Vitamin D and Mental Health
Vitamin D is commonly known as the 'sunshine vitamin.' This is simply because, when exposed to the sun, our bodies produce the vitamin. Let's take a look at what the science shows about how this vital vitamin impacts our mental health.
It is thought that 1 billion people worldwide suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, as well as depression.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to regulate the calcium and phosphorate in our bodies. The body stores Vitamin D in our fatty tissues. We need these nutrients to maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscles.
When you are outside, your body creates Vitamin D. The direct sunlight on your skin enables the body to produce the vitamin. In some climates worldwide, it can be difficult for our bodies to absorb Vitamin D from sunlight.
During the winter months -generally October to March in the northern hemisphere, we need to obtain Vitamin D from our diets or supplements.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
We need this essential vitamin not only for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles but for a comprehensive list of functions. Vitamin D can boost our metabolic system, contribute to our immune health, and help fight depression.
Our mental health is intrinsically linked to our physical health. More and more studies show that Vitamin D is associated with healthy optimal brain function.
Increased Vitamin D levels in the brain may also help us combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This disorder is usually diagnosed with depression-like symptoms. The lack of sunlight in the winter months results in lower levels of Vitamin D.
How Can We Get Vitamin D?
Approximately 50-90% of Vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight. In order to avoid deficiency, you require at least 20 minutes of sun a day.
The amount of sun you need, however, is ultimately dependent on the individual.
You could only need 15 minutes of sun for your body to produce enough Vitamin D, so you do not become deficient. You could require as much as three hours of sunlight to avoid deficiency. The time it takes for your body to produce the vitamin depends on how much melanin you have in your skin.
Spending as much time outdoors as possible is the best way to ensure you are optimizing your chance for Vitamin D production.
Few foods contain Vitamin D, yet it is possible to obtain some of the vitamins via the foods you eat regularly. Vitamin D foods include:
- egg yolks
- Fortified foods - some cereals, spreads, and some kinds of milk
- red meat
- oily fish - such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel
As well as eating foods high in vitamin d, you can get Vitamin D with a dietary supplement. Using supplements is especially important in the winter months.
Many health professionals recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement during winter. Vitamin D supplementation is also currently crucial in the wake of the pandemic. People can not go outside as often as usual due to lockdowns and restrictions.
Taking supplements that contain ten micrograms of Vitamin D should be enough for most healthy adults.
What Happens If We Don't Have Enough Vitamin D?
If you don't get enough Vitamin D, it can cause a variety of health problems. As well as the long-term afflictions such as osteoporosis and weak bones, lack of Vitamin D is also linked to mental health afflictions.
There is substantial evidence to suggest that sunlight affects our mood. The serotonin released when we are in direct sunlight makes us feel happier and more relaxed. If we don't get sunlight, and thus Vitamin D, it can cause us to feel more depressed.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
If you don't have enough Vitamin D, you may start to notice some of the following symptoms:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Muscle pain
- Bone pain
- Digestive issues
- Hair loss
- Becoming sick more frequently
- Low moods
As the symptoms of low Vitamin D levels are so generic, it is often hard to recognize them. The quickest and easiest way to find out if you are deficient is to ask your doctor for a blood test.
If you spend a lot of time indoors, or when you're outdoors, don't let the sun on your skin; you can put yourself at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Your skin finds it harder to absorb Vitamin D as you grow older. Deficiency can be more common amongst more senior individuals.
What Is the Link Between Vitamin D and Mental Health?
A lack of Vitamin D can cause low moods, but there is no concrete evidence to prove that it is the primary cause of depression and anxiety. The relationship between Vitamin D levels and mental health problems is more correlational.
In general, if you spend a lot of time inside, it can result in depression. In turn, if you are not spending much time outside, you will not get much sunlight on your skin.
When you suffer from low moods as part of the depression, taking care of your health may become less of a priority. Watching your diet and taking care of the nutrients you are absorbing can become difficult.
Many health care professionals prescribe Vitamin D to those suffering from depression or anxiety. This is a result of a growing amount of evidence that suggests it is an effective treatment.
Increase Your Levels of Vitamin D
Vitamin D benefits everyone; we all require it to maintain a healthy body and mind. If getting sunlight is a challenge due to your lifestyle or where you live, your best option is taking a daily supplement.
It is proven sunshine boosts our mood and mental health. Ensuring you manage to get out in daylight will help improve your mood and ensure you aren't becoming deficient in Vitamin D.
Taking a daily supplement will also help you to maintain healthy levels of the Vitamin. If you are new to supplements and want some well-reviewed options, try NuMedica.
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune diseases, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
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The information, knowledge, and experience shared on this website is the opinion of SupplementRelief.com. This site and its content is intended to enhance your knowledge base as YOU MAKE YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE DECISIONS in partnership with your qualified health professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products referred to are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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