Several studies have linked a deficiency of Vitamin D, aka "the sunshine vitamin," to an increased risk for depression.

One of the studies, which were conducted at Joseph's Hospital in Ontario, Canada, followed 31,424 participants. "A systematic review revealed an association between vitamin D levels and depression," said the study's authors in their final report. "Given the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and depression, an association between these two conditions could have significant public health implications, especially since supplementation with vitamin D is cost-effective and without significant side effects."

Other studies have revealed similar findings, including one that focused primarily on the link between lower vitamin D levels and depression in women. That study, which was reported in Science Daily, was presented at a meeting of the Endocrine Society in Houston. Some researchers believe vitamin D helps depression because it increases the levels of serotonin in the brain.

The vitamin D link sheds light and offers hope for the 20 million Americans who suffer from depression. Everybody "gets the blues" once in a while, but people with depression have feelings of deep despair and hopelessness that never go away. Symptoms include sleep disorders, muscle pain, weight changes, chronic fatigue and a loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy. In severe cases, depression can impair a person's ability to function to the point that just getting out of bed requires massive effort.

Vitamin D plays many critical roles in the body, including regulation of the immune system and working with calcium to build strong bones. Maintaining the proper levels is essential because deficiencies in vitamin D can lead to serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, periodontal disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
Although there are some foods that contain vitamin D, sunshine is the best source. The body makes vitamin D when the sun's UV rays touch the skin. Most experts believe 10-15 minutes of sunshine a day can go a long way toward meeting your vitamin D requirements.

Because Vitamin D is so important for good health, many people use nutritional supplements to make sure they are getting the amounts they need. Supplements are available in tablet, capsule and liquid form online and in natural health stores. Make sure you get your supplements from a reputable source.

If you suffer from depression, talk to your holistic practitioner to determine if vitamin D supplementation makes sense for you. The dosage will vary from person to person so your practitioner can help you determine the amount that best suits your needs. The sunshine vitamin can help you step out of the darkness and into the light so that you can enjoy life to its fullest.