Vitamin D For Depression
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment
Vitamin D i.e. the sunshine vitamin is an essential micronutrient stored in your liver and fatty tissues. It keeps your bones strong and healthy. It also promotes cell growth and boosts immune functions. Vitamin D can also reduce inflammation in your body.
Vitamin D receptors are widely distributed in the brain and therefore can affect your mood. Researches have also shown a link between depression and vitamin D deficiency.
Below you will find what depression and vitamin D deficiency are, what are their symptoms and how are they interlinked.
VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Vitamin D deficiency is a common condition seen in individuals of all age groups. However, it is more commonly reported in elder people. Some of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency are listed below:
- Limited sun exposure – Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D for most people. If your exposure to sunlight is limited then your body might not produce enough vitamin D.
- Diet – After sunlight, diet is the primary source of vitamin D for your body. Fish and animal fats are rich in vitamin D. If you are following a vegan diet then you’re more vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency than others.
- Age – As you grow older your skin produces vitamin D less efficiently. Older people also have a limited diet and often do not go out for sunlight. All these factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in old age.
- Skin tone – Vitamin D is produced more quickly in people with fair complexion. The reason behind this is the presence of a large amount of melanin in people who have darker skin. Melanin inhibits vitamin D production and therefore individuals with darker skin tone are more likely to experience vitamin D deficiency.
SYMPTOMS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
The sign and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are:
- Bone pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Weakness in muscles and joints
- Hair loss
- Impaired wound healing
- Mood changes
Depression is a serious psychiatric disorder that affects the way you feel, think and act. It affects you both emotionally and physically and you are not able to function properly in routine circumstances. The risk factor for depression include:
- Age – Elderly people are at a greater risk of depression especially if they are living alone.
- Gender – For reasons not fully understood women are more likely to be depressed than men.
- Genes – A positive family history can also increase the risk of depression.
- Substance Abuse – Several patients with alcohol and drug abuse report major depressive disorder.
- Major Events – Any major event like moving to a new city, losing a job, failure in a relationship or the death of a beloved one can trigger depression.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person and can range from mild or moderate to severe in intensity. Commonly reported symptoms are:
- Loss of interest in day to day activities and also in the hobbies that you once enjoyed
- The feeling of hopelessness and helplessness
- Disturbed eating and sleeping patterns
- Loss of concentration
VITAMIN D AND DEPRESSION
Multiple researches have found low levels of circulating vitamin D in patients with depression. Some researches have also found that people who took vitamin D supplementation noticed an improvement in their symptoms of depression.
Vitamin D receptors are found all over the brain including the hippocampus which controls your memory and emotional functions. Vitamin D deficiency can alter the functions of the hippocampus and therefore can lead to depression.
Vitamin D deficiency can also influence neurotrophic agents and in turn, abnormal behavior of these neurotrophic agents can cause psychiatric disorders like depression.
Serotonin synthesis is also affected by vitamin D deficiency. This affects the normal functioning of serotonin and can cause depression-like symptoms.
Including vitamin D in your daily routine can significantly reduce depressive symptoms and elevate your mood.
WAYS TO BOOST VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is essential for your physical and mental health. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 15 micrograms per day for individuals up to 70 years of age. For people above the age of 70, the RDA for vitamin D is 20 micrograms per day.
The three main ways to boost your vitamin D levels are:
- Increased exposure to sunlight
- Taking a diet that is rich in vitamin D
- Starting vitamin D supplements
Daily exposure to sunlight for about 15 to 30 minutes is enough to maintain normal vitamin D levels. Do not forget to apply sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays when going out for sunlight.
Rich food sources of vitamin D include fish, egg yolks and mushrooms. Milk, yogurt, breakfast cereals and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D i.e. vitamin D is added in these foods.
Vitamin D supplements are one of the best ways to maintain your vitamin D levels especially if you have limited sun exposure and you can not keep up with the diet.
Another way to increase your vitamin D level is through UV lamps. These vitamin D lamps mimic natural sunlight and help your body produce vitamin D naturally. These lamps are especially effective for those people who can not go out for sunlight or those living in such areas where sunlight in minimum. These lamps can also be used in winter season when there is not much sunlight outside.
SIDE EFFECTS OF VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is safe to use within the recommended amounts and most people do not experience any adverse effects. However, if you take to too much vitamin D then the following side effects can be seen:
- Dry mouth
If you take vitamin D in very high doses (100 micrograms daily) for a longer period of time then it may cause a very high level of calcium in your blood.
Although vitamin D is very much safe if taken in the right amounts but there are some underlying medical conditions in which it is better to take precautions and consult your doctor before starting vitamin D supplementation. A list of those health conditions includes:
- Atherosclerosis – Vitamin D supplements can worsen atherosclerosis, especially in someone with kidney disease.
- Hyperparathyroidism – Vitamin D can elevate calcium to unwanted levels in people with overactive parathyroid gland i.e. hyperparathyroidism.
- Tuberculosis – Vitamin D can increase the level of calcium in tuberculosis patients. This can lead to kidney stones and other problems. A similar effect can also be seen in sarcoidosis, lymphoma, and histoplasmosis.
INTERACTION OF VITAMIN D WITH OTHER MEDICATIONS
Vitamin D is a chemical compound and has the potential to interact with other chemicals present inside your body. It can interact with different medications that you might take and therefore it is advised to always consult a doctor about your ongoing medicine before starting vitamin D supplements.
VITAMIN D AND DIGOXIN
Combining digoxin with vitamin D can increase both the effects and side effects of digoxin. Hence, if you are taking digoxin talk to your doctor first, and then take vitamin D as a supplement.
VITAMIN D AND DILTIAZEM
Diltiazem is a drug that is used to treat high blood pressure and angina. It works by blocking the calcium channels. Contrary to that vitamin D increases calcium absorption. If you take large amounts of vitamin D then it might decrease the effects of diltiazem.
VITAMIN D AND THIAZIDE DIURETICS
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. Thiazide diuretics also increase the level of calcium in your blood. Taking these two together can cause a surge in calcium levels. Consequently, it can lead to serious side effects including kidney problems.
VITAMIN D AND ATORVASTATIN
Atorvastatin is used to treat cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin D decreases the amount of atorvastatin that the body absorbs. If you take vitamin D with atorvastatin then the effects of this medicine are decreased.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Vitamin D has many functions in your body. It strengthens your bones, improves your immunity, and reduces inflammation. The vitamin D receptors in the brain also play an important role in regulating your mood and can therefore cause depressive symptoms if your body lacks vitamin D.
You can maintain your vitamin D levels through adequate exposure to sunlight, a vitamin D rich diet, and vitamin D supplements. It will protect your body from several diseases and will also prevent and improves different symptoms of depression.
It is recommended to consult with your physician before starting vitamin D supplements especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications for any underlying medical condition.
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