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Depression and Vitamin D Deficiency: Are they connected?

  • 4 min read
Medical Data Sourced from National Institute of Health
Written By Lauren Curl-Ferrell on April 13, 2021

Is a vitamin D deficiency a cause of depression?

Vitamin D has been given the nickname "The Sunshine Vitamin" for good reasons. 

A vitamin D deficiency occurs when the human body isn't getting enough of good sun rays or enough vital nutrients from food and supplements. 

A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to:

  • low bone density
  • heart disease and high blood pressure
  • cancers like colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • bone softening
  • diabetes
  • rickets in children

The human body absorbs vitamin D mainly through sun exposure, dietary supplements, and certain foods. 


Vitamin D and Depression: The Connection

Studies have empirically shown a link between depression and vitamin D. They continue to show that, statistically, people with low vitamin D are at a much greater risk of depression.

Vitamin D is crucial to physical health and mental health. Good vitamin D levels have been linked to healthy brain function, strong bones, and weight management. 


6 Risk Factors of a Vitamin D deficiency

The best way to assess if you need to be checked for a vitamin D deficiency is by seeing where you live at in this list of risk factors. Speak to a doctor or professional about your health and wellness needs.

1. Darker Skin Tone 

The Cooper Institute created a study that says 40% of African Americans have a vitamin D deficiency.

People with darker skin have greater amounts of melanin. Melanin is a bully to vitamin D, it reduces the production of it in the human body. 

2. Weight Factor

People who have a Body Mass Index (or BMI) of 30 or higher may need to absorb more vitamin D than someone who has a BMI of 29 and under. 

3. Age

As we age, our bodies have a harder time synthesizing vitamin D which leads to a deficiency. An assessment shows that the percent of older adults suffering from vitamin D deficiency ranges from 20 to 100% in the United States.

4. Geographical Location

If you live in a higher altitude or a particularly cloudy area, you could not be getting the sunshine you need to provide you with natural vitamin D absorption. Places like Ohio and Oregon show substantial vitamin D deficiencies amongst its residents. 

5. Diet

By not eating food that are rich in vitamin D, you can become deficient. Eat foods like salmon, animal fats, fish oil, orange juice, etc.. Adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet will help if you do not like these foods. 

6. Lack of Sun Exposure

If you work indoors, or you spend a great deal of your day inside, you are missing out on the natural vitamin D exposure from the sun. If the weather permits, try to spend 15-20 minutes a day outside in the sun.


Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency 

There are plenty of symptoms that are linked to a vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms like tiredness, aches and pains, and weight problems are of the most common. 

If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may feel:

  • fatigue
  • drowsiness
  • bone aching 
  • muscle and joint weakness
  • sadness
  • excessive weight gain or excessive weight loss
  • anxiety
  • lack of focus
  • forgetfulness

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak with your doctor. 

A vitamin D deficiency diagnosis

To diagnose vitamin D deficiency, a doctor will measure the amount of vitamin D you have in your blood.

To diagnose depression, a doctor will ask you a series of questions. 

You may have to do a physical test. 

Treating a vitamin D deficiency

Treat vitamin D deficiency and its symptoms by upping your intake of it with this Vitamin D Supplement, and these other two ways below. 

Here are 3 easy ways to consume more vitamin D:

  • take a vitamin D supplement
  • eat foods containing vitamin D
  • spend 15-20 minutes in the sun each day

To treat depression, a doctor can asses whether medications or therapy, or a combination of both will be best. It is idea to speak to a doctor about all your treatment options and what would work best for you. 

4 ways to provide yourself depression help:

1. Support Groups

You can connect in person, or online, with other people who are in similar situations as yourself. 

2. Stay steady with your sleep routine

Creating a regular sleep schedule can help alleviate insomnia. Insomnia has been linked to depression. 

3. Lean on your loved ones

Friends and family can give you support as you cope with depression symptoms. Advise them of your treatment plan so that they're in the loop and can give you strength. 

4. Exercise regularly 

Routine exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression by releasing “feel-good” chemicals like endorphins in the brain. Exercise can also reduce immune system chemicals that can worsen depression. Start out with 30 minutes of cardio three times a week and add on days and minutes as needed.

Exercise releases serotonin into the brain. Serotonin is a great chemical endorphin to make the human mind feel good and happy. 


The Wrap Up

Insufficient vitamin D levels are connected to depression and many other health problems. Increase your vitamin D with:

Speak with your doctor to get the right plan of action for you.