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Vitamin D Deficiency & Bipolar Disorder

By John Levy

Sunlight exposure allows the body to absorb vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate the immune system and cells. Calcium and vitamin D are vital for growing and maintaining healthy bones. Food such as milk, salmon, eggs and fortified cereal are reliable sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is available in most multivitamin supplements. Several studies link vitamin D deficiency to symptoms of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder and Symptoms

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by periods of mania and depression. There are several forms of the condition depending on the severity of mood swings. According to MedlinePlus, bipolar disorder affects both sexes equally and usually starts around the ages of 15 to 25. Symptoms of mania are elevated mood, increased energy, unusual high self-esteem and racing thoughts. Depressive episodes include feelings of worthlessness, sadness, thoughts of suicide and lack of energy. The standard treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of mood stabilizers, benzodiazepines and antipsychotics.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency occurs when there is insufficient sunlight exposure and the recommended intake is too low over a period. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, rickets and osteomalacia are the primary diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. Rickets affects children and osteomalacia occurs in adults. Symptoms include softening of the bones, muscle weakness and bone pain around the body. Older people with dark skin are at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Bipolar

Vitamin D is essential for cognitive function and brain development; therefore, a deficiency of vitamin D will cause cognitive impairment. “Current Psychiatry Reports” reports in 2009 that several studies have shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and bipolar disorder. In 2005, the journal “Neuroscience Letters” reports a screening of vitamin D receptors in patients with bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions for mutations. Only one patient had a mutation in the vitamin D receptors screened. The study did not measure levels of vitamin D in the patients and the results are inconclusive.


Although there are links to vitamin D deficiency and bipolar disorder, no clinical trials or extensive studies prove vitamin D deficiency causes bipolar disorder symptoms. Prescribed medication is the most effective way to treat bipolar symptoms. Depending on where you live, as little as 10 minutes of sun exposure daily provides the recommended vitamin D dosage per day. If you suffer from obesity or fat malabsorption, you are at greater risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Take vitamin D supplements and consult a doctor for further treatment options if you suspect you have vitamin D deficiency.

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