Depression and Vitamin D
It is estimated that 7 out of 10 Americans are deficient in vitamin D. This vitamin is important for healthy teeth and bones and for over all good health. Now, there is evidence that vitamin D deficiency is accompanied by depression. Language here is very important because the findings do not suggest a causal relationship between depression and vitamin D deficiency. However, there seems to be a correlation and that means that, at the very least, they occur together.
Sonal Pathak, MD is an endocrinologist at Bay Health Endocrinology in Dover, Delaware. She conducted a small study of three women who suffered from low levels of vitamin D. All three also suffered from varying levels of depression. The women received vitamin D therapy for eight to ten weeks. Not only did their vitamin levels increase but their depression significantly decreased. For example, one woman went from severe depression to mild depression. Another woman improved to the level of mild depression and the third woman also improved.
According to Dr. Pathak people who have depression are at high risk vitamin D deficiency because they stay at home, indoors and do not exercise. This is why she suggests that, if someone is being treated for depression, they have their D levels tested. According to another MD, Michael Holick of Boston University, when vitamin D levels are increased people often feel much better. Dr. Holick states that this vitamin improves serotonin levels, the same neuro-chemical in the brain that is influenced by anti depressants.
There are many foods that contain D vitamin and one of them is milk. Nutritionists and doctors warn that, when increasing the intake of milk, low fat or non fat milk be used. There are also many other foods that have the same effect and the reader can do a Google search to find out which ones are best or consult your physician.
Most people assume that being in the sun increases D levels and this is a correct assumption but with important limits connected. One MD stated that air pollution has reduced the amount of sunshine that comes through so that we are not getting the amount of vitamin D that we need. In addition, sunscreen products reduce the amount and strength of the rays that get through. That raises the very real point that there are dangers connected with being in the sun, unprotected for too long because of the danger of skin cancer. That is why food supplements are the best way of doing this. It is possible to take over the counter supplements of vitamin D but this should be done with the advice and guidance of a physician.
The underlying message of these findings is that, once again, physical and mental health are not separate. The old saying is true, "you need to have a sound mind and body." Good nutrition and exercise go a long way to reducing the likelihood of becoming depressed and of reducing the length and intensity of any depression when it occurs. Most people become depressed at some point in their lives and here is a good way to keep things under control.
There is a caution that must be asserted here: If depressed or under treatment for depression, do not become your own physician. It's always best to be under the care of your medical doctor and/or psychiatrist.
Your comments and questions are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD