Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Vitamin D and Mental Health

It was with interest that I read Dr. Soram Khalsa’s post on The Huffington Post about the Vitamin D epidemic in this country today. The medical doctor writes this: 

As a board certified internist, I have chosen, for the last 30 years, to take a personalized approach in my practice of integrative medicine. I have worked with literally hundreds of herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements, to help my patients, often when drugs did not work. In all this time, I have not seen one nutritional supplement that has the power to affect human health as much as vitamin D. This is because Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin – it is a hormone that has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. 


Over my 30 years of practicing medicine, countless times I have had to deliver or discuss with a patient their sad and possibly terminal diagnosis. Diseases like cancer and heart disease are at best life altering, and most times life threatening. When I have this kind of difficult conversation with a patient, I often reflect that if their vitamin D level had been normal for the previous many years, maybe they would never have developed this disease.

Ideally, your health care provider is your partner in exploring your vitamin D status, but patients usually do not want to visit their doctor just to ask for a vitamin D level, and many doctors are not yet up to date on the importance of vitamin D. If you use the at-home test kit and your blood level of vitamin D is low, I would encourage you to discuss this information with your physician.


I found this particularly interesting because a few weeks ago, I spoke to a highly-recommended internist about my overall health. She had me get all kinds of blood work done, and in her summary, she wrote that most of my levels looked good with exception to my vitamin D. I had a substantial deficiency that she suspected could explain my symptoms of fatigue and sluggishness.

She gave me a prescription for a potent vitamin D tablet that I’m supposed to take weekly for 10 weeks, and get my blood retested at that point. If my levels look okay, she told me to take a supplement of at least 2000 IU daily. This is my third week taking the highly leaded vitamin D and I do feel more energetic and a tad less irritable (not that any family members would agree with me).


My internist and I talked about vitamin D for about 10 minutes in her office. She said that most of her patients lately had deficiencies lately, especially her female patients. She advised me that the best way to get it, of course, was sunlight, and that sunscreen actually blocks it from your system. And she’s not totally pro-vitamin, either. She thinks that you are much better off eating healthy foods than taking supplements, that your body can’t process the high levels of vitamins and minerals that are sold in health food aisles.


But vitamin D isn’t found in any food, she explained, so that’s why it’s essential to take a supplement.

I’ve been wondering how vitamin D and mental illness are related, so I did a search and found that vitamin D does, indeed, play a role in mental illness based on these reasons from the Vitamin D Council’s website:


  1. Epidemiological evidence shows an association between reduced sun exposure and mental illness.
  2. Mental illness is associated with low 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels.
  3. Mental illness shows a significant comorbidity with illnesses thought to be associated with vitamin D deficiency.
  4. Theoretical models (in vitro or animal evidence) exist to explain how vitamin D deficiency may play a causative role in mental illness.
  5. Studies indicate vitamin D improves mental illness.

Here’s even more details, according to the Vitamin D Council:


* Mental illness has increased as humans have migrated out of the sun.

* There is epidemiological evidence that associates vitamin D deficiency with mental illness. Two small reports studied the association of low 25(OH)D levels with mental illness and both were positive.


* Depression has significant co-morbidity with illnesses associated with hypovitaminosis D such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

* Vitamin D has a significant biochemistry in the brain. Nuclear receptors for vitamin D exist in the brain and vitamin D is involved in the biosynthesis of neurotrophic factors, synthesis of nitric oxide synthase, and increased glutathione levels–all suggesting an important role for vitamin D in brain function. Rats born to severely vitamin D deficient dams have profound brain abnormalities. Yikes.


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  • jc

    Fascinating!!! I have low Vitamin D levels too and am taking 10,000 ICU once a week. When I went off it for a while (Rx ran out!) I got a big bad flu! It does seem to make me rosier and feel like my energy is better and food is better utilized in my system (ie i dont seem to get as dehydrated as quickly)
    I need more sun.

  • Emily

    I have fibromyalgia and my doctor recently tested me for everything that might be exacerbating. He found that my vitamin D was extremely low and now I am on 50,000 IUs/week. This is only my second week. The first I felt fantastic but I am again sluggish (possibly due to awful weather). The doc has been telling me that much of the country is technically vitamin D deficient because we are so worried about sun exposure and UV rays are needed to metabolize Vitamin D in the body.

  • Helen

    recent studies have found that due to lack of sun in Scotland we have a lack of vitamin D..this also may explain that we have a higher level of Multiple sclerosis sufferers as well..

  • http://RR Renee

    I have high level of D, could you tell me what the side effects are for high levels?

  • Penny

    You can’t have an epidemic of a hormone, but you can have a rampant situation where many people are lacking a hormone. So as a trained nutritionist and editor, I must clarify that your sentence should read (add the word ‘deficiency’ where shown):
    “It was with interest that I read Dr. Soram Khalsa’s post on The Huffington Post about the Vitamin D *deficiency* epidemic in this country today.

  • DataCom

    What about vitamin D in 2% Milk?

  • Your Name

    Oh!then,take vitamin D rich foods.How?We can go to the beach and stay to the sun,anywhere,eat cheeze,drink milk,forget your worries and get all the vitamin D needed,ask the doctor for more tips and be obedient.

  • wildstar

    I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I get more sun than I know what to do with. It’s like living on the sun in the summer time. Although someone I know who went to Dubai when he was in the Navy said you’d have to set Phoenix on fire to equal the heat over there. But it’s good to know the benefits of Vit. D. Yeah I put sunscreen on my face because I already have sun damage but my arms and legs can absorb all the sun they want.
    As a side note, Therese, thanks a million for the tips on how to stop obsessing and ruminating over stuff that I found on Beliefnet. It helped me a lot, especially the part about telling your brain to quit it till 8 o’clock that night!

  • lorenza hanvy

    How does vitamin play a part in anxiety and panic attacks?

  • SuzanneWA

    In December of 1971, I was sent to the State Mental Hospital from the University Psychiatric Ward to die. I weighed a total of 78 pounds soaking wet, and no diagnosis in sight. My good fortune was to meet up with a Filipino doctor (Dr. Anderson), who stopped by my bed, looked under my eyelids and my gums, and diagnosed “pernicious anemia” on the SPOT!! To alleviate the obvious fatal prognosis, he prescribed orthomolecular treatment of: Vitamin B-12 shots twice daily; doses of megavitamins (including Vitamin D); and double rations at the cafeteria (when I could walk there). Slowly but surely, I began to improve, and by March, I was released weighing 100 pounds!! No one has to encourage me that vitamins, like D, can do miraculous things. I am living proof, at 61, that they DO!!

  • Your Name

    My doctor prescribed a high dose of vitamin D and my severe back pains and fatigue improved. I kind of forgot the reason for it when I felt a lot better and bought a lower dose over the counter. My pains were still alleviated – but, this is embarrassing, I had a lot of anal itching. I read that Vit. D caused the itching, so I stopped taking it. Whoooo, did the pains ever start again – when I took about ten steps I would get pains in my hips so severe I couldn’t take another step, plus the severe back pains and extreme fatigue were back. It took me a while to remember why, started the Vit. D again, at a lower dose, and now all is well (even the itching).

  • Ellen Bergstrom

    I have heard the required amount of Vit D is much lower than discussed here. some research also states that too much Vitamin D is dangerous, can cause liver damage. Can someone with the credentials reply to this.

  • Lyn

    Great article! I hope I take enough D. I would like everyone who suffers from depression to try this: I take 2 capsules per day of 1000 mg fish oil. It lifted my depression to place I haven’t been for a long time. It worked in only 2 days!!! I didn’t believe what I felt, so I called my Pharmacist and she confirmed it! I will not stop taking my anti depressants, but the anti depressants didn’t get me here alone!
    Peace & love,

  • Annette

    I take 2000mg of Vitamin D a day, along with B-complex, fish oil, probiotics, and my scripts. They do help!!

  • Kandi

    I am also Vitamin D and B12 deficient. I take 50,000 UI twice a week of the Vit. D and I get a B12 shot once a week. My depression and the pain I have are slowly going away. I still have pain but the depression is almost gone. I had been diagnosed from a previous doctor with depression and was taking Lexapro for it. I went in for my physical and bloodwork and my new doctor found that I was very Vitamin D deficient and my B12 was in a range that was close to being what doctors would call deficient. She started me on this treatment 2 weeks ago. I haven’t felt this good in years. The Lexapro is gone and they beieve that all my symptoms were due from the deficiencies. I am glad I found your article. I hope that others may find that they too can get help if they are in the same position as I was.

  • Suzanne

    It abut 7:00am and I can’t beliveve what I just read. It was a answer to my prayers. I was laying in bed yesterday crying because I felt so bad. Thinking to myself that I have something very wrong with me to feel this bad. I told my daughter [29] that I thought I was going to die. I have been suffering from this so long. About 2 yrs. ago I had blood work done and I was told that I was Vit. D deficieny . She precribed something for it I I took it for a month or so not thinking how important that it might be. So I stop takig it and now I am in severe pain every minute of my life and I am taking 2 meds. for depression. As soon as I read this article I got up and found that script and took one. I also had a historyrectomy about 6 or 7 years ago . I also suffer from my nose burning and flu like symtoms and I can find a Dr. to take me serious enough about just how bad this is. It use to be if I breathed cold air in my nose then [BAM] it would hit, and I felt like I had the flu and I would have to go to bed because I would be so sick. Whta really upsets me is that if I had only taking the meds. I may not be in this condition. I can’t to see if this script will take care of my sickness.

  • chuck davis

    it better be Vitamin d3

  • Your Name

    Vitamin D is found in abundance in sunshine. All you need is to get out into the sun and feel it on your skin to know that it makes you feel good. For those who can see the light of day – get out into the sun and you will feel immediately uplifted. This far outweighs the inordinate fears of skin cancer. Skin cancer is due to exposure to too much sun. So find out what is your sun exposure limit for your skin and get out there. Even if it is only 5 minutes per day, the sun really does work to gradually lift depression. Cheaper than any pill – it is completely free – so how can you not accept freedom?

  • Bev

    I have so many sickness problems I hope this is true .I am going to go too my Dr. tomorrow to see if he will test my d levels .I have already been taking over the and fybro and chronic fatigue .I take so many meds and supplements everydayi get sick too my stomach just thinking about it .I take meds for depression a well as my aliments .I also had gastric bypass and lost over 200 pounds over the last 6 years so i have blood work often and sometimes my levels r good sometimes not so good how will ever know when and how much to take??

  • Your Name

    AS I can understand the need and the deficiency problem with Vit D. As myself has. Be careful of sun exposure. I do NOT go out in the sun anymore as I have had skin cancer, and it has threatened my life. I have had over 10 skin surgeries to cut out the cancer before it can spread,which it has also tried to do. Just a warning from me, please use caution. It is not just free usage for some of us.
    Thank you,

  • danielle marco

    is it possible to fulfill the daily requiremeents for vit.d, 2000i.u., through nutrition?

  • Your Name

    I’ve had a significant deficiency. I’m on 50,000 units 3 times a week. I’m inching back up toward normal, but it’s a long process.
    Because mine was so low, and I’ve responded so poorly, they are likely going to leave me on the Rx Vit D for undetermined amount of time.
    I’ve had skin cancer and significant skin damage. I’ve had 7 pre cancerous moles removed … I also have lupus. Sun exposure is an absolute death sentence to me. If not literal death, then death to life as I know it. When the lupus flares, all systems stop till I pull out of the spin. Sun is one of my bigger triggers for a flare.
    Talking with your doctor is the best way to go. They know your risk of sun exposure vs Vit D absorbtion …they know your over all health. Find out if you’re Vit D def or not ..and act, with Doctor’s advice … accordingly.
    FWIW … my pain decreased dramatically when I went on it.

  • Your Name

    Today is June 23rd, I posted a comment on June 6, 2009 about vit.D, after I read what the article said about being vit. D deficeny. I started back on my meds. the Dr. gave me and then I went to another Dr. and he told me that I could by the same thing over the counter and get more vit. D than my precription had and I did. I take it twice a day and I can not beliveve the results. I am so thankful for this web site. Vit. D is very important to our bodies and we need take the meds. we are precribed. I have learned a great lesson from this site. Thanks so much.

  • Cheri DaCosta

    I have read this article about Vitamin D defficiency. I have just started taking vitamin D because I am defficient in this vitamin. I haven’t noticed the real change in my mood or if I am less tired then I used to be before taking vitamin D. I guess if it is true, then i WILL FEEL BETTER IN TIME. i DID NOTICE THAT MY KNEES AREN’T AS PAINFUL AS THEY USED TO be. I do have osteoartritis.

  • Dan

    Vitamin D may also be important in preventing a number of other neurocognitive diseases such as schizophrenia, autism, and alzheimer’s.
    See this article for some of the more obscure odds and ends:
    Vitamin D Supplements, Schizophrenia, and Toxicity

  • saç ekim fiyatlar?

    Excellent website. A lot of helpful information here. I’m sending it to a few friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you to your effort!

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