Research shows that more than 75 percent of U.S. adults and teens may be deficient in Vitamin D. This number has risen over the last decade due in large part to our more indoor lifestyles, increased use of sunscreen or an avoidance sun exposure altogether. It’s likely an ironic result of a very successful health push to reduce the risks of skin cancer caused by overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays.
But the “sunshine vitamin,” is very important to overall health. Vitamin D, specifically its D3 form, is responsible for the proper function of multiple body systems, including the thyroid gland, the cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as cell turnover in the skin and adequate calcium absorption in the skeletal system, necessary for maintaining bone density as we age.
Without enough of this vital nutrient, we are at increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and a host of other illnesses, including autoimmune disease and many cancers.
Further still, now doctors are increasingly paying attention to growing research suggesting a strong correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and depression.
Studies consistently show that patients suffering from depression also frequently have low Vitamin D levels. Conversely, patients with low vitamin D levels are at a much greater risk for depression.
This is because Vitamin D, important to so many body systems, also plays a key role in brain function, with receptors in the same area of the brain associated with depression. Insufficient levels hamper the ability to maintain energy levels, vitality and enthusiasm, and play a part in the likelihood of developing depression and other mental illnesses.
Many symptoms of depression, including fatigue or lethargy, odd sleep patterns, focus/concentration issues, and weakness or pain in bones, muscles and joints, among others, could be a result of a Vitamin D deficiency. So what can you do?
A simple blood test can confirm a Vitamin D deficiency, so that’s a good definitive first step. If you already suspect you’re lacking in D3, start by getting outside! Aim to spend 15 minutes in the sun two-three times a week without a sunblock. It’s important that as much of your skin is exposed to the light as possible (and appropriate!)
Try adding it to your diet through foods high in D Vitamins such as organic egg yolks, fish and liver. Three to four servings of each per week are necessary to achieve the needed 400-600 IU per day. Most of us don’t, or won’t, eat enough of Vitamin D-rich foods, so supplementation is another option.
While getting Vitamin D3 naturally is optimal, supplementation is absolutely necessary when treating conditions present from depletion. Studies on depressed patients show a marked improvement in energy and mood after only three months on Vitamin D replacement therapy.
But a quality product is essential for noticeable results. Many over-the-counter versions are in such low doses or comprised of such poor content you won’t absorb it well enough to feel a difference. The D3 we carry in the office is the highest quality and purest form available.
While we are not suggesting that sunscreen — or even anti-depressants — are bad, we do advocate for the most natural approaches to health care whenever possible. In this case, that means healthy sun exposure, a varied, nutrient-dense diet, and D3 supplementation. You may be surprised at how good you’ll feel.