Vitamin D for Mood.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a vitamin but also a steroid hormone, that is needed by the body for many things. It is found in small amounts of foods but is mostly synthesised by our body when skin comes in contact with the sun. As we all know sun does not shine in abundance in Ireland and so once the Summer days are over and the winter starts to creep in Vitamin D deficiency becomes a harsh reality for a lot of people. Vitamin D has numerous benefits in the body but in particular a link has been found between mood and vitamin D, in particular the condition called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
How Does Vitamin D Help with Mood?
Serotonin (also known as the happy hormone) is an important neurotransmitter in the body that acts on nearly all of the brain's cells. It influences mood, appetite, sleep and many other brain and biological functions. Low serotonin levels have been shown to contribute to depression, which is why antidepressants that work on raising and balancing serotonin levels can help people who suffer with depression. Vitamin D is involved in the expression of over 2,000 genes, including genes that regulate the pathway of serotonin. A 2014 study showed that vitamin D hormone activates the gene that makes the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase which converts the essential amino acid tryptophan, to serotonin in the brain. This shows that adequate levels of vitamin D are required by the body to produce serotonin in the brain where it does its job of shaping the structure and wiring of the brain. It also acts as a neurotransmitter, and can affect social behaviour and mood.
Another huge factor in the development of depression and psychological symptoms is inflammation in the brain, leading to a miscommunication between neurotransmitters and chemical messages from the brain to the body. This inflammation can be caused when the brain is aggravated by many things such as stress, trauma, poisons, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies and infections. Inflammatory chemical messengers called cytokines degrade serotonin resulting in low levels. It also degrades tryptophan, the amino acid needed to make serotonin. Vitamin D can also help with these messages by acting as an anti-inflammatory in the body.
Numerous studies have shown a Vitamin D deficiency among depressed patients. Vitamin D receptors have been widely found in parts of the brain. Receptors are found on the surface of cells and on the genes inside the cell where they chemical signals are received. These chemical signals direct to a cell by attaching themselves to a receptor therefore telling the cells to act in a certain way. These receptors are found in areas of the brain linked to depression. For this reason, Vitamin D can be a huge factor in depression development.
How Can I Increase my Vitamin D Levels?
Supplementation with Vitamin D can optimize levels to normal amounts, help prevent deficiency and may help prevent the development of depression and/or SAD. It may also help people suffering with these conditions. Supplementation for healthy adults can be taken up to 5000IU a day, however people with high levels of calcium in the blood or on any certain medications should consult with their healthcare provider before deciding on a Vitamin D strength.