can be found pretty much everywhere in the human body, so the ways in which vitamin D might affect your mood are innumerable. One of those mechanisms could be hormonal, since vitamin D helps regulate testosterone levels and since low testosterone can impair the mood of men and women.

    We should remember, however, that correlation is not causation. The observational data, we said, suggests a correlation between depression and low levels of vitamin D, but that doesnt mean that low levels of vitamin D cause the depression. It might be that depressed people go outside less, thus getting less sunlight, thus producing less vitamin D: the depression would then be the cause of the low vitamin D levels, rather than its consequence.

    Even if depression is a consequence, not a cause, it doesnt mean that low levels of vitamin D arent also a consequence. People who go outside less get less sunlight but also probably less exercise and we know that exercise benefits mood, both directly and .

    The findings on vitamin D are less consistent. One study found an association between depression and seasonal changes in vitamin D, but another study found no effect of supplemental vitamin D on SAD. And compounding the uncertainty, the researchers of both studies stressed that potential confounders were numerous.

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