Vitamin D and Mental Health
It was with interest that I read Dr. Soram Khalsa’s post on The Huffington Post about the Vitamin D epidemic in this country today. The medical doctor writes this:
As a board certified internist, I have chosen, for the last 30 years, to take a personalized approach in my practice of integrative medicine. I have worked with literally hundreds of herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements, to help my patients, often when drugs did not work. In all this time, I have not seen one nutritional supplement that has the power to affect human health as much as vitamin D. This is because Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin — it is a hormone that has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body.
Over my 30 years of practicing medicine, countless times I have had to deliver or discuss with a patient their sad and possibly terminal diagnosis. Diseases like cancer and heart disease are at best life altering, and most times life threatening. When I have this kind of difficult conversation with a patient, I often reflect that if their vitamin D level had been normal for the previous many years, maybe they would never have developed this disease.
Ideally, your health care provider is your partner in exploring your vitamin D status, but patients usually do not want to visit their doctor just to ask for a vitamin D level, and many doctors are not yet up to date on the importance of vitamin D. If you use the at-home test kit and your blood level of vitamin D is low, I would encourage you to discuss this information with your physician.
I found this particularly interesting because a few weeks ago, I spoke to a highly-recommended internist about my overall health. She had me get all kinds of blood work done, and in her summary, she wrote that most of my levels looked good with exception to my vitamin D. I had a substantial deficiency that she suspected could explain my symptoms of fatigue and sluggishness.
She gave me a prescription for a potent vitamin D tablet that I’m supposed to take weekly for 10 weeks, and get my blood retested at that point. If my levels look okay, she told me to take a supplement of at least 2000 IU daily. This is my third week taking the highly leaded vitamin D and I do feel more energetic and a tad less irritable (not that any family members would agree with me).
My internist and I talked about vitamin D for about 10 minutes in her office. She said that most of her patients lately had deficiencies lately, especially her female patients. She advised me that the best way to get it, of course, was sunlight, and that sunscreen actually blocks it from your system. And she’s not totally pro-vitamin, either. She thinks that you are much better off eating healthy foods than taking supplements, that your body can’t process the high levels of vitamins and minerals that are sold in health food aisles.
But vitamin D isn’t found in any food, she explained, so that’s why it’s essential to take a supplement.
I’ve been wondering how vitamin D and mental illness are related, so I did a search and found that vitamin D does, indeed, play a role in mental illness based on these reasons from the Vitamin D Council’s website:
- Epidemiological evidence shows an association between reduced sun exposure and mental illness.
- Mental illness is associated with low 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels.
- Mental illness shows a significant comorbidity with illnesses thought to be associated with vitamin D deficiency.
- Theoretical models (in vitro or animal evidence) exist to explain how vitamin D deficiency may play a causative role in mental illness.
- Studies indicate vitamin D improves mental illness.
Here’s even more details, according to the Vitamin D Council:
- Mental illness has increased as humans have migrated out of the sun.
- There is epidemiological evidence that associates vitamin D deficiency with mental illness. Two small reports studied the association of low 25(OH)D levels with mental illness and both were positive.
- Depression has significant co-morbidity with illnesses associated with hypovitaminosis D such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Vitamin D has a significant biochemistry in the brain. Nuclear receptors for vitamin D exist in the brain and vitamin D is involved in the biosynthesis of neurotrophic factors, synthesis of nitric oxide synthase, and increased glutathione levels — all suggesting an important role for vitamin D in brain function. Rats born to severely vitamin D deficient dams have profound brain abnormalities.
Borchard, T. (2009). Vitamin D and Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 29, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/06/02/vitamin-d-and-mental-health/