October 17, 2017

Vitamin D Depression Remedy ?

Vitamin D, commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is unique in that it is not an essential dietary vitamin as the human body absorbs and synthesizes vitamin d through the skin following exposure to sunlight rather than collecting it from daily nutrition or foods such as fruit or vegetable intake.

Vitamin D and Depression

Vitamin D’s most important function is to maintain skeletal health through promotion of calcium absorption.  However, later research has linked vitamin D deficiency levels to a wide array of health conditions ranging from asthma to hair growth.  More recently, researchers have begun to evaluate its role in metabolic health and stumbled upon its relationship to depression.

Depression is a disorder that takes many forms.  The most commonly discussed manifestation of depression relates to symptoms of major depression — which is believed to affect approximately 6-7% of the population in America at any one time according to estimates by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Major depression is a disorder that is diagnosed when a person experiences two or more major depressive episodes.  A major depressive episode is defined as the presence of a constellation of symptoms relating to a depressed mood or loss of interest and pleasure over a two-week period including such symptoms as significant weight fluctuation, fatigue or insomnia, or suicide ideation.

The link between decreased levels of vitamin D and depression

Experts were originally interested in the relationship between vitamin D levels and depression after discovering the type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder.  Seasonal affective disorder is described as a pattern of depression that occurs during specific seasons of the year, particularly the winter months.

As information about seasonal affective disorder became more prevalent in the scientific literature, researchers found that those with depression had, on average, a deficiency of levels of vitamin D compared to people without depressive symptoms.  While some thought that this was a direct effect, a few researchers began investigating the link between a decrease in vitamin D levels and thyroid hormone levels.

The logic here was that low vitamin D levels lead to lower parathyroid hormone levels which have been directly linked to depressive symptoms.  It is important to note that while this has been observed in observational psychiatric studies, there has not been a biological study to date to assess this connection. 

Vitamin D Supplements as a Remedy for Depression

Light therapy was an early form of treatment of seasonal affective disorder, and it has been shown to produce positive effects especially in combination with psychotherapy.  Vitamin D supplementation in pill form has become a popular alternative treatment to depression as traditional drug medicine used to treat depression has been shown to produce severe side-effects.

To date, vitamin D supplements have been shown to combat symptoms of major depression compared to a placebo.  Preliminary evidence also suggests that vitamin D supplements could also be better than traditional light therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder.

Experts report that early clinical trials suggest that the use of vitamin D supplements is an effective treatment for depressive symptoms.  This research needs to be replicated to ensure that the treatment effectiveness is the same among different groups of people by age, gender, race, and so forth.  Plus additional research and studies are needed to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the use of Vitamin D to treat depression in combination with psychotherapy.

Vitamin D supplements

As vitamin D has several chemical forms, it is critical that those seeking to help treat their depressive symptoms choose the appropriate supplement.  Currently, it is believed that vitamins D2 and D3 are linked to depression.

The most common recommended dosage is 2000 iu per day.   However, concerned consumers should discuss an appropriate level of vitamin D for their personal medical circumstance with their physician before starting a treatment regimen.  An important caveat to vitamin D supplementation is that there is currently no research based recommendation for children under the age of eighteen to utilize this mode of treatment.

Several researchers are also advocating that depressed individuals take a fifteen minute walk every day to increase their levels of vitamin D exposure while simultaneously engaging in physical activity.  A burgeoning field of research suggests that the combination of increased physical activity and vitamin D supplementation via sunlight exposure might by useful tools in treating depression although such findings have not undergone testing or study using scientific method.

Conclusion

In sum, it appears that a deficiency in vitamin D levels is associated with certain depressive disorders, especially major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder and higher levels of vitamin d can be a way to help lessen depression symptoms and their severity.

However, there remains a need for research that tests the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation to treat depressive symptoms, especially as a treatment used in combination with psychotherapy.  Further, more research is needed to examine the relationship between vitamin D level deficiency and depression across the large population spectrum including people with various different demographic features (e. g. , race, gender, income, etc. ).

As mentioned, additional research is needed, but as of today, vitamin D makes an attractive alternative given the biological link to depression and the lack of side effects relative to traditional drug medicine for help with cases of mild depression.  Untreated depression could lead to a higher risk of medical problems such as heart disease so it’s better to get help for depression as soon as possible.

If you, a family member or friend has depression before taking Vitamin D or any other supplement it is recommended that you first contact your medical professional to ensure that the cause of depression is not related to disease or other medical problems and that the use of vitamin d is a good course of action based on the individual’s personal circumstance and medical history.

 

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