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Vitamin D Deficiency With Depression & Anxiety

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Vitamin D Deficiency With Depression & Anxiety
Vitamin D deficiency, anxiety and depression may go hand-in-hand. Photo Credit sad woman image by Mat Hayward from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that contributes to bone health, immune function and muscle wellness. Most adults require approximately 600 international units, or IUs, of vitamin D daily, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. In some cases, vitamin D deficiency is linked with anxiety and/or depression -- illnesses in which intense fear, sadness and related symptoms detract significantly from your life. A healthy diet and seeking treatment for psychological illnesses can help prevent vitamin D deficiency and promote your physical and emotional well-being.


Symptoms of depression often include sadness, loneliness, fear, sleep difficulties, appetite and/or weight changes, body aches, and lost desire in participating in activities you've typically found pleasurable. Anxiety may cause similar symptoms, although its primary characteristic is intense worry. Anxiety may also cause increased heartbeat and sweating, particularly if you experience pronounced symptom episodes known as panic attacks. Depression and anxiety disorders often occur together, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Vitamin D deficiency may cause low moods and muscle weakness -- symptoms that may also stem from depression and anxiety. Since vitamin D helps regulate your blood pressure, consuming too little may increase your risk for high blood pressure -- a condition also associated with anxiety.


A vitamin D deficiency is not known to cause psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Insufficient intake of the nutrient may trigger emotional symptoms, however, or make them worse. There may be a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depressive symptoms associated with other illnesses, according to research published in "Clinical Rheumatology" in 2007. Questionnaires completed by fibromyalgia patients, 13.3 percent of whom exhibited deficient levels of vitamin D and 56 percent of whom exhibited insufficient levels, were analyzed. Researchers found that depression was more common among participants with low levels of vitamin D than among patients with normal levels. Vitamin D deficiency may also increase depression and anxiety associated with premenstrual syndrome, thyroid disease, anorexia, bulimia and obesity. Depression and anxiety may also contribute to a vitamin D deficiency if your illness hinders your appetite, eating habits and/or weight.


If left untreated, vitamin D deficiency, anxiety and depression can lead to potentially serious complications. Vitamin D deficiency alone is associated with rickets -- an illness in which your bone tissue fails to properly mineralize, resulting in softened bones and skeletal deformities, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Since vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, a deficiency also increases your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Anxiety increases your risk for cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Depression can lead to weight problems, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and damaged interpersonal relationships. Since physical conditions, such as rickets and osteoporosis, may also cause emotional stress and depressive moods, and since a healthy diet promotes emotional well-being and may enhance conventional treatments for anxiety and depression, addressing all three of these conditions is important.


Treatment for anxiety and depression typically involves psychotherapy, medications and/or alternative treatments, such as breathing exercises and massage. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends a balanced diet, based on healthy foods and maintaining proper blood sugar balance as an important lifestyle step for anxiety sufferers. Similar healthy practices may improve depression symptoms. To ensure that your vitamin D needs are met, incorporate vitamin D-rich foods, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and fortified dairy products and orange juice, into your meals and snacks regularly. Spending modest time in the sun can also help, since UV rays help your body synthesize vitamin D. This is particularly important if you struggle with seasonal depressive disorder -- a type of depression that peaks during cold, dark months. If you have difficulty eating a healthy diet and/or do not spend time in natural sunlight, discuss the potential need for supplements or light therapy with your doctor or therapist.

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