You know you need the sun for its light and heat. And you know the sun is needed to warm the planet’s seas, drive the weather, and give energy to plants for food and oxygen. But did you know you also need the sun for vitamin D and mental health? It’s true. Without the sun, there’s no sunshine vitamin. And without the sunshine vitamin, you may not feel too great.
Truth is, vitamin D might play a huge role when it comes to regulating anxiety or keeping mood problems at bay.1 And, unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is somewhat common. 2 So, how do you ensure that you reap all the benefits of the sunshine vitamin? First, you’ve got to make sure you understand the answer to another question…
What is the relationship between vitamin D and mental health? Read here to learn about the “sunshine vitamin” and how you can make sure to get more of it.
The Sunshine Vitamin: Is There A Relationship Between Vitamin D And Mental Health?
When you think about vitamin D, you might conjure images of milk mustaches, pearly white teeth, calcium, and strong bones. One reason vitamin D levels are important is that when they’re regulated correctly, alongside the right parathyroid hormone levels, the minerals in your body can be properly metabolized. Parathyroid hormones and vitamin D work together to maintain calcium levels and healthy bones. 3
But the sunshine vitamin is good for so much more. Believe it or not, vitamin D levels may help support:
- A positive mood
- Cognitive function
- General feelings of well-being
- Intestinal health
- Immune and cardiovascular systems 4
Moreover, vitamin D is essential not just when it comes to physical health, but also when it comes to brain development. 5
Vitamin D And Mental Health: Health Outcomes And Risk Factors Of A Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiencies happen to affect almost 50% of the world’s population. And deficiency is actually becoming more common. Why? Unfortunately, people spend more of their days inside and less time engaging in outdoor physical activity. 6
Furthermore, there are risks and issues connected to low vitamin D levels including:
- Weight gain
- Poor sugar levels
- Low mood
- Focus issues 7
There’s good news when it comes to deficiency of vitamin D and mental health, though. Even if the sun is hiding behind a cloudy sky or you can’t get out, you can find vitamin D in food sources or help boost your Vitamin D levels with supplementation.
Recommended Daily Vitamin D
The recommended dietary allowances for Vitamin D are listed below according to age:
0–12 months 10 mcg
1–69 years 15 mcg
>70 years 20 mcg 8
To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D, you might consider taking a dietary supplement. Consuming foods rich in vitamin D can help as well.
Foods high in fatty acids tend to provide ample amounts of vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish like salmon and tuna are the best sources of vitamin D. You can up your vitamin D game by consuming grass-fed beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms and seaweeds provide decent amounts of vitamin D2, too. 9
If you don’t know whether or not you’re deficient, a visit to your doctor might be in order. You should definitely get your blood vitamin D levels checked. If you are going to supplement with vitamin D, it’s best to talk to your doctor about a plan. Vitamin D toxicity is possible if your levels get too high and can cause negative health effects like —
- Repeat vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Dehydration 10
Needless to say, seeing a doctor is essential when deciding to take any type of supplement or make changes to your diet.
Vitamin D: How to Withstand Winter Weather
For many people, winter is the hardest time to get the right amounts of vitamin D. So, from late October to early April, you want to do your best to maximize sun-time, especially if you live in northern states.
It’s nice to cozy up and stay indoors on cold days, but if you don’t get enough vitamin D (or exercise, for that matter), you may experience health issues and be more prone to mental health problems. Seasonal mood swings can be extremely difficult — especially if they involve anxiety. So, how can you lower the risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Other Ways To Get More Vitamin D
Step into the Light — Even just a 5 or 6 minutes a day of exposure to direct sunlight may help boost vitamin D levels and lift your mood. A vitamin D lamp might be just the ticket to give you more vitamin D — even as you work. 11 Or, if you’re able, make it a point to go somewhere sunny on the weekends. There’s nothing like a weekend getaway to relax your mind and replenish your vitamin D levels.
Catch Your Z-z-zs — When you get the right amount of vitamin D, you will be contributing to balanced serotonin levels. 12 And, when you sleep, your brain actually turns serotonin into melatonin — the sleep hormone. So, try and keep the cycle running efficiently by sleeping between 7 and 9 hours a night.
Think You Could Have A Vitamin D Deficiency? See Your Doctor As Soon As Possible
If you suspect you might not be getting enough vitamin D in your diet, you’ll want to pay a visit to your doctor. Of course, your healthcare professional can test to make sure you’re getting the right amounts of vitamin D and can help you come up with a plan.
Another reason to chat with your doctor is that certain medications and toxins can actually impair vitamin D metabolism.13 So you’ll want to know if you’re taking drugs with any such effect.
And if, for some reason, your vitamin D levels are low, talk to your doctor about the right supplement or ways to shift your diet to up your vitamin D intake. Your brain and body will thank you.