Vitamin D and Depression
itamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it can be absorbed into your body only if your gut is able to absorb dietary fat. It is needed for calcium absorption in the gut and helps to maintain blood levels of calcium and phosphate in order to protect your bones. It also has an positive effect on your immune system and inflammation in the body. We have known these facts about Vitamin D for a long time, but now researchers are starting to discover the importance that Vitamin D plays for our mental health.
Studies have discovered that a lack of Vitamin D in the blood is linked to being depressed and that supplementing might actually improve or prevent depression. We know that there are many things that contribute to depression but Vitamin D might be one important piece of the puzzle.
An estimated one billion people worldwide have a Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. This deficiency is so common that in Ontario, doctors are no longer able order OHIP covered testing since it is assumed that all people will have a deficiency. Vitamin D can be obtained from the sun, through diet or supplementation. Between 50% and 90% is produced by sun exposure while the rest comes from the diet. As well as contributing to depression, deficiency of vitamin D can lead to a number of negative health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s disease.
To prevent deficiency, one should spend 15-20 minutes daily in the sunshine with 40% of the skin surface exposed. The amount of time needed will be affected by the season, the time of day, cloud cover, skin colour, and if sunscreen is being used. Sun exposure through glass does not create vitamin D so getting sunshine indoors through a window does not count.
It’s no coincidence that going on vacation and spending time in the sun causes your mood to improve! Being outside in nature can help decrease depression and the vitamin D produced through sunlight may be one of the reasons for this mood improvement.
In order to reap the benefits of vitamin D, we must strive to get outdoors each and every day – even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes. Spending time outdoors needs to become a priority and a part of our daily routine.
Some ways to increase your exposure to sunshine are:
- Walk or bike to and from work
- Go for a walk on your lunch break
- If you have a dog, walk him/her daily
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier and spend this time walking outside
- Try a new winter sport and make it into a hobby (skiing, ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing)
- Instead of exercising at a gym, take your exercise routine outside
- Walk instead of drive whenever possible
- Limit screen time – this will help free up time so you can use it to get outside
- If you live in an urban area, do some research to find local parks or hiking trails and make an effort to visit these areas regularly
For many people, vitamin D supplementation is necessary. Please reach out to us for more information and to find out the amount of vitamin D supplementation that is right for you.