Can Vitamin D deficiency affect our mental health? Find out

We know that staying indoors for a long period of time can lead to Vitamin D deficiency. However, do low levels of Vitamin D have any link to mental health?
mental health,Health & Fitness,Vitamin D deficiencyCan Vitamin D deficiency affect our mental health? Find out
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There are no double thoughts on how lockdown has been impacting our mental health. Many studies and surveys have proved the same. Today we are talking about whether vitamin D deficiency can affect the mental health or not. The deficiency can be more, especially now, as we are staying indoors. Speaking of Vitamin D, it is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is naturally present in very few foods. Many do not know that it can be produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. 

We asked Dr. Miloni Sanghvi, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower-The Centre to give us more in-depth knowledge of vitamin D and its effects on mental health. She said, "Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin. Here’s why: Our best and natural source of vitamin D is the sun, as our skin absorbs sunlight to produce this vitamin. Although vitamin D is found in certain foods such as fatty fish or fortified foods such as dairy products or cereals, it is difficult to get a sufficient amount from diet alone. 

"Many of us are aware of the powerful effects of vitamin D on our bodies, including its role in maintaining a healthy immune system, preserving bone mass and maintaining healthy hair. In addition to these, feeling fatigued or lacking energy may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency."

Vitamin D and mental health connection 
"However, the “sunshine” here can also be interpreted in terms of how vitamin D affects our mental health. Research has shown that low vitamin D levels are linked to low mood and depression. This is often seen in countries during wintertime when the days are shorter and high incidents of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD; a disorder characterized by low mood caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight) are present.

However, the association between depression and vitamin D deficiency is not definite. In order to diagnose vitamin D deficiency, a blood test must be carried out to measure the amount of vitamin D in your blood; this result will not directly indicate depression. To clinically diagnose depression, your doctor/ therapist will lookout for symptoms of depression and you may have to complete a self-assessment."

How to treat vitamin D deficiency?
In order to treat vitamin D deficiency, you can increase your intake by taking vitamin D supplements, eating foods that contain vitamin D or by increasing your exposure to sunlight. During the lockdown, it may be the case that you sit on your terrace/ by your window for 10 minutes a day to expose yourself to the sun. Check with your doctor about how much you need, as this varies across ages.

Some of the best sources of vitamin D, as per National Institutes of Health, are salmon, tuna, and mackerel, fish liver oil, milk, liver, cheese, and egg yolks and fortified foods among others.

Bottom line
If you find yourself struggling with low mood or symptoms of depression, you can reach out for professional support such as speaking to a psychologist/ psychotherapist. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about your symptoms and the treatment options available to you.

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