Our mental wellness is often neglected as we go about our busy lives. That can lead us to feel fatigued, depressed, and generally less than our best. We all understand the importance of good nutrition for health, but did you know there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression? A few things to keep in mind:
- Our health is an especially important focus during the colder winter season.
- We are spending more time inside to keep warm, and our bodies are exposed to less sunlight than in warmer months.
- Sunlight is needed for the body to naturally synthesize vitamin D, so less time absorbing those rays leads to lower levels of vitamin D.
- Most of us, especially in the winter in northern climates, can benefit from vitamin D supplementation to keep deficiency at bay.
Choosing the right supplement – as well as knowing how much you need – is important for health and wellness. This guide will walk you through what you need to know about vitamin D, including natural sources, the dangers of deficiency, and how the nutrient impacts health and depression.
Understanding Vitamin D Deficiency
Low vitamin D levels are becoming more prevalent in both children and adults in the United States and in other parts of the world. This can have an effect on mental disorders like depression and cognitive function, as well as cardiovascular health, bone health, metabolic function and immune health. Because vitamin D plays a critical role in so many aspects of health, it can be very helpful to know if you may be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
Several causes of insufficiency include a diet low in vitamin D, poor sunlight exposure, taking certain medications, excessive alcohol intake, and tobacco smoking. In addition, certain genetic SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) can make it more difficult for some people to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
Getting a vitamin D blood test from your healthcare provider can help to determine your vitamin D status. Health experts suggest that the optimal range of vitamin D in your blood is between 50 ng/mL and 70 ng/mL. If your lab results show a deficiency, we recommend that you talk with your practitioner about possible contributing factors, as well as the recommended supplemental dosage of vitamin D that is best for you.
Vitamin D and Depression
Research has shown that individuals with a vitamin D deficiency are at a higher risk of developing depression, among other health conditions. A few things to consider:
- Our internal levels of vitamin D can change seasonally, which may increase symptoms associated with depression in the winter months.
- Lack of prolonged sun exposure, especially in those living further from the equator, means the body isn't prompted to make vitamin D from sunlight, as it is in the warmer months.
- Several studies indicate vitamin D supplements can help to alleviate symptoms of depression.
It is not entirely clear whether a vitamin D deficiency causes depression, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that supplementation with this important vitamin may be an effective strategy for promoting mental well-being.
Types of Vitamin D
While we commonly refer simply to vitamin D, there are actually two main types – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Here's what you need to know about them:
- Vitamin D2 is also known as ergocalciferol, while vitamin D3 is known as cholecalciferol.
- The two differ slightly in their chemical structures.
- D3 supplements have been shown to increase vitamin D levels more effectively than D2.
- Vitamin D supplements are available in different forms, including softgel and liquid
- Vitamin D softgels tend to be small in size, making them easy to swallow.
- Liquid vitamin D can be added to food or beverages and is a great option for those individuals unable to swallow pills.
3 Tips to Boost Vitamin D LevelsBecause it is difficult to reach optimal vitamin D levels through exposure to sunlight and dietary sources alone, supplementing with vitamin D is highly recommended. Here are three tips to help you out.
1. Try to eat vitamin D-rich foods.These include oily and fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, plus red meat, liver, vitamin D-fortified orange juice and egg yolks. Eating these foods regularly can help to promote healthy vitamin D levels.
2. Find the right supplement for you.Not all supplements are created equal, so it's important that you take a high-quality product. You'll know you've chosen a high-quality manufacturer if they are open and honest about their sourcing, there are few if any fillers, and you're able to ask questions about the production process.
3. Know your recommended daily dose.
Many medical professionals typically recommend 1,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to improve or maintain your vitamin D status. However, you'll want to speak with your healthcare professional to understand your risk of insufficiency and to make sure you're getting the right amount for you.
Maintaining optimal levels is crucial for many aspects of health, especially during the winter when the cold weather keeps us indoors and away from adequate sun exposure. Fortunately, there are many great options for vitamin D supplements to help you optimize your health.