Vitamin D Is Associated With Levels Of Both Serotonin Important For Mood Regulation And Melatonin Which Regulates Our Sleep
Evidence suggests there may be a relationship since vitamin D is associated with levels of both serotonin, important for mood regulation, and melatonin, which regulates our sleep. Low levels of either hormone could contribute to SAD symptoms. Researchers have yet to carry out a definitive randomised control trial, however, and the exact mechanism by which vitamin D bolsters the hormones is unknown. One theory is that vitamin D receptors which are found in many parts of the brain and concentrated in the hypothalamus, a region involved in our circadian timing play a part in controlling the bodys hormone levels.
Research has found that vitamin D plays a wider role in our mental health, from depression to schizophrenia, as well as in brain development, but how it plays a role also remains unclear. A meta-analysis published earlier this year found that while there is a correlation between lower vitamin D levels and depression, that didnt necessarily mean D caused depression.
Again, perhaps depressed people just went out less and got less sunlight.
If studies are inconclusive, though, perhaps that doesnt reflect on the importance of vitamin D. Perhaps its the fact that most of them are based on supplements, not sunshine.
Some experts believe that vitamin D is most effective when its from the sun, not supplements
Does Vitamin D Help You To Sleep
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for a variety of bodily functions but, until recently, its relationship with sleep was thought to be speculative. Now more studies have emerged on the subject supporting the idea that low levels of vitamin D could contribute to poorer sleep quality. Today Im here to take a more in depth look at the evidence and how vitamin D could possibly influence your sleep patterns.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by specific medical conditions, such as:
- Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease: These diseases do not allow the intestines to absorb enough vitamin D through supplements.
- Weight loss surgeries. Weight loss surgeries that reduce the size of the stomach and/or bypasses part of the small intestines make it very difficult to consume sufficient quantities of certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These individuals need to be carefully monitored by their doctors and need to continue to take vitamin D and other supplements throughout their lives.
- Obesity: A body mass index greater than 30 is associated with lower vitamin D levels. Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated so that it is not released. Vitamin D deficiency is more likely in obese people. Obesity often makes it necessary to take larger doses of vitamin D supplements in order to reach and maintain normal D levels.
- Kidney and liver diseases: These diseases reduce the amount of an enzyme needed to change vitamin D to a form that is used in the body. Lack of this enzyme leads to an inadequate level of active vitamin D in the body.
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Why Does Vitamin D Affect The Brain
Experts still do not understand exactly how Vitamin D works within the human brain. But we do know that our brains are full of Vitamin D receptors. These help carry out a number of functions including communicating actions with the rest of our body. It is thought that Vitamin D levels can affect parts of the brain that govern learning, memory, and mood.
Some research suggests it could even play a role in social behaviour. Some researchers think that Vitamin D could affect our levels of brain chemicals, including serotonin, which has a strong effect on mood. More and more large-scale studies are being carried out in the areas of Vitamin D and mental health.
For now, we can be sure of one thing: exposure to sunlight increases Vitamin D levels, and is a great mood booster. So get outside in the sunshine whenever you can. Even 10 minutes will help.
How To Get More Of The Sunshine Vitamin
One way to increase vitamin D is obvious: get more sunshine! Sun is healthy for your skin. Your skin needs rays of sunlight to make vitamin D. Exposing your skin to the sun without sunscreen is the best way to get more of the sunshine vitamin. However, that doesnt mean you can spend as much time in the sun as you want. Its important to keep yourself from getting sunburned. If youre going to be outside in the sun for more than fifteen minutes, cover up with protective clothing or use sunscreen.
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Special Precautions And Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feedingLIKELY SAFEPOSSIBLY UNSAFEChildrenLIKELY SAFEPOSSIBLY UNSAFEHardening of the arteries A type of fungal infection called histoplasmosisHigh levels of calcium in the bloodOver-active parathyroid gland LymphomaKidney diseaseA disease that causes swelling in body organs, usually the lungs or lymph nodes Tuberculosis
A Quick Vitamin D Primer
You walk in the sunshine every day . You eat right. You get enough sleep. But you still may be missing something even if youre doing all the right thingsvitamin D. Though rare, severely low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to bone pain, and thin, brittle, or misshapen bones, according to the National Institutes of Health. But recent research has suggested a connection between even moderately low levels of vitamin D and a number of surprising health conditions, including diabetes, osteoarthritis, and cancer. There are a number of sneaky signs that can point to a vitamin D deficiency, so if youre suffering from any of them, talk with your healthcare provider, who will likely recommend a blood test. This is really the only way to accurately determine your vitamin D level. Then you can discuss ways to boost them, usually by taking an over-the-counter supplement.
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So What Causes Low Levels Of Vitamin D
If you dont spend enough time in the sun, eat a plant-only diet, have darker skin, have parathyroid disease, suffer from conditions that cause malabsorption including celiac disease and cystic fibrosis, or have liver and kidney disease, you could be deficient in Vitamin D.
In addition, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in water bottles, plastics, cosmetics, pesticides, polluted air and water, is associated with lower vitamin D levels.
This nutrient deficiency has been linked to respiratory illness, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, prostate and breast cancer and ED.
When You Get A Wound Its Slow To Heal
If youve had surgery or some other trauma, and your body is slow to heal, you may be low in vitamin D. This makes sense, given that your immune system needs vitamin D to function optimally. If this sounds like you, get outside and get some sun on your skin every day. A vitamin D supplement may also be in order.
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Upset Stomach Or Weight Loss
Side effects associated with taking vitamin D supplements typically occur following excessive or improper use of this nutrient. Excessively high levels of vitamin D in the body may elevate calcium levels, causing a condition called hypercalcemia. If this occurs, you may experience upset stomach side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, the UMMC reports. These side effects may also contribute to a diminished appetite and you may notice that you begin to lose weight. If these side effects occur while you are taking vitamin D supplements, contact a doctor.
- Side effects associated with taking vitamin D supplements typically occur following excessive or improper use of this nutrient.
- If this occurs, you may experience upset stomach side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, the UMMC reports.
You Catch Everything Going Around
Colds, viruses, the flu: You name it, you get it. But you might not have known that these could actually be vitamin D deficiency symptoms. Vitamin D deficiencies are associated with depressed immune systems, says Dr. Jackson. Youll catch whatever is going around if your immune system isnt functioning properly. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that adults who have low levels of vitamin D had a 58 percent higher chance of catching an acute respiratory infection. Higher levels of vitamin D may also help decrease recovery time from the flu. Dont miss these other ways your body is trying to tell you its running low on key vitamins.
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Why Are We So Vitamin D Deficient
Many people across the globe are deficient in this essential vitamin for a number of reasons. First off, its hard to get vitamin D through sources of food alone. While egg yolks and some fatty fish contain vitamin D, they dont contain enough to give us what we need over the long term.
The primary source of this essential nutrient is the sun itself. And weve all been taught to stay out of the sun, because the sun causes skin cancer, right? Like anything and everything, moderation is key including sun exposure. To prevent a vitamin D deficiency, you need to let your skin drink in the sun in moderate amounts, without sunscreen.
If you think you may be low in vitamin D, you can ask for a blood test from your doctor to confirm your levels. X-rays to check for bone loss are also available, as bone loss is a surefire sign you need more vitamin D. And you can take the proper steps to increase your vitamin D intake, which well discuss further on.
Vitamin D Supplement Safety
Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but many people may not get enough due to a variety of factors. Because of this, people often turn to vitamin D supplements. Unfortunately, it isnt uncommon for people to overdo it.
A 2017 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that between 1999 and 2014, there was an increase in the number of American adults taking daily vitamin D supplements of 1,000 IU or more. Of these, 18% exceeded 1000 IU each day and 3% took more than 4,000 IU per day, which may place them at a higher risk of experiencing some adverse effects related to excessive vitamin D.
In most cases, you can get all of the vitamin D you need naturally without supplementation through sun exposure and diet. A 15-minute walk outside each day with your extremities exposed can boost vitamin D production. .
Eating foods that are naturally high in vitamin D or are fortified with the nutrient can help. Foods you can eat to boost your vitamin D levels include:
- Egg yolks
- Fortified milk, yogurt, or juice
- Fatter fish such as tuna or salmon
- Cod liver oil
If you do decide to take a vitamin D supplement to correct a deficiency or because you are unable to get an adequate amount through sunlight and diet, always follow your doctor’s guidelines and do not take more than recommended amounts.
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What Are 7 Of The Most Common Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency
90% of the vitamin D our bodies need comes from getting out in the sunlight and only 10 per cent is from your diet. Even if you eat fortified foods, you could be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms of low vitamin D vary from person to person, but if your routine and lifestyle keeps you away from sunlight, look out for these symptoms:
How To Stop It
Testing levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D can ID a deficiency. My goal is to get levels to 50 to 70 ng/ml, says Dr. Blum. But if youre experiencing red flags like fatigue and frequent illness, consider the steps below to boost levels.
Supplementing with vitamin D3 is the best way to correct a shortfall. My rule is to take 20 IU per pound of body weight per day, says Dr. Dowd . And for women with darker skin, 25 IU per pound per day.
Snack on almonds. Theyre a top source of magnesium, a nutrient Harvard researchers say is required for the body to break down and utilize vitamin D. Adding 200 mg. of magnesium daily can boost vitamin D levels eightfold.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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How Does Vitamin D Affect Sleep
Getting a good nights rest is critical for multiple reasons. Our bodies use sleep as a restorative period to repair daily wear and tear that our bodies accrue from normal activity, plus to build up new bone and muscle mass so we can grow or maintain our shapes and strength.
Furthermore, sleep is important for our mental health. The exact link between mental health and sleep is being refined more and more each day, but science is sure that your brain needs sleep to reorganize itself from the events of the day, categorize information, and transform short-term memories to long-term memory.
Yet while there are many aspects to getting a good nights rest, including when you go to bed, whether or not you use an electronic screen before bed, and what your exercise routine is like, vitamin D can also play a role in your sleep quality.
For instance, one studys authors found that subjects with increased levels of vitamin D throughout their body enjoyed:
- Better sleep quality
- Better subjective sleep experience
- Lower sleep latency
But why does vitamin D have these effects? Science is still looking for concrete answers. But its thought, at least in part, that vitamin D is responsible for regulating tryptophan hydroxylase or TRPHs expression. This is an enzyme that limits how much serotonin your body produces. Since serotonin production is related to melatonin production, vitamin D is linked to the production of both hormones in this way.
Lets break it down even further:
Its Very Individual How Much Sun Exposure A Person Needs Roberta Bivins
Its very individual how much sun exposure a person needs during summer, depending on the pigment in the skin to the amount of fat in the body and how quickly your body makes new bone. Its incredibly complicated, she says.
Thats why the best way to determine if you have low vitamin D is not by symptoms alone, but with a blood test arranged through your medic.
Then there is the question of exactly what level of supplementation people need. Reid says theres no danger in taking over-the-counter vitamin D of less than 25 nanomols per day.
US and Canada guidelines suggest taking 15 micrograms of vitamin D supplements each day, but some believe its not enough
But with supplements offering doses as high as 62.5 micrograms available over the counter, there are concerns around the risk of excessive vitamin D levels, which can, in rare cases, cause side effects, including nausea and vomiting. In the long term, some studies suggest too much vitamin D can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, although the research isnt conclusive.
But others argue that even more vitamin D is needed.
With such conflicting results, its unsurprising that medical experts themselves are deeply divided over the benefits of widespread supplementation. Some even argue that vested interests are propping up the billion-dollar vitamin industry, with Spector calling vitamin D supplements a pseudo-vitamin for a pseudo-disease.
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So What Is The Recommended Intake Of Vitamin D
In general, 1,000 to 2,000 IU should be enough to meet the needs of most people completely, with doses between 2,000 and 10,000 IU not necessarily providing more overall benefit, but not being harmful either. When it comes to calcium metabolism, vitamin D3 and K2 work in synergy D3 gets calcium into your blood, and K2 sends it to the bones! If there is no K2 to activate the proteins that send calcium to the bones, some calcium may settle in soft tissues, and lead to calcification. For our recommended plant-based Vitamin D3 plus K2 supplement, see the link below.
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