Vitamin D: Your Key to Mental Health
How important is vitamin D? Studies show that this vitamin is more important than ever. Find out how vitamin D can improve your mental health below:
Serotonin is an extremely important hormone used to regulation mood in the brain and is linked with the prevention of several disease and conditions, including depression, anxiety, and even autism.
New studies have shown that vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for the healthy production of serotonin in the brain. Learn more about how vitamin D benefits your mental health and the other amazing health benefits of this nutrient below.
Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all, but rather a steroidal hormone which is used in many systems of the body- particularly in the brain to boost mood and in the body’s tissues to fight inflammation. Vitamin D is also essential for building a healthy immune system. Vitamin D influences nearly 3,000 of all 24,000 human genes.
Your entire body contains vitamin D receptors that can absorb and produce the vitamin when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is essential for the proper absorption of calcium, iron, phosphate, zinc, and magnesium. All of these nutrients work together to protect brain and bone health and improve the immune system.
According to a 2011 study from the American Journal of Cardiology, getting enough vitamin D in the diet can reduce your chances of dying from any cause by 50 percent. This means that ensuring your vitamin D intake is high is one of the best things you can do for your health- both mental and physical.
Basically, without vitamin D, many vital nutrients simply cannot be used as well by the body. Think of vitamin D as a tool. If you use the wrong screwdriver to build a bed, for example, you might be able to get the job done, but the resulting product will be weaker and it will take longer. When you get enough vitamin D, you are using the right tool for your project, making it stronger, better, and faster to put together.
Humans use two kinds of vitamin D- 2 and 3. According to studies, vitamin D2 and D3 have similar effects in the body; however, vitamin D3 is up to 87 times more effective and lasts longer in the body. This is due, in part, to the fact that the body must convert D2 to D3 before it can use it. Using D3 to begin with makes it easier for the body to use.
In August 2014, researcher from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) found that vitamin D was an essential catalyst for producing serotonin in the brain. The researchers found that vitamin D activates the gene that creates an enzyme known as tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2). TPH2 is an enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin. The researchers determined that vitamin D is an essential vitamin for balancing serotonin levels in the brain and elsewhere in the body.
As a secondary benefit, vitamin D also prevents the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (TPH1) from producing. TPH1 is an enzyme that stops the production of serotonin in the body’s tissues. Excessive levels of TPH1 in the body not only reduces serotonin levels but it also can cause inflammation in the body’s tissues.
This study also found that autism is linked with low levels of serotonin and vitamin D. The researchers found that in order to produce serotonin, adequate vitamin D levels are required. The researchers found that both vitamin D and serotonin are necessary to shape social behavior.
Vitamin D levels are linked with benefits in a wide variety of health conditions.
You have probably heard that vitamin D is good for the immune system, but do you know why? Vitamin D is able to produce over 200 anti-microbial peptides, which also includes peptides with antibiotic properties. Basically, going out into the sun is as effective at the dose of antibiotics you get from the doctor!
Vitamin D Promotes a Healthy Brain According to a 2013 study published in Psych Central, vitamin D is able to fight depression, thanks to its serotonin-boosting capabilities. The study looked at women with depression, pain, and diabetes. At the start of the study, 71 percent of the women were experiencing pain along with depression. The study researchers gave 50,000 IU each week to the women for 6 months. At the end of the study, the women were less depressed and reported feeling less pain.
A 2013 report published in Science World stated that supplementing with vitamin D may help reduce a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Research from the Creighton University School of Medicine found that when women took vitamin D supplements, they reduced their risk of getting breast cancer by about 60 percent. Vitamin D also reduced their risk of getting lung and colon cancer.
Vitamin D has also been linked with a reduction in skin cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer in over 200 studies and 2,500 lab trials. Some researchers have even gone as far as to call breast cancer “vitamin D deficiency syndrome.”
A 2012 study conducted in Hawaii examined over 7,000 men over a period of 34 years. The Honolulu Heart Program was a simple observational study. After studying the results, it was found that men with the lowest serum levels of vitamin D were more likely to have strokes or heart attacks than men who had higher serum vitamin D levels. However, follow-up studies mostly indicate that supplementing with vitamin D does not alter risk, which indicates that sunlight is the most effective form of vitamin D.
According to studies, maintaining a healthy serum level of vitamin D as well as enough vitamin D in the brain is essential for benefiting mood, producing serotonin, and providing the other benefits of vitamin D.
According to a 2009 report published in the Annals of Epidemiology, the ideal serum level for vitamin D is about 60-80 ng/ml. According to the report, this would prevent about 58,000 new cases of breast cancer and 49,000 new cases of colorectal cancer each year, which is an astounding amount.
To get this level of vitamin D, a person needs about 8,000 IU of vitamin D daily. This is an amount far beyond most supplement doses (which usually contain about 400 to 600 IU). The healthiest way to get the right balance of vitamin D and serotonin is by going outdoors.
According to the National Health Service in the UK, most people can get enough vitamin D by spending about 30 minutes in the sun each day. However, the more time you can spend in the sun without getting sunburned the better. For the most part, the ill effects of the sun only occur through sunburn. However, the use of sunscreen blocks the synthesis of vitamin D.
Numerous studies show that serotonin, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids work together to balance mental health. These three ingredients are essential for regulating mood, stopping depression, and even helping with social-based mental issues such as autism, as the earlier studies showed.
Adding vitamin D to the diet and going outdoors in the sun is one of the easiest ways to boost your mental health and natural serotonin levels.
Vitamin D is not the only way to increase your serotonin levels. In fact, there are quite a few ways to kick start your brain into producing extra serotonin for a healthy brain! Here are some methods you may want to try:
5-HTP is a derivative of tryptophan (yes, the same tryptophan that vitamin D helps make). Tryptophan is used to treat a variety of nervous system disorders, like insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Taking 5-HTP can help your body create more serotonin naturally. One Italian study even found that women who took 5-HTP lost 10 pounds over 12 weeks versus 2 pounds in a control group.
B vitamins are incredible helpful for controlling stress, mood, and regulating mental health. Vitamins B6 and B12 are particularly helpful for this, and have also been linked to a reduction in depression in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin B6 helps your body make melatonin, dopamine, and serotonin- all necessary for brain health and mental stability.
According to Canadian naturopathic doctor and author Natasha Turner, N.D., St. Johns Wort works to maintain healthy serotonin levels in the brain, much like many antidepressant medications. She also recommends inositol for a similar effect. Inositol is particularly effective when combined with magnesium.
Your mental health depends on many factors, but if vitamin D levels and serotonin levels are low in the brain, your mental health can deteriorate quickly- creating insomnia, anxiety, depression, and even physical pain. You can boost your natural serotonin levels by ensuring you get enough vitamin D daily from the sun and with supplements. Just by adding vitamin D to your diet, you can dramatically benefit your mental health. Combining vitamin D intake with other serotonin-boosting practices can help regulate the nervous system and help fight depression and other mental disorders.
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