When we think of Vitamin D, we think bone health. Vitamin D's correlation with healthy bones, prevention of osteoporosis and brittle bone structure is very well documented. Vitamin D inadequacy or deficiency has also been found in people with cognitive dysfunction, depression muscle diseases and certain cancers. Research in the field of Psychology has also found a link between Vitamin D deficiency and mild to severe depression in recent years. Our brain uses various neurosteroids to develop and function normally. Vitamin D has emerged as one such neurosteroids in recent years, it has been found in the spinal fluid, and throughout the brain. Vitamin D receptors are also found in the important areas of the brain especially the substantia nigra, the site for dopamine production. This proves a direct link to Vitamin D and psychological disorders, though conclusive evidence is still being sought.
Vitamin D is not one entity, but it comes in many forms. The skin produces, 7-dehydrocholesterol which is converted to D3 by the UV rays of the sun. this form travels to the Liver where it changes to 25 hydroxyvitamin D and finally to the kidneys where it acquires its active form 1,25dihydroxy Vitamin D.
(Also Read: 7 Foods To Beat Depression And Mood Swings)
Some common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:
- Frequent infections, lower immunity. Vitamin D is directly involved in fighting infections especially cold and flu. We have seen evidence of this in the recent COVID pandemic, which is also associated with a respiratory infection.
- Fragile bones, loss of bone mass. Vitamin D HELPS IMPROVE THE ABSORBTION OF CALCIUM FROM OR FOOD AND hence protects our bones from losing mass.
- Fatigue and tiredness, loss of sleep can be due to a decreased level of Vitamin D in our body.
- Depression is also one of the symptoms of Vitamin deficiency. While low Vitamin D may not be the cause, some studies have shown an improvement in symptoms of depression was seen with Vitamin Supplementation.
How do we address the deficiency?
The best source for increasing Vitamin D is sunshine as there are very limited food sources of this nutrient. 15-20 mins of sunshine between 11 am -2 pm daily is all it takes to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, which is why it is also called the sunshine Vitamin.
Sunshine is also positively correlated to better mood and lowering of depression symptoms. Sunshine increases the production of the happy hormone Serotonin, improving mood and mental health. Sunshine helps keep Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) at bay, helping people with anxiety and depression.
Vitamin D fortified foods like milk are also available now and can be taken. Milk in addition has the protein Tryptophan, which helps with better quality of sleep. A good night's sleep is very important for alleviating the symptoms of depression.
Salmon is a source of Vitamin D and Omega -3, both of which are positively linked to improved depression symptoms. Eating salmon at least twice a week will be beneficial for improving mood and is also very healthy for your heart health.
While Vitamin D is an important nutrient for overall health, Its role in regulating depression is being researched. Its function in modulating the mood centers of our brain is a reality but the answers aren't so simple. Vitamin D deficiency is seen in patients with depression but there is no conclusive evidence for stating that as a cause. Vitamin D supplementation has shown an improvement in some symptoms of depression but not to the extent of making it a treatment.
Depression is a reality in today's fast-paced life, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is as important for mental health as for your entire body. Our work keeps us locked indoors, laziness prevents us from outdoor activities and doorstep deliveries take away the last reason for stepping out. Eat, sleep and exercise daily, get your dose of sunshine and if you feel under the weather, get help sooner than later.
Stay safe stay happy.
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.