Vitamin D

Vitamin D

Treatment Options - Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because your body naturally produces it when your skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is also found in different foods that you eat. 

It is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, which are both important components for building and maintaining bone strength. 

Various studies have shown that vitamin D may help reduce inflammation in the body, help control infections, and even may help to reduce cancer cell growth. 

Many of your body’s organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which suggests that the impact of vitamin D on the body goes far beyond bone health and is still being actively investigated by scientists. 

Vitamin D and Depression

Recent scientific studies have been exploring the link between vitamin D and depression. Researchers have found that many individuals with depression also have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. 

Other studies have suggested that during pregnancy, low levels of vitamin D are connected to postpartum depression after one gives birth. 

The research on vitamin D and depression overall is mixed. Some studies have noted a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression symptoms; others have not. 

If you have low levels of vitamin D and chronic depression, increasing your vitamin D may improve your depression. You can increase your vitamin D level by being out in the sun, eating certain foods, or taking a supplement with vitamin D. 

Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency

Various factors can put you at risk for low levels of vitamin D. 

  • Limited sun exposure: For most people, sun exposure is the primary source of vitamin D. If you stay out of the sun, it can lead to vitamin D deficiency. The amount of sun you need to get the right amount of vitamin D depends on the climate, time of day, and time of year. 
  • Skin tone: People with lighter skin tones produce vitamin D quicker than those with darker skin tones. This may be because people with darker skin tones have more melanin, which seems to restrict vitamin D production from the sun in the skin. 
  • Location: People living in northern latitudes tend to have lower vitamin D levels than those closer to the equator. 
  • Obesity: People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher need more vitamin D to reach recommended nutrient levels. 
  • Age: As you age, your body becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D. You may also spend less time outside and eat fewer foods containing vitamin D. 
  • Diet: Limited foods contain vitamin D, and if you don’t eat them, you may not get enough vitamin D. People who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet are at a higher risk of not getting enough vitamin D. 

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

The easiest way to know if you have low vitamin D levels is by getting a blood test. This can also tell you how much additional Vitamin D is needed to raise your level.

Vitamin D deficiency can produce specific symptoms separate from your depression symptoms. If you have low levels of vitamin D, you may experience the following: 

  • Aching bones
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low immunity
  • Pale skin

Foods with Vitamin D

There are a few types of food that naturally include vitamin D:

  • Fish liver
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Canned fish, like herring and sardines
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel

As so few foods naturally contain vitamin D, other foods are fortified with vitamin D. You will have to look at the label to find these foods, but they generally include foods such as: 

  • Milk
  • Almond milk
  • Soy milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Orange Juice

Other Ways to Increase Vitamin D Exposure

There are other ways you can increase vitamin D in your body.


One of the most popular methods is to take supplements to maintain levels of vitamin D in your blood. You can take a vitamin D supplement or combination supplements that contain vitamin D, like multivitamins or other various combinations of vitamin D and other nutrients. 

As you take vitamin D, it builds up in your body over time. Although it is rare, taking too much vitamin D (usually by overusing supplements) can be toxic. 

Vitamine D and other supplements for depression are not a substitute for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Although supplements may not require a prescription, certain supplements are more safely used under the guidance of a physician.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA like medications, so you should only purchase supplements from brands that have been evaluated for quality. Supplements are not FDA-approved to treat depression. 

Vitamin D lamps

Vitamin D lamps release UV light that mimics natural sunlight and helps your body to produce vitamin D through your skin naturally.

Spend time outdoors

Intentionally spend time outdoors. In the winter, spend 10-30 minutes outdoors during the warmest part of the day when the sun is out.

Vitamin D for Treating Depression

Finding the proper treatment when you have treatment-resistant depression can be challenging. Vitamin D can be used alongside other depression treatment options. 

At Options MD, our psychiatrists can discuss the potential risks and benefits of using supplements when putting together a custom plan for your treatment-resistant depression. 

Do you have questions?

Options MD is here to help. Text us to start treatment now. Join our Facebook community to connect with other individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

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