Do you experience feelings of anxiety? Is your mental wellbeing impacted during the colder months? Maybe it’s time to consider your Vitamin D consumption. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient and hormone our body’s produce. Also commonly known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, it’s an essential fat-soluble nutrient required for optimal health and wellbeing.
If someone lacks the correct levels of Vitamin D or they are deficient, they can experience some unpleasant consequences – physically and mentally. Your physical and mental wellbeing go hand in hand and they should be a priority.
In this post, we’re going to explore the benefits Vitamin D provides and the impacts a deficiency can have on your mental health. We’ll also share our top tips for increasing your intake – sometimes, it’s easier than you think.
Vitamin D is just as important for your mental health as it is for your physical health. Sufficient studies have been carried out regarding mental health illnesses and the correlation they have with Vitamin D.
According to Dan Brennan (a board-certified paediatrician), low levels of the vital vitamin may contribute to schizophrenia in adults, depression-like feelings, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Individuals who already have mental health illnesses may also have a higher chance of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. However, this all depends on every individual but we’ll explore more in detail.
Anxiety is defined by Mind as feeling “worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future”. Anxiety is a normal and natural human response we may experience when we’re under threat or pressure. We can experience feelings of anxiety through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.
Feeling anxious at times is normal. Especially if you’re experiencing change, upset or something challenging. However, anxiety can become a mental health illness if it impacts someone’s ability to function every day.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in mood regulation and optimal levels of Vitamin D can help naturally improve your mood and generally enhance and improve your wellbeing. Participating in activities that naturally enhance your body’s natural production of Vitamin D and supplementing a healthy balanced diet, is a great way to get optimal vitamin levels whilst also reducing the symptoms of anxiety.
Depression is a common and serious medical illness and it’s estimated that five per cent of adults suffer from it. Depression negatively affects how you feel, think and behave. Symptoms can include isolation, loss of interest, difficulty sleeping, unusual eating habits, suicidal tendencies and more.
Depression can occur from a range of triggers, primarily a combination of social, psychological, and biological factors. Treatment is available and recovery is possible with a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medicines. However, this all depends on the individual, as every treatment is different.
Vitamin D has been widely researched for some time and there have been some connections associated with low Vitamin D levels and depression. People who suffer from depression are more likely to be Vitamin D deficient as they suffer from withdrawal and social isolation resulting in a lack of exposure to UVB radiation
Additionally, because depression can impact someone’s diet negatively, they may struggle to get adequate nutrients for equal levels of Vitamin D from a diet alone. So alternative Vitamin D sources and supplements would be required and recommended. Although Vitamin D isn’t a cure for depression, it may help reduce the risk of depressive symptoms.
SAD is a form of depression that can occur in a seasonal pattern. This can sometimes be referred to as “winter blues” or “winter depression” as symptoms can become more apparent and severe in the colder months. According to BUPA, up to three in one hundred people will be affected by SAD at some point in their life.
Most people who will experience SAD can experience the first symptoms in their 20s, 30s and children can be affected too. Also, women are four times more likely to have SAD than men. However, symptoms can ease by spring and the treatment available is similar to depression.
The cause of SAD hasn’t fully been explored, however, it is directly linked to lack of sunlight and lowered serotonin levels. A way to help combat SAD is by the supplementation of Vitamin D. This is great news and it is an effective way to stop SAD in its tracks.
With all mental health conditions, if symptoms persist or you’re struggling to cope, seeking professional help is advised and someone will always be there to help and assist.
Boosting your Vitamin D intake isn’t as complicated as it may seem. There are many ways you can enhance your Vitamin D levels and it might include some things you already own. So, let’s explore some of the options available.
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble nutrients responsible for aiding and increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate – amongst many other biological effects in the body.
The absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate are all essential in the human body and they can offer a myriad of benefits. But what are they and why are they important for Vitamin D absorption?
Other benefits of Vitamin D can include – immune system support and lowered inflammation in the body. Vitamin D can come in more than one compound – it can come in a D2 and D3 variety. The higher the number, the higher the quality of nutrients.
The human body can absorb Vitamin D primarily through sun exposure. But when was the last time you spent time in the sun? If it was only recently, you’re lucky!
However, if you live in the UK, the likelihood you’ll get enough sun exposure is slim. From April to September, our bodies can create all the Vitamin D we need from the sunlight. However, during the winter months (October and March), the sunlight is weaker and doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation – the essential carrier for Vitamin D absorption. This is where other sources of Vitamin D are essential.
If you lack access to Vitamin D absorption, you may likely be deficient and you could experience the side effects. It’s important to have an equilibrium between your body and mind so you can be strong, focused and perform at your best.
Don’t underestimate the power of getting outdoors. Even 10-15 minutes can help boost your concentration, and focus and naturally uplift your mood.
If you’re finding it hard to focus at your desk or you’re feeling overwhelmed, stepping outdoors will bring the clarity you need at that moment. Alternatively, whenever you get a lunch break at university or work – use it wisely and breathe in the fresh air outside.
It can be tempting to stay indoors, even during the colder months, but it’s encouraged to get outdoors as much as possible. Not to mention, any dose of Vitamin D naturally provided by the sun is worthwhile – no matter how strong the UVB radiation is.
Another great way of boosting your Vitamin D intake is through a healthy balanced diet enhanced with foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D. The recommended daily value is 800 IU (20 mcg) of Vitamin D per day from foods.
A healthy diet is vital for optimal well-being and it doesn’t have to be boring either – eating healthily can be delicious. The next time you’re doing your food shop or preparing your lunch or dinner, have a think about incorporating the following foods more often into your diet.
It can be possible to get the correct levels of Vitamin D3 from your diet, but it’s not always that easy. This is where a supplement can be a convenient alternative. Whether it’s in an oral spray or tablet/capsule form, there are a lot of supplements to choose from.
A daily supplement should contain at least 10 micrograms of Vitamin D3 for it to be of sufficient value but many people require and can benefit from a higher dose. You may choose to only use supplements during the colder months and stop in the spring/summer. This is all dependent on your symptoms and personal preference. Before choosing and consuming supplements, consult your GP and always choose a reputable supplier.
There’s never been a better time to enhance your well-being until now. If you’re ready to claim your energy back, improve your sleep and ease levels of anxiety – a Vitamin D3 supplement can be a great choice.
Now you’ve learnt a little bit more about the correlation between Vitamin D and mental health, you’ll now be equipped with some tips to help you prioritise your wellbeing this winter.
Wellbeing is a broad topic but it all comes down to helping you live your best life at work, in the gym, during your studies and at home. There are many lifestyle changes you can adopt each day to help you live life to the fullest, but what are they?