Saturday, June 29, 2013

Can Vitamin D Help Your Mood?

  This article in The New York Times focuses on the increased rate of suicide in springtime, but it's more interesting for what it says about a possible link between depression and inflammation:
suicide patterns

"Dr. Kaplin studies depression in patients with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease. In M.S., he says, depression and inflammation feed each other: Even after accounting for the psychological effects of any serious illness, M.S. heightens depression risk..."

"Inflammatory cytokines play crucial roles in fighting infection, but they can also cause problems. When people with hepatitis C are given the cytokine interferon to help fight the infection, for instance, up to 40 percent become depressed and one in 50 attempt suicide. Other studies suggest that inflammatory cytokine activity reduces levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and halts the growth of new brain cells — two hallmarks of depression."

As for the link with springtime, the article notes "One possibility is that many people enter spring sensitized to inflammation by late-winter battles with seasonal infections like colds and flu.
A second possibility involves tree pollen....Yet another possibility involves vitamin D. The low levels caused by lack of sunlight in the winter are thought to lead to inflammation; one recent study tentatively suggested a link to suicide."

In addition to private practice, I also do consulting work in psychiatric hospitals, and I've noted in the past several years that most hospitals are now testing their patients' vitamin D levels. Many patients'  tests show vitamin D deficiency (which is easily resolved with supplements in most cases).

 I've also noticed that some psychiatrists are prescribing fish oil for their patients--fish oil has a slight anti-inflammatory effect and some believe it reduces depression.

Nutrition and overall health are very important for combatting and preventing emotional illness. I always recommend that my patients receive complete physical exams that test for problems such as vitamin D deficiency, thyroid problems and other common problems that could be implicated in their symptoms.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Anxiety disorders appear to be on the increase. This may be due to many factors. There are many simple techniques that can be used to reduce anxiety:

1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and release muscles in one part of your body at a time. Start either from your feet or your head, working in one direction. This can help insomnia when done at bedtime.

2. When worrying about an upcoming event, ask yourself "What's the worst that could happen?" You may then realize that whatever the worst is, it won't be catastrophic and you can probably handle it.

3. Evaluate your fears--are they logical? How likely is it that the bad outcomes you imagine will happen?

4. Drink less coffee and evaluate medications you are taking, such as Sudafed, that can increase anxiety. Some sleep medications may cause rebound anxiety the following day.

There can also be complex reasons for excessive anxiety, such as an underlying lack of self confidence or fear of being alone and/or independent.