Follow on

When Vitamin D Deficiency Causes Depression-3 Tips If You Suffer with Depression

In recent years, research has unveiled intricate links between these three crucial aspects of our well-being, shedding light on how deficiencies in vitamin D impact mental health, including conditions like depression, and how the health of our gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in this complex relationship (*).

In today’s article, I will review the latest scientific insights into the relationship between vitamin D, depression, and gut health. I will also share with you practical tips to improve Gut Health When You Suffer With Anxiety or Depression and lastly where vitamin D levels should be when you suffer from depression.

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

Almost 1 in 4 adults in the U.S., more than 26% of the population has been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Nearly 10% of the U.S. adult population has a mood disorder for which powerful drugs are prescribed. That’s about 30 million people on psychiatric drugs! (*). Depression affects one in ten of us, and One in four women over the age of 40 suffers from depression. These numbers are staggering.

I think it’s fair to say that despite all the different kinds of medications to treat mental health and depression, these numbers keep increasing. Those who are taking medications like SSRI, MAO inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants, often don’t report much improvement. Many still suffer from anxiety and depression and the side effects of these medications. If these medications were the end all be all, you would just take the medication and you would feel good again….Right?

What are we missing? If you ask me, I think we are missing a lot when it comes to mental health! Let’s jump into today’s article on Vitamin D, Depression and Gut Health.

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

Vitamin D and Gut Health

I want you to stop for just a moment and answer this very important question right now…

In addition to your anxiety, and depression, Do you also suffer from digestive symptoms, do you have gut problems? Bloating, Gas, Constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, if your vitamin D levels were checked were they also found to be low?

If you said YES! It’s not a coincidence to have depression, and gut health problems like IBS, SIBO, Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, or fat malabsorption and have a vitamin D deficiency– I see it all of the time in my clinic…..And every single person who becomes a patient undergoes vitamin D testing as part of my initial bloodwork panel.

While Anxiety, Depression have many root causes and it would be impossible for me to cover all of them in a video like this. I do want to bring to light the significant relationship between mental health, vitamin D and gut health.

I’m Dr Hagmeyer, and in today’s video, I’m talking about

  1. Gut health, microbiome vitamin D deficiency
  2. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency because I think all too often we just think vitamin D is the vitamin that helps keep our bones strong- but this is a huge understatement, vitamin D activates over 200 different genes including genes that influence dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (*)
  3. The connection between vitamin D and gut health- specifically how the microbiome is involved in mental health and lastly.
  4. Where I like to see vitamin D levels for my patients with anxiety and depression.

So, let’s jump into vitamin D and Mental health

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

Leaky Gut and It’s Connection to Vitamin D

When you think of vitamin D, I want to start thinking about its role in gut health, and here’s why. Vitamin D and gut health depend on one another. In other words, Vitamin D is not only involved in supporting mental health, it also plays a direct role in the health of your gut.

Low vitamin D levels can directly cause digestive problems, and digestive problems can also directly cause or worsen vitamin D deficiency due to increased inflammation or vitamin D malabsorption. (*). You see they depend on one another.

Vitamin D along with vitamins A, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, but a common problem in people with GI issues like SIBO, IBS, Celiac, and inflammation is fat malabsorption. In people who suffer from fat malabsorption, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough of an enzyme that helps break down and absorb fats.

When your pancreas fails to make enough of this enzyme, you don’t absorb vitamin D and you develop a vitamin D deficiency. But that’s not all. Vitamin D helps protect the gut by maintaining the gut lining or the gut barrier. A breakdown in the gut barrier allows dangerous foreign particles to enter the bloodstream.

Sometimes these foreign particles are bacterial toxins, some are xenobiotics or endocrine disruptors sometimes they are undigested proteins that all cause the immune system to spring into action.

When this barrier breaks down, we call it a leaky gut and when the gut becomes more permeable or “leaky” that inflammation can cause inflammation in the brain and that’s important to people struggling with mental health problems.

Leaky Brain Dr Hagmeyer

Leaky gut may be one of the underlying causes of illnesses involving disruptions in the blood-brain barrier (*,*,*,*,*,*,*) and numerous studies indicate that hypoxia and/or inflammation increase BBB permeability [*].

Essentially……Leaky gut equals a Leaky Brain. You should also know that a leaky gut has also been shown to cause Type I Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, food allergies, and other autoimmune diseases like MS.

Vitamin D not only helps with leaky gut, but it also helps strengthen and support the blood-brain barrier.

You see every tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors. Studies show that vitamin D can help prevent a leaky brain by reducing inflammation and reducing disruption to the blood-brain barrier. (*),(*)

Vitamin D also increases the diversity of the microbiome, which is a good thing. The greater the diversity in your gut microbiome the better. Gut bacterial diversity plays a role in healthy digestive function, neurotransmitter production, and immune system regulation. (*)

Your microbiome and the diversity of the gut bacteria can synthesize B vitamin, and Vitamin K but also neurotransmitters. (*) think about that for a moment, the bacteria in your gut can produce chemicals that cause happiness, depression, and anxiety.

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

80% of our immune system is in the gut, you may have heard that before. And I don’t think you would be surprising anyone by saying that improving the health of our gut microbiome, correcting any problems with Leaky Gut, Bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, inflammation or gut dysbiosis, can have a profound impact on the immune system(*).

In functional medicine, one of the important areas we focus in on in our patients who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease is the gut microbiome, because we know how far reaching the effects of a healthy microbiome are.

It was the Greek physician, Hippocrates who said 2500 years ago, that All disease begins in the gut. I would say that was an impressive prediction.

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

The Microbiome and Depression

An imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome can have serious consequences when it comes to GI health and mental health. In fact, researchers have discovered that people with certain digestive disorders have a higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Gut bacteria produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes such as learning, memory and mood.

Research shows that low levels of healthy lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species (which is very common in patients who have IBS, SIBO and inflammatory bowel disease) having low levels of these bacteria are linked with increased brain excitability and neurological inflammation (***).  Both excitability and inflammation can lead to the symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Additionally, pathogenic microbes can secrete toxic metabolites that cause increased excitatory responses in the brain and increase inflammatory cytokine activity.

Put an End To Brain Fog, Memory Problems and Fatigue By Following These 10 Steps 5

In particular, a substance from gram-negative bacteria (E coli, Salmonella, Shigella, etc.)called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been shown to inflame the brain and create depressive-like behavior (**)

So, while we know that having too much bad bacteria in the gut can cause problems, we also know that not having enough good bacteria can also cause problems with anxiety and depression.

Certain good bacteria help to break down the excitatory neurotransmitter like glutamate into the inhibitory neurotransmitter known as GABA.(*)

People who have problems with anxiety and panic disorders are put on medications called GABA agonists and sometimes SSRIs. These medications are supposed to help anxiety by increasing GABA levels or increasing Serotonin levels.

According to a recent study in Nature, Six common antidepressants were tested for their antimicrobial activity against 12 typical human gut bacterial strains. (*) They found that antidepressants either kill or stop the reproduction of beneficial bacteria, with most medications tested inhibiting the growth of bacteria. (*)

In other words, these Antidepressants act like antibiotics killing off beneficial gut bacteria and negatively alter the microbiome. It has to make you wonder if maybe part of the reasons people don’t respond well to antidepressants comes from the antibiotic-like effect that they have on the gut microbiome.

Researchers found that the antimicrobial properties of antidepressants act against the gut microbiome causing reduced bacterial diversity, reduced bacterial abundance, and reduced growth- all of these things can have a wide impact on our physical and mental health. (*)

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

In addition to depressive and anxiety symptoms, there are several signs of vitamin D deficiency that you should be on the lookout for. These include

  • Mood changes accompanied by overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, sadness,
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of interest in activities that previously sparked excitement
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping‌‌

That’s a lot of symptoms, Did you ever think that a deficiency in vitamin D could cause these things? If you experience any of these symptoms, your vitamin D levels should be checked.

If you have been taking vitamin D  and its been over 6 months you should get your levels rechecked, if you have anxiety and depression you never had them checked.. Guess what…. It’s time to get them CHECKED! That’s how important I believe vitamin D level testing is when you have anxiety, depression and gut problems.

Getting your vitamin D levels tested is super easy! It’s a blood test that can be ordered any time you have bloodwork done. I check vitamin D on every new patient and every time I rerun bloodwork.

It’s a matter of checking off a box and what I will tell you is that almost every single one of my patients if they are not supplementing with vitamin D have very low levels and those who are supplementing, have vitamin D levels that are still not in the optimal range.

The last thing I want you to know are some of the things you can do to improve the health of your gut if you suffer with anxiety and depression.

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

3 Tips To Improve Gut Health When You Suffer With Anxiety or Depression.

1. Eat Less Refined Sugar and More Plant Foods

Diets high in refined sugar and other added sugars negatively impact microbes in your gut, according to a review published July 2019 in Nutrients.(*) An earlier article, published in 2017 in Scientific Reports, found a link between sugar intake and symptoms of depression.(*)

2. Fuel Your Microbiome With Probiotics and Fiber

You can easily add probiotics “good” bacteria that flourish in your gut) and fiber — a type of carbohydrate that feeds the good bacteria — to your diet by eating prebiotic foods or taking prebiotics and probiotic supplements.

According to a review published in October 2021 in Molecules, probiotics affect the composition of microorganisms in the gut, which in turn can lower the risk of mood disorders.(*)

There are a lot of articles on my website as well as my YouTube channel that discuss how to improve your gut health, reduce inflammation, with diet.

So, as I wrap up todays video, there a few reminders I have for you as well as where I like to see vitamin D levels when it comes to depression and anxiety.

3. Eat More Polyphenols

Polyphenols are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress (*). Human cells can’t always digest polyphenols. Because they aren’t absorbed efficiently, most polyphenols make their way to the colon, where they are digested by gut bacteria (**). Foods rich in polyphenols include.

  • cocoa and dark chocolate
  • grape skins
  • green tea
  • almonds
  • onions
  • blueberries
  • broccoli

Polyphenols increase the amount of Bifidobacteria, Akkermanisa Mucinphila and lactobacilli in humans and reduce the quantity of Clostridia (*).

Vitamin D Depression and gut health

Things To Remember About Vitamin D Depression and Gut Health

  1. Vitamin D levels, depression, and gut health are all interconnected the Brain- Gut axis, and so when one is off, the others are likely affected as well.
  2. Vitamin D activates over 200 different genes(*) in the body and in the brain vitamin D is needed to activate certain genes that are responsible for make neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin(*)
  3. If you’re suffering from any mood or gut issues, get your vitamin D levels, and check them regularly.
  4. When you look at vitamin D levels on bloodwork, you will notice that the range goes from 30-100 nanograms per milliliter, Ideally, I like to see vitamin D levels in the 60-70 nanograms per milliliter for people with anxiety and depression.
  5. Eating vitamin-D-containing foods, getting sunshine when possible, and taking a vitamin D supplement can help support your mental health and the health of your gut.
  6. Probiotics and prebiotics are especially important for mental health and have been shown to help many people who suffer with depression and anxiety. I will leave a link for the probiotics strains that have been shown to help with anxiety and depression on my website or in the description box If you are watching this on YouTube.

Like I said at the beginning of the video and its worth repeating again, I believe that if you are battling anxiety, depression, everything little thing you do is one more step in the right direction, everything you do when it comes to improving your health counts and if you make enough base hits, do enough of the right things, eventually you start to bring in those runs and start to feel more stable mentally.

While there can be many causes of anxiety and depression, Vitamin D and gut health two very important basic areas worth considering.

Is There anything Else I Should Think About When It Comes to Depression

When I work with patients who suffer with mental health problems there are some of the Root Causes that I consider in addition to neurotransmitters, gut health, and vitamin D these areas include

  1. Mitochondrial Dysfunction
  2. Glutathione Depletion and Nrf2:
  3. Methylation pathways and genes involved in methylation cycle like COMT, MTR, MTRR, and MTHFR)
  4. Oxidative Stress
  5.  Neuro-inflammation
  6. Hormones
  7. Neuroplasticity
  8. Sleep Cycle
See Other Recent Post!

Creating health doesn't have to be a guessing game!

Our Team will help you harness your health so you can trust your body and feel like YOU again. We can help find your Root Cause.