Benefit of Vitamin D

by Catherine Pratt

I'm always interested in reading about new ways to manage SAD and the benefit of Vitamin D has been appearing in a lot of related studies lately. In one study I read recently they're actually considering that Vitamin D deficiency may be a possible cause for SAD. A different study which I'll talk about in a minute found that low levels of Vitamin D was associated with feeling tired and depressed. Feeling tired and depressed is one of the most noticeable symptoms of SAD.

I take Vitamin D myself and I thought I'd provide some of the information I've found out recently on Vitamin D so that you can make an informed decision on whether you think you might like to try taking it as well. Note: Remember, I'm not a doctor so the following information is from my own research. Always consult a doctor before starting a new health regimen.

Vitamin D Benefits

First, let's take a look at what is Vitamin D?
According to Grassroots Health, "Vitamin D is actually a hormone that affects over 3000 cell processes within your body." They also say, "Without enough vitamin D circulating regularly in your blood, your body simply does not function as it was intended (ridding the body of intruders, fighting disease, repairing cells)."

So, with that information, it then makes sense that from the reports I've been reading, people who take Vitamin D are saying that they have an increased sense of well-being, improved sleep patterns and even weight loss. These are all things I find are disrupted when you have SAD so if taking Vitamin D can help resolve these issues, I think that's fantastic.

The Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis released a study showing that depressed patients were 11 times more likely to have low levels of Vitamin D. They also determined that low levels of Vitamin D were associated with low mood and also not being able to complete certain mental tests. I find that when I'm in the deep throes of SAD, I can't think anywhere near as well and making decisions is a monumental effort so if there's a possibility that Vitamin D could help with this as well, that would be a huge benefit for me.

Dr. Mercola also has an article on his site about how Vitamin D may be a factor in depression:  New Study Shows Vitamin D Helps Prevent Depression

Other current research being done on Vitamin D is showing that a deficiency in this vitamin may also play a role in 17 varieties of cancer (including breast, colon and prostate cancer) heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects and periodontal disease. If you're interested, you can read some of the studies on Vitamin D research from the VitaminD Council or go to the Grassroots Health page where they also provide a number of interesting studies.

Vitamin D is also an anti-inflammatory hormone and good for treating irritable-bowel problems and arthritis.

Research studies are also showing that Vitamin D is vital in the treatment of insulin resistance conditions such as diabetes, some forms of high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, and heart disease.

Here's an interesting article from Scientific American on whether Vitamin D could be the answer to fighting flus and colds.

Interestingly enough, they are now considering Vitamin D deficiency as an epidemic in the US.

How Do You Know If You're Deficient in Vitamin D?

Well, in a recent study by the Schwarzbein Principle team, they reviewed blood tests on their patients and were shocked to find that not one person had normal Vitamin D levels. This included their active patients living in California. Not one had normal Vitamin D levels. So, if you live in a northern country like I do, then you will most likely have low levels of vitamin D.

Your doctor can measure your Vitamin D levels if you'd like to know for sure what your levels are at. Your doctor would order a 25-OH Vitamin D3 level and a good result would be between 50 to 70 ng/ml (according to Dr. Mercola see Reference: How to get your vitamin D to healthy ranges. )

You could also sign up to be a part of the Grassroots Health Vitamin D Study. I'm part of this group and I'm sent a Vitamin D test kit every six months. It's been fascinating to me to see what my levels are and to see how they do plummet when I don't take vitamin D supplements, even in the summer.

How Do You Get Vitamin D? Can You Get It From Food?

Few foods contain Vitamin D. Vitamin D was added to milk to prevent rickets but it's enough to prevent this disease but not enough to get you to the level recommended by a number of experts (see next section for recommended levels).  Milk is also high in sugar and a lot of people are allergic to milk.

Fish and egg yolks are the only foods that have Vitamin D in any significant quantity.

There really isn't a good alternative to obtaining Vitamin D from food.

One of the best ways to get Vitamin D is to produce it yourself by being outside in the sun. This isn't as easy as it sounds as the sun needs to be a certain intensity in order for you to be able to make Vitamin D. So, if you live in a northern climate, you'll often find that from September to April, the sun isn't strong enough for Vitamin D production. The use of sun screen will also hinder your ability to produce Vitamin D.

So, if you don't make enough on your own with sun exposure then you'll need to take it as a supplement.

How Much Vitamin D Should You Take?

The The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger (#ad) states the following on how much to take:

"Recent research on cancer prevention suggests that taking 1000 to 3000 IU of Vitamin D daily decreases the rates of colon, prostate, breast and other cancers. Most people get nowhere near these amounts.

As a clinical regimen, I recommend taking 1000 to 3000 IUs daily Monday through Fridays and taking a “hormone holiday” each week on Saturday and Sunday." - Diana Schwarzbein

Grassroots Health suggests having your Vitamin D levels tested and making sure that you're in the 40 - 60 ng/ml range. They say that everyone responds differently. Someone might take 1,000 iu and be in the recommended range and someone else might need to take 5,000 in order to be in the recommended range. You can't tell for sure unless you get tested.

Background Info on Vitamin D

- Vitamin D is known as the Sunshine vitamin. With the aid of sunlight, vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin, liver and kidneys.

- Vitamin D is actually a hormone not a vitamin. The body must manufacture it.

- As we age, the ability of the body to produce Vitamin D decreases.

- One reason for there being such high numbers of people being Vitamin D deficient is that we're encouraged to stay out of the sun and we're using more and more sunblocks whenever we're outside. Sunblock and avoiding too much exposure to the sun is a good thing to prevent skin cancer but it is having an effect on your Vitamin D levels.

- If you are on a low fat or a low cholesterol diet, you will have decreased production of Vitamin D.

- Other reasons why you may have a decreased level of vitamin D are if you have a liver or kidney disorder or if you're using medication that decreases cholesterol production or inhibits its absorption from the intestines into the body.

- "Stress contributes to decreased Vitamin D production. The stress hormone cortisol is made from cholesterol. Therefore, a body experiencing any type of stress will, preferentially, use cholesterol to manufacture cortisol, depleting the amount left to make sufficient amounts of Vitamin D." - Diana Schwarzbein

- It's recommended that if you take Vitamin D supplements that you also take Vitamin K. Do You Supplement With Vitamin D?"

Benefit of Vitamin D Summary

Vitamin D is appearing to be a truly critical hormone for the body. Far more than what was first thought.

As for SAD, it may turn out to be a major cause. It also seems to play a role in a number of SAD symptoms like feeling tired, depression, not sleeping properly, and not thinking clearly. Even if taking Vitamin D could aid in addressing these symptoms it would make SAD far more manageable. So, I think it's definitely worth considering.

You should be aware that there are a few side effects of Vitamin D but not many. The side effects are that it can be toxic at high doses, it can interfere with some medications and they believe it might also have an effect on your thyroid. So, before taking it, get advice from your doctor.

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