Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Rebecca Huff
Vitamin D Deficiency could be the cause of some cases of childhood depression
If you or someone in your family starts to feel sad or depressed with no explanation, one of the first things you might consider is testing Vitamin D levels. One of the easiest, but often overlooked, causes of depression is vitamin d deficiency.
Known as the sunshine vitamin, it makes sense that our lack of spending time outdoors and avoiding the sun in general has led to an increase in people who are deficient. It has been estimated that over one billion people have either vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. (1)
Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. “In a cross-section of older adults, vitamin D deficiency was associated with low mood and with impairment on two of four measures of cognitive performance.” (2)
Sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D however, there are several factors which can affect the amount of vitamin D your body makes from exposure to the sun. These are:
- The amount of skin you expose. The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D you can produce.
- How old you are. As you get older, your skin has a harder time producing vitamin D.
- Whether you’re wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks a lot of vitamin D production.
- The altitude you’re at. The sun is more intense on top of a mountain than at the beach. This means you make more vitamin D the higher up you are (at higher altitudes).
- Whether it is cloudy. Less UVB reaches your skin on a cloudy day and your skin makes less vitamin D.
- Air pollution. Polluted air soaks up UVB or reflects it back into space. This means that if you live somewhere where there is lots of pollution, your skin makes less vitamin D.
- Being behind glass. Glass blocks all UVB, so you can’t make vitamin D if you’re in sunlight, but behind glass.
(from the Vitamin D Council)
Because we have low levels of vitamin D we top off with quality supplements. My doctor as well as many others, recommend using vitamin D3 instead of D2. We use Vitamin D3 with K2 made by Metagenics purchased at my doctor's office. We choose this formula because it provides active forms of vitamin K to complement the activity of vitamin D at level established by the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.(3)
Researchers still do not fully understand how Vitamin D works in the brain, but they have theories about how it affects specific chemicals found there. Studies show that people with a low level of vitamin D in their bloodstream display more symptoms of depression. Research studies also show that vitamin D has an even more significant impact on people with more severe symptoms of depression.
Our personal experience
My son started having these sad moments that he described as “a feeling of nostalgia.” During an episode of nostalgia he would suddenly feel like crying. He would have a memory or think of some good time we had and become “nostalgic” about it. After this happened a few times, I sensed that something more was wrong.
Because of my Lyme Disease and Mold Illness diagnosis a few months prior, I was concerned that my son might also be affected. Our doctor couldn't get him in right away, so his appointment was made for a week away.
In the meantime, I wanted to make an effort to do the things I could think of that helped me when I was depressed. The first thing I did was to have him start spending more time outside during the day. Next, I made sure that he was sleeping in total darkness; he had been falling asleep with the light on while studying at night. I also encouraged him to go to bed a little earlier and to sleep a little later.
When we were able to see the doctor, and after a lengthy discussion, we headed to the lab for blood-work. The lab experience was a bit unpleasant for him since at eleven years old; he'd never had blood drawn before.
During the time I was waiting for the lab results to come back, I started giving him some extra supplements.
- UltraFlora Chewable Probiotics for Children
- Vitamin D3 with K2
We noticed he was starting to have less “nostalgia” over the following weeks. By the time we got back in to see the doctor, he was feeling more like himself.
The only thing that was “off” according to the blood tests was his vitamin D level was a little low. We were able to correct his vitamin D deficiency with supplementation and encouraging him to play outside more every day. Gradually, his feelings of nostalgia subsided completely.
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common
I've lost count of how many people I know who have started feeling tired, lethargic, and mildly depressed only to find out they were vitamin D deficient. This problem is easily corrected, yet many people never get tested. Testing once per year at least is preferable; however, if you live in colder climates you might want to check your levels twice per year.
The best assessment of vitamin D is by a serum 25-hyroxyvitamin D (25-OH D) level. Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a level less than 20 ng/mL and vitamin D insufficiency is a level less than 30 ng/mL
Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone building, cancer prevention, conception and pregnancy, immune health and disease prevention.
Other surprising causes of depression include hypothyroidism, low blood sugar, chronic dehydration, and undetected food intolerances.
1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908269/