The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Vitamin D Boost Your Mood This Winter?

Studies suggest that adequate vitamin D levels might boost your mood by warding off seasonal affective disorder. The vitamin has other benefits as well.

Vitamin D, sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin, is renowned for its contribution to bone strength. It may also help ward off lung infections, particularly among people who are especially susceptible. You may not have heard, however, that vitamin D might be able to help boost your mood. That’s the experience one reader reported.

Vitamin D to Boost Your Mood:

Q. During a very cold winter, I began to feel more SAD than usual, as well as fuzzy, forgetful and achy. This worried me enough to send me to the doctor.

All my blood tests were fine except for my vitamin D, which was very low. Some high-dose supplements eventually caught me up, but apparently my ordinary multivitamin hadn’t been working.

Now I am reading that low vitamin D has been linked to breast cancer, immune problems and other conditions as well as seasonal affective disorder. If I couldn’t get enough sun exposure to make vitamin D where I live below the Mason-Dixon line, what about people in the north? Can older people who don’t go outside get enough vitamin D?

How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D?

A. Research links low circulating levels of vitamin D to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression (Psychiatry Research, May 30, 2015; PLoS One, Sept. 23, 2015). Certainly, that doesn’t prove that supplements will boost your mood. On the other hand, you should try to avoid very low levels of this vitamin. Ask your doctor to monitor your blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with conditions such as cancer, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis (Nutrition Journal, Dec. 8, 2010). Older people with inadequate vitamin D levels may have less hand strength and walk more slowly (PLoS One, Aug. 21, 2018). One study found that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to experience anxiety and non-cardiac chest pain (Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, online Aug. 27. 2018).

You are correct that people in northern states may have difficulty getting enough vitamin D. In fact, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that 29 percent of Americans were deficient in vitamin D and another 41 percent had low levels (British Journal of Nutrition, April 28, 2018).

Learn More:

Finally, you can learn more about optimal vitamin D levels to boost your mood and your bone strength, as well as vitamin supplements in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Vitamin D Deficiency
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I’ve been taking 5,000 IU of Vit D for several years. A friend told me that he was taking 10,000 IU in a liquid form and he hasn’t had a migraine headache for over a year. I thought I would see if it would help a type of psoriasis I have on my hands and feet. Initially, it did help but not for long. What I did notice after about 1 month, all my neck, back and knee pain was gone and it has been over 3 months and I have been pain free. I am also sleeping better. I am a 70 year old woman in good health. I’ve told all my friends and the ones who tried it, most have seen some kind of improvement.

I didn’t understand why I was losing hair (I am female) but after a year of taking Vit D supplements I noticed that the loss has stopped and some new hairs are coming back in. Happy days!

Eleven years ago, based on a number of my symptoms, my internist ran screening tests–one of which showed an undetectable level of Vitamin D. I was told to take 5,000 units of vitamin D but after a month my level was barely detectable. I was then put on 10,000 units which eventually brought the level to 25. (30-100 is the normal range)

I’ve been on 2,000 units daily ever since, and levels remain low. My last test was 30 ng/mL. Of all U.S. cities above 50,000 population, Bellingham WA has the fewest number of sunny days, but I’m not convinced that supplements are really that helpful

I would like to add, that from my experience, taking a Vitamin D supplement every day, has kept me from having major colds and/or the flu. I’ve not had a flu shot for over 10 years, and since taking Vit D, I haven’t had a “bad” cold for the past three years. I’m not making a recommendation about flu shots for anyone else, but I believe that Vit D will prevent flu just as well, if not much more, than the shot.
Those living in northern & midwestern states cannot get enough Vit D through exposure to the sun, and with most people covering up and wearing sunscreen most of the time, it compounds the problem. So Vitamin D supplementation is mandatory.

You say: “Is renowned for its contribution to bone strength.” Really? In a separate posting you note that this has not proven to be true – yet you start this post with that sentence. Somewhat confusing – and considering your subject matter, confusion is not ideal.

When my doctor put me on a vitamin D supplement I notice that my mood did improve a great deal, so much that I no longer needed Zoloft.

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