Happy brains need plenty of this easily-attainable vitamin
Vitamin D supplementation could be a panacea: getting your Vitamin D levels up to par can improve mood, memory, perception, health, and even menstrual cramps in women! Read on for the get-happy benefits and how best to get your daily D.
Vitamin D Benefits
- Happy brains: Vitamin D improves memory and motor control as it interacts with proteins in the brain.
- Vitamin D can help beat depression: A new study from the National Institute on Aging shows that people over the age of 65 who have low D levels are more likely to be depressed–a link that’s slightly stronger in women than men.
- Improve heart health and reduce body fat: Daily supplements of vitamin D may improve certain markers of heart health like HDL cholesterol, and lead to significant reductions in body fat mass in overweight and obese people, says a new study.
- Reduce menstrual pain: Women who experience menstrual cramps can take a single high dose of Vitamin D and experience a reduction in pain symptoms for up to two months, says a small study.
Getting Your D On
Chris Kresser, an integrative medicine practitioner who advocates a practical approach to supplementation, says, “[Vitamin D] is absolutely critical for health, and up to 50% of Americans are deficient. We can get vitamin D from two sources: food, and sunshine.”
Fatty fish is the best food option for vitamin D, but you’d have to eat a lot of it to up your levels significantly. Sunlight is easily accessible and can be a good option, but the factors influencing absorption make it hard to count on. For example, 30 minutes of direct sunlight exposure can produce anywhere from 10-20,000 IU of vitamin D.
The National Institutes of Health states, “Optimal serum concentrations of 25(OH)D for bone and general health have not been established; they are likely to vary at each stage of life, depending on the physiological measures selected.” But many practitioners believe that ideal levels of vitamin D range from 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D, depending on an individual’s needs and deficiencies of both D and other vitamins. Vitamin D tests usually measure 25-hyrdroxy-vitamin D (25D), and that optimal level is between 35-50 ng/mL. Research has been inconclusive on whether D25 levels above 50ng/mL is beneficial, and some research suggests they can be harmful.
Kresser says, “With vitamin D, it’s important to test your levels, begin supplementation, and then re-test a few months later to determine the correct maintenance dose.” He also recommends high-vitamin cod liver oil as the best source of vitamin D.
So What About Sun Exposure?
As more research calls traditional sunscreens into question, people are beginning to experiment with more sun exposure or at-home prevention tools. Plenty of experts believe that what you eat can actually help protect you from harmful sun exposure. Everyday Paleo and Mark’s Daily Apple both share lists of foods and other natural ways to protect yourself from the sun. Others are using coconut oil as a sunscreen, or for the base of an at-home natural sunscreen, like this one from Wellness Mama.
There are a variety of factors to consider when making decisions about your sun exposure. Make sure you carefully consider the pros and cons of traditional sunscreen use, protective clothing, preventative diets, uncovered exposure, or natural prevention methods.