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How to Improve Your Mental Health with Vitamin D

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

Understanding the Connection Between Vitamin D, Panic and Depression

Key Points:

Vitamin D and Mental Health

When you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or even issues with sleep, it’s hard to imagine that something as straightforward as a vitamin could make a difference. However, that’s exactly what the research is beginning to suggest.

This article will explore the research linking vitamin deficiency to depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and mental health in general. We will also discuss how supplementation with vitamin D can help relieve these symptoms.

Vitamin D deficiency: A possible link to panic attacks

Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that can trigger a physical reaction when there is no real danger present. Symptoms of a panic attack can include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and sweating.

While the exact cause of panic attacks is unknown, research suggests that a number of factors may contribute to their development, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences.

One factor that has recently been linked to panic attacks is vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many important bodily functions, including immune function, bone health, and mood regulation.

A 2022 study published in the journal Current Nutrition Reports found that people with panic disorder were significantly more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than people without panic disorder. The study also suggested that people with panic disorder who had vitamin D deficiency experienced more severe symptoms.

Another study, published in the journal Brain and Behavior found that vitamin D supplementation can help to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks. The study found that people with panic disorder who took vitamin D supplements experienced a significant reduction in the number of panic attacks they had and in the severity of their panic attacks.

While more research is needed to confirm the link between vitamin D and panic attacks, the existing evidence suggests that vitamin D supplementation may be a helpful complementary treatment for people with panic disorder.

Vitamin D deficiency: A possible link to depression

Depression is a common mental health condition that can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. Depression can also lead to changes in sleep, appetite, and energy levels.

The exact cause of depression is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Vitamin D deficiency is one environmental factor that has been linked to depression.

Research has shown a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and depressive disorders, according to Dr. Angelos Halaris, professor of psychiatry at Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago.“In my practice, what I have found is that when patients are not fully responding to antidepressants and their vitamin D blood levels are low, once we add vitamin D supplements the response to medication improves.”

A 2022 study published in the journal Current Nutrition Reports found that people with depression were significantly more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than people without depression. The study also found that people with depression who had vitamin D deficiency experienced more severe symptoms.

What is Vitamin D and Why Is It Important?

Vitamin D, also known as the “Sunshine Vitamin,” is a fat-soluble nutrient that our bodies produce when our skin is exposed to sunlight. It is essential for the health of our brain, nervous system, bones, muscles, mood, and more.

Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb  essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. These minerals are vital for bone development and strength, but vitamin D’s importance goes beyond our skeletal system.

Emerging research suggests that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to a number of health problems, including anxiety, depression, and bone loss. Vitamin D acts as an antioxidant, protecting our cells from harmful free radicals and inflammation. Free radicals and inflammation have been shown to contribute to mood disorders, so vitamin D’s antioxidant properties may play a role in improving mental health.

Whether you are concerned about bone loss or struggling with emotional challenges like anxiety or depression, vitamin D can play a significant role in your overall well-being. This versatile nutrient is essential for both our physical and emotional health.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Surprisingly, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be similar to the common symptoms of depression. Here’s what you might experience if you’re dealing with a vitamin D deficiency:

If these symptoms seem familiar to you, don’t attribute them to just a bad day or general stress. They could be your body’s way of signaling a vitamin D deficiency.

How to Treat Vitamin D Deficiency

If you’re struggling with unsettling episodes, such as panic attacks and depression, getting your vitamin D levels checked may be the first step to uncovering the cause.

The first step in treating vitamin D deficiency is to get a diagnosis with a simple blood test. This test, called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D total test, measures the concentration of vitamin D in your blood.

The Vitamin D Society recommends maintaining vitamin D levels between 80 and 100 nmol/L. Levels below 50 nmol/L are considered deficient and may increase your risk of health problems, including anxiety and panic attacks. Levels above 125 nmol/L may be harmful. Therefore, finding the right balance is essential.

What to Know about Vitamin D Supplementation

Vitamin D supplementation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your healthcare provider will recommend a dose based on your individual needs and test results. However, a common starting point is 1500 – 2000 IU of cholecalciferol per day, aiming to reach blood levels of around 90 nmol/L.

For best results, take vitamin D with vitamin A, K, calcium, magnesium, and fatty food, such as an avocado. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s better absorbed with dietary fats.

With the right approach, vitamin D supplementation can be a vital part of your strategy to manage and potentially reduce panic attacks and other related mental health issues.

Concluding Remarks

If you’re struggling with panic attacks or emotional ups and downs, don’t underestimate the power of vitamin D. Getting your levels checked is a simple first step that could lead to a significant improvement in your mental health. While vitamin D is not a cure-all, it plays a key role in mood regulation and could be a valuable part of your wellness journey.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first.

Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.