DEPRESSION

Sunlight’s Effect on Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and Depression

By Temma Ehrenfeld  @temmaehrenfeld
 | 
March 13, 2017

The research is still unclear on whether sunlight, a sunlamp, or a vitamin D supplement will reliably help prevent or ease the symptoms of depression.

 

Sun-bathers know how relaxing it can be to lie around drinking up light. Our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight, which is linked to mood. In winter, when the days are shorter and the skies more overcast, many of us feel a slump. People who live in northern climates are more likely to seek out information about depression  – one of many vitamin D deficiency symptoms – online during the winter, one study found. In other research, people who attempted suicide had much lower vitamin D levels than other depressed people who weren’t suicidal or a group of healthy controls. vitamin D lowers one kind of inflammation, which has been linked to suicide.

Many parts of the brain, including those involved with depression, contain receptors for vitamin D. It may increase the available serotonin, the way the SSRIs do.

 

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But the blues have many causes; a vitamin D deficiency may be just one. The research is still unclear on whether exposing your skin to the sun, sitting under a sunlamp, or taking a vitamin D supplement will reliably help prevent or ease low mood. However, the sunlight or a supplement (don’t take more than 10,000 IU a day) won’t hurt you, so you can try it and see whether vitamin D is a key factor for you.

A simple blood test will help your doctor decide if you need more vitamin D. Doctors like to see between 30 and 60 nanograms per milliliter of “25- hydroxy vitamin D.” This chemical travels throughout your body, turning into “activated vitamin D,” which helps your cells communicate and manages the calcium in your blood, bones, and gut.

Even if your mood is bright, meeting your vitamin D needs is important for overall health. Vitamin D is associated most closely with strong bones and a healthy heart. In a study of nearly 1,500 Finns, researchers found that people with low vitamin D levels also had higher total and low-density lipoprotein “LDL” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Around the world, heart problems are less common in places where people get more sunlight. Low levels of vitamin D in dark climates also may contribute to weak muscles, infections, type 2 diabetes, and dementia. Too little light may play a role in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis as well.

Although you can short on vitamin D at any age, your risk increases as the years go by, and your body becomes less efficient at making vitamin D and using it. Food alone won’t fill a deficiency: Milk, oily fish, and egg yolks all contain vitamin D, but not enough. It could take dozens of glasses of milk to match the vitamin D generated by 10 minutes of summer sun on bare skin.

Living near the equator is the grandest solution. In the most of the world, it’s still a good idea to go outside with at least your face exposed for about 10 to 20 minutes during mid-day. People with darker skin need the most light and may need more time. Some people never go outside without a sunscreen or keep themselves entirely covered up. Actually, your body produces the first step in making vitamin D well before your skin turns pink. There’s no need to get tanned or burned.

($425) is the only one recognized by the Food and Drug Administration for this function. Don’t go to a tanning salon or buy a tanning lamp: your goal isn’t to damage your skin, but to feed your bodyYour doctor might recommend a supplement or give you an injection for an immediate boost to fight vitamin D deficiency symptoms. If you decide to get a sunlamp, choose one that emits short-wavelength UVB light, which triggers vitamin D production. Manufacturer Sperti claims that its  vitamin D Lamp.

 

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Updated:

March 13, 2017

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN