How Vitamin D Supports Our Mental Health
Good physical health has been a topic of research and conversation for decades, even centuries, but good mental health has only recently become a point of focus. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and is all about how we think, feel, and act. It includes many factors such as how we handle stress, having a sense of meaning, and feeling confident in who we are.
Good mental health does not necessarily mean we never feel sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, but rather that we are able to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner and bounce back from life’s adversities. Like good physical health, good mental health means taking care of ourselves and investing in wellness on a regular basis.
Our mental wellness can be improved by moving our bodies, connecting with our loved ones, eating nourishing food, engaging in meaningful activities, being out in nature, enjoying a good laugh, and more. We can also improve our mental health with supplements that impact our brain function. In this series we are looking at different supplements that can support mental wellness.
Vitamin D — long known for its importance in bone health — is becoming increasingly appreciated as valuable for mental health. This “sunshine vitamin” is synthesized by the body when the skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun. So the levels in people that are often deficient are people who live farther from the equator, those who spend little time outside, and those with more melanin because they absorb lower levels of UV rays. Not only that, but the use of sunscreen prevents UV rays from penetrating the skin, compounding the problem of low sun exposure.
Because vitamin D helps to release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, it has an obvious impact on mood. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression and seasonal effective disorder. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get vitamin D from natural food sources. In fact, scientists believe that 90% of normal vitamin D intake comes from sunlight exposure.
While you can get some vitamin D from certain fatty fish or eggs, the levels are much lower than our daily needs. Supplementing with daily vitamin D drops or capsules is an excellent way to improve brain functioning and, therefore, improve your mental health. And don’t forget to get outside and soak up some rays!