Vitamin D, aka the “Sunshine” vitamin, is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in our mental health (alongside its other essential roles such as maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and immunity)!
Research(1) has found an association between individuals living with depression and low vitamin D levels in their bodies. Suggesting that adequate vitamin D concentrations play a role in promoting mental wellness.
This link may have multiple pathways in the brain and research suggests it could be any (and/or all) of the following:
#1 The specific areas of the brain associated with depression are linked to the activation of vitamin D(1).
#2 Activated vitamin D in the brain may promote normal development and functioning of brain neurons(2), promoting normal signalling and communication in the brain.
#3 Vitamin D has a role in reducing the production of cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) in the brain(3). We know that elevated cortisol levels are related to multiple mental health concerns, including depression.
Vitamin D’s primary source for humans is the sun - or UV rays. Therefore deficiency is much less likely to occur for those living closer to the equator. However, for those of us living in North America, low levels are much more likely!
So, how can we get enough? Here are a few tips:
#1 Include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet, which include items such as fatty fish like salmon/trout, dairy products or fortified dairy-free beverages, white mushrooms, fortified cereals, and eggs.
#2 Consider a supplement, especially in the winter months. A good place to start is with 1000 IU, but your health care provider or dietitian can help find a dose that is specific for you.
#3 Eat vitamin D-rich foods and supplements with a source of fat. Since this vitamin is fat-soluble this will enhance absorption.
#4 Ensure you are also enriching your diet with Calcium since these two nutrients work alongside each other from optimizing each other's absorption in the gut to promoting our overall bone and muscle health.
If you are curious about other ways to optimize your health through nutrition, keep an eye on the blog as there will be more information coming soon! Also, feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss your health and ways we may be able to work together to promote your well-being!
(1)Anglin, R., Samaan, Z., Walter, S., & McDonald, S. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(2), 100-107. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666
(2)Eyles, D. W., Smith, S., Kinobe, R., Hewison, M., & McGrath, J. J. (2005). Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1α-hydroxylase in human brain. Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 29(1), 21-30. doi.org/10.1016/j.jchemneu.2004.08.006
(3)Obradovic, D., Gronemeyer, H., Lutz, B. and Rein, T. (2006), Cross‐talk of vitamin D and glucocorticoids in hippocampal cells. Journal of Neurochemistry, 96: 500-509. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2005.03579.x