A simple solution to lighten depression for women?

Medical researchers are searching non-stop for drugs that can do a reliable job of relieving depression … but they’re not having much luck. Despite their lack of success, they have spent little or no time looking into natural ways to lighten mood and ease depression. Most of that is because companies can’t patent and sell natural remedies … so you never hear about them.

But researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a link between having too little vitamin D and depression in younger women.

Being a part of the medical establishment, researcher David Kerr tried to downplay the importance of the discovery, saying, “Depression has multiple, powerful causes and if vitamin D is part of the picture, it is just a small part. But given how many people are affected by depression, any little inroad we can find could have an important impact on public health.”

Yet if you’re a regular reader, you know that vitamin D is proving itself to be a remarkable nutrient. While it has been long known to be important for keeping bones strong, we now know that it activates your immune system and helps protect you from illnesses like the flu, it keeps your muscles working better, lowers your risk of more than a dozen cancers, especially in women, and can shrink your chances of suffering a heart attack.

The scientists say they did this study because so many people think that vitamin D and depression are linked. But not much research has examined the connection.

“I think people hear that vitamin D and depression can change with the seasons, so it is natural for them to assume the two are connected,” Kerr says.

The Oregon study showed that young women with lower levels of vitamin D had greater incidences of depression over the course of the five-week research. So women who simply get more vitamin D could prevent depressive mood states.

One reason most of the women who were depressed had low vitamin D is that you’re told to stay away from sunshine, which the skin uses to make vitamin D. Unfortunately, many dermatologists are obsessed with keeping us out of the sun. They don’t acknowledge that while you don’t want to get sunburned repeatedly, you do want sufficient sun to get the body’s vitamin D factory up and running.

The Oregon researchers point out that although the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU per day, no one has investigated how much vitamin D you need to keep your mental health on an even keel.

You can be assured that 600 IU is nowhere near enough. And have you heard that 10 minutes in the sun is enough? Not nearly, unless you’re at the equator lying down in full sunlight. It’s going to take you longer if you’re working in the yard or exercising outdoors, and even longer if you’re overweight.

So if you’re sitting in the sun during the summer, 20 minutes will give you the 4,000 IU you need for your best health. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to spend time in the sun so your skin can make plenty of vitamin D. If you’re very light-skinned, build up the time slowly, and if you live in the north, you’ll need some extra time, too.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.