It’s not just us Northerners who are at risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency has significant consequences and has long been established in both children and adults. Every tissue in the body has Vitamin D receptors, which means that the entire body needs it to function. People with the lowest levels of Vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is also a hormone.
Vitamin D as a hormone:
- Helps with the absorption of calcium
- Activates genes that regulate the immune system
- Regulates the release of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder featuring depressive symptoms, occurs during the dark times of the year, which coincides with a drop in Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D and the Brain:
- Protects cells in the hippocampus, which is essential for memory
- Stimulates production of nerve growth in the brain
- Keeps amyloid-beta production under control, this is the toxic protein which is involved in Alzheimer’s disease
- Potent antioxidant which prohibits the production of free radicals
- Lowers inflammation
- Regulates expression of neurotransmitters including dopamine (motivation), acetylcholine (memory) and serotonin (mood)
Even on a sunny day we still tend to cover up when outdoors. 😉
- Older adults
- Individuals with darker skin have higher levels of melanin which impairs absorption of Vitamin D
- Anyone living north of Atlanta Georgia
- Infants born in winter or spring seasons, when birth mothers have decreased levels of Vitamin D
- Obese individuals
- Individuals with chronic illnesses (diabetes)
- Young adults who work inside
Vitamin D’s effect on mental health extends beyond depression. Schizophrenia has also been linked with low levels of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D levels of 20 ng/ml used to be considered ‘normal’, but many researchers and clinicians now consider this to be too low. The ‘new’ normal is anything greater than 30 ng/ml.
What To Do:
- FIRST – Get Vitamin D levels checked with your doctor
- Supplement accordingly, between 2,000 IU to 10,000 IU daily, higher ranges should be monitored by blood testing every few months.
- Researchers suggest that you get 30 – 50 minutes of sun exposure per week without sunscreen
- Vitamin D foods include: Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon, foods fortified with vitamin D like some dairy products, beef liver, and egg yolks and to a lesser degree mushrooms.
Lack of Vitamin D may be only one of the factors that contribute to a depressed mood. There are many factors that can cause depression, such as genetics, other nutrient deficiencies, adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, and/or inflammation to name a few.
Vitamin D deficiency is a very common yet preventable condition that can contribute to many physical, and psychological conditions including immune function, (click HERE to read more). Check with your doctor to see if you are due to have your Vitamin D levels checked.