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Vitamin D and Sunshine | Light Up Your Life!

This entry was posted in Mental Health and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on May 12, 2023 by Chris Weatherall

Vitamin D Sunshine
Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Half the world doesn’t get enough vitamin D. But the sun shines somewhere, each and every day and each and every hour on the entire planet. How can this sunshine vitamin be in such poor supply? And what are the implications on mental health for such a puzzling crisis?

Something must be working overtime to prevent the sunshine vitamin from doing what it is designed by nature to do. Find out how you can benefit from changes to diet, supplementation, and other strategies to improve mental health naturally. This is our specialty at Alternative to Meds Center.

nutritional importance of vitamin D

Would Your Symptoms Improve with Better Nutrition?
For the better part of 2 decades, Alternative to Meds has been engaged with helping a wide range of clients who are suffering from chronic or lingering mental health symptoms that prescription drugs did not fix. Our success with clients is overwhelmingly positive. Read on to find out more about how and why you can benefit from nutrition-based treatments for mental health, naturally.
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Vitamin D for Mental Health

There is much evidence available on the benefits of good solid nutrition including vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that are becoming more widely known n the field of nutritional mental health treatment, spanning the globe. Here we will focus on one in particular that is of keen interest in the matter of mood disorders such as depression. There have been vigorous studies published showing a positive relationship between vitamin D deficiency and symptoms of low mood, or depression, and that correcting the deficiency with supplementation or a corrected diet reverses the depression. The more severe the depression, where there was a deficiency of vitamin D, the more dramatic the observed effects.12,13

Vitamin D — The Sunshine Vitamin

vitamin D the sunshine vitaminIt may seem ironic that vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent when the human skin is equipped to make 90% of what is required for overall health just by exposing the skin to sunlight regularly — about 20 minutes of daily sun exposure to at least 40% of the skin. As a person ages, the production of vitamin D is seen to decline, making it even more important to get out in the sunshine.5

An estimated 50% of the global population is vitamin D insufficient, and more than 10% are vitamin D deficient. Those with hereditary or chronic liver conditions, people with celiac disease, those who are institutionalized with limited outdoor exposure, or who are obese, as well as the aging population, are among those at the highest risk.

Sunscreen might have some advantages for preventing severe burns if one is spending long days at the beach, or picking crops under the hot summer sun. For most people, relatively short periods of sun exposure without blocking or covering the skin will provide the amazing benefits of the “sunshine vitamin.” 7,10

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency go far beyond mood disorders, which research shows are relatively easy to correct. Other consequences of chronic vitamin D deficits may not be apparent until the condition is severe, or after a long period of time has elapsed without intervention. Symptoms present a wide range of developmental disorders, including muscle and bone weakness, bowed bones, as in rickets, non-skin cancers, bone loss, osteoporosis in the elderly, various autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and infectious diseases.2,6-8

How is Vitamin D Deficiency Properly Diagnosed?

Testing for a vitamin D deficiency requires a specific blood test that measures serum levels. Vitamin D deficiency is reportedly extremely common across the globe, possibly more so in the northern regions, in areas where exposure of the skin to sunlight is limited, and in areas where nutrition is lacking adequate levels.8

Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, found most prevalent in fats and fatty foods. In processing foods and beverages, some fats can become lost. Fortified foods and beverages have had vitamins such as D added back in.4,9

Vitamin D2 is plant-sourced, and D3 comes from animal sources and from the sun. The human body needs exposure to sunlight to make D3 which is why diet and supplementation are recommended, especially in colder climes where exposure to the sun is limited much of the year. The sunlight factor is why wild-grown plants and fish have higher D3 content than those farmed or raised in sunless environments.1,10,11

The following foods provide diet-sourced vitamin D:food sources of vitamin D
  • Milk (fortified)
  • Yogurt (fortified)
  • Butter
  • Fatty cuts of pork such as spare ribs or bacon
  • Beef liver
  • Orange juice, cereals, bread, and other products fortified with D
  • Cod liver oil, other fish oils
  • Tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, oysters, sardines, and other fatty fish.
  • Egg yolks
  • Wild mushrooms (plants must be exposed to sunlight to produce D3)

Notes on Supplements — Harmonizing Partnerships to Improve Efficacy

vitamin D3 with K2 supplementMicronutrients work in tandem in ways that research is always discovering more about, letting us know what works best with what. For example, Vitamin D combined with vitamin K2 is available in supplement form, and this dynamic duo boosts vitamin D’s benefits in strengthening bones and remedying bone loss, as well as preventing the calcification of blood vessels.16   

There are 2 forms of vitamin D: D2, and D3. While D3 has a longer half-life than D2, they work best in harmony to perform their vital roles in human health.  According to a large clinical trial published in the 2022 Qatar Medical Journal, combining supplements of D2 and D3 works much better than taking either one alone.17,18

For maximum absorption, oil-based vitamins and supplements can be taken together. Oil-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.19 

Considerable debate among researchers presents a surprising range of global variances in the adult-recommended daily vitamin D requirement ranging from a conservative 400IU daily in the UK, to the Endocrine Society’s recommendation of between 1500 and 2000IU daily for adequately supporting endocrine health. Other recommendations of no less than 1000 and 2000IU or possibly higher are published in the research of Bischoff-Ferrari to offset the challenging health consequences that 50% of the human population experiences from a deficiency in this vital nutrient.

Higher ranges of recommended daily supplementation may reflect specific factors such as the darkness of the skin, obesity, clothing customs and weather factors that prevent exposure of the skin to sunlight, and age. Where a deficiency is found, the therapeutic levels needed to correct a deficit may need to be higher.

Also important to keep in mind is that magnesium is needed to metabolize this vitamin, so adequate intake of magnesium is equally important. Magnesium in supplement form is available over-the-counter, and can also be obtained from foods such as spinach and other dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, peanuts, almonds, potatoes, and many other dietary sources. And remember that if you also take zinc in supplemental form, take it and magnesium at different times as zinc can interfere with magnesium absorption.3,13-15

Nutrition — A Place of Honor at Alternative to Meds Center

science-based recovery from addictions Sedona ArizonaNutrition plays a key role in treatment planning at the center. Programs at the Alternative to Meds Center are built around many science-based principles including orthomolecular nutrition, neurotoxin removal, neurotransmitter rehabilitation, and psychological services designed for the individual’s best mental health improvements. Lab testing is extremely important in designing individual programs so that deficiencies can be properly detected and treated successfully.

A client’s stay with us is also advantaged by the location of our pristine, toxin-free facility, with many outdoor opportunities for sunshine and fresh air. We are nestled at the foot of the majestic Red Rocks near Sedona, Arizona, where the sun happily shines on average 278 days of the year, with a temperate climate that ranges from 16°-30°.

We warmly invite you to call to inquire further about our broad range of insurance coverage, and our holistic services. Our staff roster of 50 licensed medical doctors, therapists, and caregivers is dedicated to assisting you or your loved one in reaching your natural mental health goals in a pleasant, welcoming, world-class facility.

1. “Vitamins: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 July 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 7]

2. Clifford, J, et al. “Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E and K.” Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sept. 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 7]

3. Reddy P, Edwards LR. Magnesium Supplementation in Vitamin D Deficiency. Am J Ther. 2019 Jan/Feb;26(1):e124-e132. doi: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000000538. PMID: 28471760. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

4. Chauhan K, Shahrokhi M, Huecker MR. Vitamin D. [Updated 2022 Sep 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2023 Mar 7]

5. Sahota O. (2014). Understanding vitamin D deficiency. Age and ageing43(5), 589–591. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

6. Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?Issues in mental health nursing31(6), 385–393. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

7. Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2022 Jul 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2023 Mar 7]

8. Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Zasloff M, Heaney RP. Diagnosis and treatment of vitamin D deficiency. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2008 Jan;9(1):107-18. doi: 10.1517/14656566.9.1.107. PMID: 18076342. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

9. Schmid, A., & Walther, B. (2013). Natural vitamin D content in animal productsAdvances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)4(4), 453–462. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

10. Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics3(2), 118–126. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

11. O’Mahony, L., Stepien, M., Gibney, M. J., Nugent, A. P., & Brennan, L. (2011). The potential role of vitamin D enhanced foods in improving vitamin D status. Nutrients3(12), 1023–1041. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

12. Cheng YC, Huang YC, Huang WL. The effect of vitamin D supplement on negative emotions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Depress Anxiety. 2020 Jun;37(6):549-564. doi: 10.1002/da.23025. Epub 2020 May 4. PMID: 32365423. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

13. Shaffer JA, Edmondson D, Wasson LT, Falzon L, Homma K, Ezeokoli N, Li P, Davidson KW. Vitamin D supplementation for depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Psychosom Med. 2014 Apr;76(3):190-6. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000044. PMID: 24632894; PMCID: PMC4008710. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

14. NIH Health Professional Fact Sheet, Magnesium. [published online June 2, 2022] [cited 2023 Mar 7]

15. Bischoff-Ferrari HA. Optimal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels for multiple health outcomes. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;624:55-71. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-77574-6_5. PMID: 18348447. [cited 2023 Mar 7]

16. van Ballegooijen AJ, Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, Grübler MR, Verheyen N. The Synergistic Interplay between Vitamins D and K for Bone and Cardiovascular Health: A Narrative Review. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:7454376. doi: 10.1155/2017/7454376. Epub 2017 Sep 12. PMID: 29138634; PMCID: PMC5613455. [cited 2023 Mar 8]

17. Tripkovic L, Wilson LR, Hart K, Johnsen S, de Lusignan S, Smith CP, Bucca G, Penson S, Chope G, Elliott R, Hyppönen E, Berry JL, Lanham-New SA. Daily supplementation with 15 μg vitamin D2 compared with vitamin D3 to increase wintertime 25-hydroxyvitamin D status in healthy South Asian and white European women: a 12-wk randomized, placebo-controlled food-fortification trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Aug;106(2):481-490. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.138693. Epub 2017 Jul 5. PMID: 28679555. [cited 2023 Mar 8]

18. Alayed Albarri, E. M., Sameer Alnuaimi, A., & Abdelghani, D. (2022). Effectiveness of vitamin D2 compared with vitamin D3 replacement therapy in a primary healthcare setting: a retrospective cohort studyQatar medical journal2022(3), 29. [cited 2023 Mar 8]

19. National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 11, Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Available from: [cited 2023 Mar 8]

Originally Published March 8, 2023 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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