How a Simple Vitamin Deficiency Can Trigger Depression

If you live in the upper half of the United States, chances are you aren’t getting enough vitamin D. The same goes for people in the northern latitudes all around the world. People with darker skin, the elderly, and obese/overweight people also tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. According to Harvard, one billion people worldwide have insufficient vitamin D in their blood.

Why do I care? Well vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a type of seasonal depression (also called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD…hehe). I was personally affected by this depression last winter.
snow-forest-trees-winter.jpeg

About 10% of people are affected by SAD too. An example of SAD symptoms include:

  • Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
  • Sleep problems: finding it hard to stay awake during the day, but having disturbed nights
  • Loss of libido or not interested in physical contact
  • Anxiety; inability to cope
  • Social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people
  • Depression, feelings of gloom and despondency for no apparent reason
  • Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, leading to weight gain

If you’re like me, you’re probably nodding “yes” to every symptom on this list. During the winter, the days are short and the nights are long. Most of us wake up and head to work before the sun is up, and come home after the sun sets. We don’t get enough time outside, and sometimes this leads to feelings of depression. You’re not alone. snowy travel.jpg

So How are SAD and Vitamin D Deficiency Related?

To start, vitamin D levels in our body naturally change with the seasons. The more the sun is shining, the more likely you’ll have an adequate amount of “the sunshine vitamin” coursing through your body. In the winter months however, these levels can drastically drop, especially for those of us living in the colder areas of the world.

Vitamin D is also involved in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine within the brain (source). Serotonin is considered the “human mood stabilizer,” while dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It’s no wonder that low levels of these hormones are linked to depression.

So, combine the low levels of vitamin D in the winter with the lower levels of serotonin and dopamine being synthesized in your brain, and you have a really good recipe for seasonal depression. And to top it off with some science, this study actually found that people with lower levels of vitamin D showed more depressive symptoms than people with higher vitamin D levels.
yeahsciencebitch.jpg

How Can We Change This?

The best answer is to go outside and get some sun for 15 minutes a day! But for some of us, the UV index is constantly 0 during the winter. We need something better.
(And no, a tanning bed isn’t the answer because most tanning beds emit UVA light, and we need UVB light to stimulate production of vitamin D (source))

If the doc says it’s okay, try supplementing with vitamin D! This is the easiest and cheapest way to fix the problem. You can buy a bottle over the counter. The upper limit is said to be 4000 IU. I personally only use 2000 IU a day during the winter.

Plus, vitamin D provides a number of other benefits in addition to helping you with depression. The sunshine vitamin also:

  • promotes strong healthy bones and teeth
  • supports immune and nervous system (brain!)
  • regulates insulin levels and helps with diabetic management
  • supports lung function and cardiovascular health
  • and many other wonderful benefits!

This article has a ton of cool facts if you want more.sky-sunny-clouds-cloudy.jpg

I don’t typically like to use many supplements because I try my best to get my nutrients through food. But vitamin D is a big exception for me. I notice a huge difference in my mood and energy levels when I started taking my little gel capsule everyday. If you think you might be vitamin D deficient, simply ask your doctor for a test and go from there. Hope this helps!


Was this helpful to you? Have any other tips? Let me know in the comments or simply like this post! Your feedback helps me create stronger content. As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. And don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @lifewaterfit. Happy lifting, and namaste.

33 Comments

  1. natalie

    Hi! I found you through a like on one of my posts. I really appreciate this post. I’ve found that my morning runs are so important to combat depression. I think it’s a mix of Vitamin D and exercise that helps me. Also, being around natural bodies of water (lakes, oceans) is really helpful to me for some reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cansu Ashley

      Natalie, hello 🙂
      Exercise is always such a good reliever of our emotional issues. I’m so happy to hear that you move your body regularly 🙂 I wonder why being around water had helped you? That’s so interesting to me. Anyway, I’m glad you liked the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. amyhughes31

    I have firsthand experience with Vitamin D deficiency. I started supplementing with it last winter when my doctor told me my “what’s the point?” days were due to lack of Vitamin D. She was right. I made the mistake of skipping my supplements all last week and those blah days returned. I think it’s great you’ve put this helpful, detailed info out there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cansu Ashley

      I’m happy you know what the cause is! And you must have a great doctor for them to not automatically prescribe antidepressants. I skipped a few days too last week! We need to get back on it 😛
      And thank you. I’m thrilled this was helpful.

      Like

  3. BreakawayConsciousness

    You know, at first, thought this might have been about B-12. The reason that popped up in my head is because if am not mistaken, Dr. Kelly Brogen, in her book “A Mind Of Your Own”, shared a story [which she has also shared in some youtubes] about a lady that had depression for a really long time. It never occurred doctors to test for B12 levels, because most tend to overlook this, and many other things. Lo and behold, after getting a B-12 shot, she was back to normal! Imagine living a decade or so, with issues that are simply deficiencies. Anyways, thankfully that lady was able to find a way.

    Oh, and regarding Vitamin D, one of my good friends, through serendipitous circumstances, tackled her Vitamin D deficiency, which she didn’t know she had until after the fact and doing some research, by getting lots of sun. She spent one summer in her country Greece, and was in the sun everyday. She saw the dark patches below her eyes went away, and she felt like a zillion dollars. Anyhow, she was so excited she mentioned on skype how she know knew it was so simply in her case. Was so happy about for her and have been ever since.

    Guess my point is that, many times there’s much simpler solutions than the pill-for-an-ill adage that gets overly used. That’s why its refreshing seeing your blog about this, because many people still don’t know about it [millions in fact!], and its quite unfortunate.

    Great post! Excellent information through and through.

    Like

    1. Cansu Ashley

      I will need to look into that book! Thank you for sharing! And thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m all about finding the most natural ways to heal, so I’m hoping to share what I find with others. Your friend that had the vitamin deficiency is exactly the reason I research this type of stuff. Sometimes there can be simple solutions to some big problems.

      Like

  4. peterpie00

    Great article 🙂 Ive been on wordpress for 4 years and i realized i dont have the reach i would like. I have alot on there about Anxiety, OCD, depression as well as many more topics like love, relationships, sex and individuality. Thank you !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. dgbtalks

    I was noticably more positive and energetic when I got a short prescription for vitamin D. It didn’t fix my depression, but it made it a lot easier. I think it’s worth a try for anyone struggling with low mood, especially since it’s a cheaper option and available over the counter. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  6. poetspancakesandpromises

    A open letter to my depression 

    Welcome. Again. I thought those happy pills my therapist gave me finally made you leave but of course you’re stubborn and you didn’t. I didn’t feel like moving today , it was one of those days where I plastered a fake smile on my face trying to ignore the cracking of my soul inside , I didn’t feel like breathing. I thought it would be that day where I would finally give up but no, you ,dear depression, you made me live still and die simultaneously. Little by little  I cut off my ties with the rest of the world and tried to leave my brain chemicals to do what it does best : fill me with recurrent thoughts of self harm. I am tired and fatigued with the constant repetitive thoughts and the sadness hanging over me like a cloud and the feelings of worthlessness. Exhausted with not being understood. You make me feel like I’m drowning on land when people around me are breathing. 

    Like

  7. maricelacorral

    Glad you shared! It’s hard to be on board with any kind of pills unless absolutely need them so I agree with you there but I might try the vitamin d as well and see if it helps since it seems like we have a few weeks of winter left and have noticed my moods are at its worse on gloomy cold days.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. maricelacorral

        You aren’t that far! I love Austin my aunt lives there and we don’t go as often as we used to but I sure do enjoy that there’s so much to do in Austin. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Carl Dean

    Really good article. I live in the UK, whilst I’ve never had a diagnosis of SAD I do struggle over the dark winter times. I really should try some vitamin D supplements, there was a medical study recently that suggested food here should be fortified with vitamin D. I always feel so much more energy on days when the sun is shining 🙂

    Like

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