Can taking vitamin D put you in a better mood?

If you've been struggling with keeping a positive outlook, getting a little more vitamin D might help. Vitamin D is usually associated with building strong bones because of its well-known role in helping with calcium absorption, but research increasingly supports a connection between vitamin D and mood, too.

To be clear, there are many complex factors that can contribute to depression and other mood disorders. Major life changes and events, social isolation, illness, genetics, and even certain medications are some of the factors that may contribute to depression.

But it's worth taking a closer look at what's going on inside the body, too. Mood swings, whether resulting in depression, anxiety, irritability, or brain fog, can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, according to Everywell — including vitamin D deficiency. Andrea Mathis, MA, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian, told Insider, "We all know that vitamin D is essential to helping our bodies function properly. Surprisingly, vitamin D can also help to regulate moods. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D were linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety."

Sunshine can boost vitamin D levels

Researchers have found vitamin D receptors in the brain in the same regions that are linked to depression, and multiple studies have found a connection between Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and low levels of vitamin D (via Psychology Today). In spite of the difficulties in pinpointing a precise cause of depression, it's safe to say that vitamin D plays what may be a small — but critical — role in regulating mood.

Since most of this 'sunshine vitamin' is actually absorbed through sun exposure, spending some time in the sun regularly is a great way to raise vitamin D levels. Although there are only a limited number of foods that provide vitamin D in its natural form (like liver, egg yolks, red meat, and oily fish), plenty of foods are fortified with vitamin D (think milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice), and these supply an important source of the vitamin. "Since so few foods found in nature are good sources of vitamin D, fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D found in the American diet," Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE, explained to Cleveland Clinic.

Taking a vitamin D supplement may be helpful for some people with low vitamin D levels, but supplementation should be monitored by a health care professional. Overall, it's worth checking vitamin D levels if your mood is suffering. After all, correcting a vitamin D deficiency is much easier than treating some of the other factors of depression.