Vitamin D is an essential nutrient required for optimal health. Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart and liver, contain vitamin D receptors. This fat-soluble vitamin is necessary for the development of teeth and bones as well as the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus within your body. The vitamin may also play a role in boosting the immune system and preventing certain diseases. Known as the sunshine vitamin, the nutrient is created after your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light. You can also eat foods rich in vitamin D like milk, yogurt and fortified cereals as well as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
If you do not receive the recommended daily allowance, you can develop a vitamin D deficiency that can lead to physical and psychological problems. Scientists have located vitamin D receptors in the region of the brain that controls emotions. Vitamin D helps to regulate the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin that affect brain function. Many anti-depressant medications are designed to increase the levels of these brain chemicals. Researchers believe that vitamin D also has antidepressant properties and that a vitamin D deficiency may trigger emotional symptoms related to depression and anxiety, such as sadness, loneliness and excessive worry. Low levels of vitamin D may increase your risk for high blood pressure, a serious cardiovascular problem that worsens with anxiety.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that causes depression during the winter months when UVB rays are less likely to reach certain latitudes. This coincides with a sudden drop in vitamin D levels as less skin is exposed and people spend more time indoors. A 2008 research study conducted in Norway revealed that participants with low vitamin D levels were more likely to experience symptoms of depression. The study also showed that people who received large doses of the vitamin experienced the most improvement. An undiagnosed vitamin D deficiency could be responsible for your depression and anxiety.
Along with sensible sun exposure, you can incorporate vitamin D-rich foods and make other healthy lifestyle choices like getting sufficient sleep and exercise to reduce or eliminate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It may be necessary to take a dietary supplement to ensure that you are obtaining the recommended daily allowance. An experienced health care professional can help you improve your overall physical and emotional well-being by addressing the underlying reasons for your depression and anxiety, which may include testing you for a vitamin D deficiency.