Heartland Human Services

The Sunshine Vitamin Connection with Depression
By Jennifer Mosier, MS, LCPC

 

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, can be produced in the body with mild sun
exposure or consumed in food or supplements.  Adequate Vitamin D intake is important for the
regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, and is
suggested to supply a protective effect against many diseases and conditions. 

Research is revealing the importance of Vitamin D in protecting against a host of health
problems.  There is a strong connection between low Vitamin D levels and depression.  This
connection lies in an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase.  This enzyme converts tyrosine into
the potent neurotransmitter dopamine.  However, the enzyme cannot operate efficiently in cases of
Vitamin D deficiency leaving insufficient dopamine production.  Without sufficient dopamine, the
metabolic rate drops and a state of depression may become present.

In spite of the name, Vitamin D is not actually considered a vitamin. Because the body can
produce its own Vitamin D, it is not necessarily an essential part of the diet and is considered a pro-
hormone.

Our body can naturally produce its own Vitamin D through sunlight exposure.  It is estimated
that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability
to produce sufficient Vitamin D.  Despite this, recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults  
and children worldwide are Vitamin D deficient.  A simple blood test ordered by your doctor is the best
way to check your Vitamin D levels.  This will show if any deficiencies are present. 

Vitamin D naturally occurs in some foods such as fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, and in fortified
dairy and grain products.  However, one of the easiest ways to help Vitamin D deficiencies is to get
outside.  Enjoy the sunshine! 

Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org