Vitamins play an important part in the functioning of the human body. Vitamin D, in specific, helps your body absorb calcium – a vitamin that’s important for your bones’ health. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D children may develop rickets while adults develop osteomalacia and seniors develop osteoporosis – all are conditions in which the person has weak bones. It’s also important for your immune system, muscles, nerves, and cell growth. Some research indicates that a lack of Vitamin D is associate with certain cancers (e.g. colon, breast, prostate) and it may even play a role in depression.
Understanding Vitamin D’s Importance
People up to the age of 70 should get 600 IU of Vitamin D daily. After this it’s important to get 800 IU daily. You can get some of this vitamin (about 450 IU per 3 ounces) from fatty fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout) and mushrooms. There are also many products that are fortified with Vitamin D (e.g. cereal, milk, orange juice) but even so you won’t be able to get all you need from food alone. This is why it’s so important to get 10 – 20 minutes of sunlight throughout the day too. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) your body will produce this vitamin. Of course, this isn’t always possible.
Why Vitamin D is Critical to Your Brain
Unfortunately, there isn’t currently a clear correlation between a person having a Vitamin D deficiency and them also having depression. However, there is some research that have offered a possible, neurophysiological explanation for such an association. These are based on the fact that there are vitamin D receptors found without a person’s body and throughout their brain. These brain receptors are the same ones that are associated with a person who’s in a depressive state. They include the prefrontal cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, substantia nigra, and cingulate gyrus.
There’s also evidence that calcitriol (vitamin D’s active form) is responsible for helping to activate the enzyme that helps with the synthesis of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine (tyrosine hydroxylase). All three of these hormones also play a role with the brain’s neurotransmitters while dopamine and norepinephrine play a large role in depression. This is why so many antidepressants work to increase the amount of norepinephrine and serotonin by inhibiting their reuptake. When this happens, more norepinephrine can bind with the available receptors.
Another study was published in 2016 in the Journal of Affective Disorders. It points out the fact that there are conflicting results in the association of Vitamin D with depression. While there are definitely some studies showing a positive association here, other studies state they haven’t found any compelling evidence to establish such a link. Unfortunately, many of the cross-sectional studies that were referenced here didn’t specify directionality which led to inconsistent results when evaluating whether Vitamin D is a good treatment modality here. Nevertheless, the authors of this study still claim that offering Vitamin D in conjunction with an antidepressant is a more effective treatment modality, especially when the person had a deficiency before the treatment began.
While more research is needed to establish this connection between depression and Vitamin D, you still need Vitamin D and good mental and emotional well-being. There’s already clear cut evidence that Vitamin D is vital to bone health and your mental and emotional well-being are vital to your life as a whole. With these things in mind, make sure you’re getting your daily allowance of Vitamin D from the sun, your diet, and if necessary, from supplements too. In addition, make sure you’re taking care of your mental and emotional well-being by reaching out to The TMS Advantage to get the support you need.
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