MENTAL HEALTH AND VITAMIN D
Author: Raissa Ringer
New Zealand is heading into Winter soon, meaning we will be less exposed to the sun rays as it gets colder and we spend more time indoors. This is the perfect time to start considering a vitamin D check, and possibly supplementing it.
As explained on my last blog article, vitamin D:
- Is a hormone, produced by our body when triggered by UV sun rays;
- It facilitates the intestinal absorption of calcium, and stimulates the absorption of phosphate and magnesium ions;
- Is estimated to be involved in the regulation of up to 2000 genes—that’s a lot of input into the critical processes happening in every cell throughout the entire body!
- Is an important immune regulator, as part of our innate immune system;
- And much more...
MENTAL HEALTH AND VITAMIN D
According to Professor Serdar Durson, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, “there is mounting evidence between the relationship of vitamin D receptors in the brain, low vitamin D levels and abnormal cognitive functions, major depression , bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Vitamin D activates receptors on neurons in regions implicated in the regulation of behaviour, stimulates neurotrophin release and protects the brain by buffering antioxidant and anti-inﬂammatory defences against vascular injury" (Canadian Medical Journal, 2010). Although we don’t fully understand how vitamin D impacts on mental health, it is clear it has an important role in prevention and treatment in people of high risk of mental and cognitive illness, and of those diagnosed already.
POINTS FROM SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
- There were clear links between low levels of vitamin D in patients with depression and/or anxiety, both males and females, when compared to a control group of healthy individuals;
- A few studies have shown levels of vitamin D declines considerably in the ageing population. A correlation can be established between chronic diseases (such as cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer) and low levels of vitamin D, in the ageing population.
VITAMIN D IN CLINICAL PRACTICE
In my years of clinical experience, 9 out of 10 clients that had any level of anxiety and/or depression, also had very low vitamin D levels, after tested. Vitamin D was then tailored into their wellness plan, often at higher levels to start with, combined with diet, lifestyle, nutritional and herbal medicines. The approach has always been individualistic, as each client has different needs to be met. After a few months of treatment (usually between 3 and 9 months, depending on severity of symptoms), my clients would get tested for vitamin D levels again, so we could compare the effectiveness of the treatment, and mostly the level of vitamin D would be directly proportional to the improvement of their symptoms. At this time of the year, I would also start seeing a number of clients who were experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression linked to Winter months, the time of the year when there is less sunlight. Being from a tropical country like Brazil, I ﬁrst came across SAD during my ﬁrst few Winters in New Zealand, as without fail, it would always present with depressive symptoms just before the colder months. Those clients always have great success when on the right vitamin D supplementation course.
Vitamin D is important for many of our essential body systems to function optimally, even though we don’t fully understand its metabolism yet. In recent years, there has been a growing number of scientiﬁc evidence on its beneﬁts for immunity and mental health. It is a hormone, not a true vitamin, and very challenging to solely get it from foods. It can also be difﬁcult to get the minimum daily requirement from the sunshine, specially during the Winter months. If your vitamin D levels are low, chances are you may need a more speciﬁc dosage to get it up to normal range.
Braun, L. & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs & Natural Supplements An evidence-based guide (3rd ed.). NSW, Australia: Elsevier
|Current Psychiatry Reports 2009, 11:12–19 Current Medicine Group LLC ISSN 1523-3812|
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